THE Hunter is one of the top 20 “hot spots” for land clearing in the state, according to a report released by the World Wildlife Fund and the Nature Conservation Council this week.
The report highlights that a 900,000 hectare area, between Gosford on the Central Coast and Nelson Bay in Port Stephens, extending to Singleton in the west, had one of the highest rates of land clearing between 2009 and 2014, compared to 100 similarly sized “tiles” or regions throughout the state.
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) conservation scientist Martin Taylor said his analysis of state government land-clearing data, which is based on satellite imagery, found 1000 hectares had been cleared in the Hunter tile over the five-year period.
He said clearing had mainly occurred in the region for urban, industrial and mining developments.
“It’s actually pretty evenly distributed throughout the region,” Dr Taylor said.
“It’s always been a problem in the Hunter, a death by a thousand cuts.”- Michael Osborne
The inclusion of the Hunter on the list was concerning as it contained large tracts of koala habitat, he said.
Michael Osborne, the co-founder of Green Corridor Coalition, said he was “not surprised” by the report’s findings.
The coalition successfully lobbied to protect a 23,000 hectare corridor of wooded land between the the Watagans and Stockton Bight.
“It’s always been a problem in the Hunter, a death by a thousand cuts,” Mr Osborne said. “Lots of little areas get approval for clearing but no one is keeping an eye on the health of the corridors.”
State member for Wallsend Sonia Hornery, who also lobbied on behalf of the coalition, said land clearing in the Hunter was “significant”. “We cannot just continue to clear land like we do,” she said.
Port Stephens MP Kate Washington believed clearing had increased due to state government changes to biodiversity laws.