Forest equal to 200 CBDs cleared in NSW

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An area of land almost 200 times the size of the Sydney CBD was lost to land clearing in NSW in 2019, the equivalent of more than 370 football fields every day.

The latest government data shows 54,500 hectares of woody vegetation - 150 hectares a day - was cleared for farming, forestry and development in 2019, continuing the trend of heightened clearing rates since native vegetation laws were relaxed in 2017.

While slightly less than the area cleared the year before, the 2019 rate was 40 per cent more than the 2009-17 average, the annual Statewide Land and Tree Study's satellite survey found.

On regulated rural land, almost three quarters of all clearing - of both woody and non-woody vegetation - was considered "unexplained".

That means it was unauthorised - conducted on exempt land or illegally.

Independent NSW upper house MLC Justin Field said the data shows land clearing is out of control in NSW.

"Despite the massive ecological damage of the 2019/20 fires and the clear imperative to protect what is left, the Berejiklian Government is allowing ongoing deforestation and habitat destruction at record levels," he said in a statement.

The amount of "unexplained" land cleared is particularly concerning, he said.

"Some farmers are gaming the system and using loopholes in so-called 'self-assessable' codes to try to hide what is likely in many instances to be illegal clearing."

Mr Field argued it demonstrated the need for the Liberal Party to rip up an agreement made with the Nationals last year over clearing on private land, following a high-profile spat over koala protection policies.

"Any further watering down of land clearing and private logging rules will be the nail in the coffin for the koala and cannot be tolerated," he said.

Nature Conservation Council chief executive Chris Gambian said it was already too late for many animals.

"In just one year we have lost an area of forest four times the size of Royal National Park," he said.

"Using widely accepted data on wildlife population densities, clearing on that scale would have killed up to 9 million animals - mammals, birds and reptiles - in just 12 months.

"It is simply unsustainable."

The change to land clearing laws in 2017 is pushing many at risk wildlife populations closer to the brink, he said.

"More than 1020 plants and animals are now threatened with extinction in NSW, about 20 more than when the scheme was introduced."

"The government must stop uncontrolled deforestation on private land and in state forests if it is going to tackle the extinction crisis."

In a statement, Environment Minister Matt Kean said the data was released annually to boost transparency.

"It is important that we monitor compliance with our land management frameworks and I welcome the public debate on this issue," he said.

NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall has been contacted for comment.

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