"It became clear in Senate Estimates today that State and Commonwealth environment laws are inadequate to protect even our most icon wetlands," said Senator Rachel Siewert.
The Federal Environment Department today said they could "neither confirm nor deny" that an application to clear an area of land on the Gwydir floodplain had been made to the NSW Government.
However it was revealed that they have known about the clearing since mid April. "Irrespective of whether or not there was an application, there is no formal process for a state government to notify the Commonwealth of an application that will adversely affect an area of environmental importance like the Gwydir," said Senator Siewert.
"The Commonwealth simply relies on an informal network of environment law specialists keeping each other informed."
"The situation is ridiculous. The State may well have told the landholder that their actions could have EPBC implications, but the State is not required to inform the Commonwealth if a clearing permit has been granted or applied for. The obligation is on the landholder, not the state," said Senator Siewert.
"If a developer or land holder (as in this case) does not notify the Commonwealth of their proposed activity, the first the Commonwealth knows is when the bulldozers roll in."
"This is totally unsatisfactory. The whole thing depends on an informal communications network, and when communications break down the results can be irreversible," she said.
"You would have thought they would have learned by now."
"This situation should never have arisen in the first place."
"This is the second time in recent years that land clearing has impacted directly on the Gwydir - when will we learn?"