The NSW coalition government is failing on most of its environmental policies, including robbing a key climate fund to bankroll land-clearing and leaving 10 marine regions unprotected, according to eight green groups.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her new environment minister, Gabrielle Upton, have inherited a mix of policies that are "taking us backwards", with the container deposit scheme and efforts to improve energy efficiency among the few positives, according to a mid-term review led by the NSW Nature Conservation Council.
"It speaks volumes that there's been four ministers of the environment in six years," said Kate Smolski, the council's chief executive. "We do not think the coalition government takes the environment seriously."
The issues raised include contentious land-clearing codes that will see farmers paid $240 million for conservation efforts on their land to counter destruction of vegetation elsewhere. Ms Smolski said it was "laughable" that the funds will be largely drawn from the Climate Change Fund levied from consumers and earmarked for emissions cuts and climate adaptation.
Also highlighted was the slowdown to "a trickle" of new land for national parks with just 15,000 hectares added to the estate since 2011, and the failure to restore protection for 10 of the 30 marine sanctuary zones covered by a supposedly temporary amnesty by Premier Barry O'Farrell in 2013.
"This is a drop of roughly one-third in the area protected in our marine parks and as such is a major backwards step on marine protection," Kevin Evans, chief executive of the NSW National Parks Association, said. "We're also waiting for a Sydney Marine Park to protect the Hawkesbury Shelf bioregion."
The report card, ???two years out from the next election, comes as Ms Upton has to juggle an enlarged portfolio with local government, including council amalgamations.
Ms Upton said she was "extremely proud" to be environment minister, and dismissed the report as "superficial and the rating system is simplistic".
For instance, the container deposit scheme, to be introduced on December 1, would be "a once-in-a-generation reform that will significantly reduce litter in our community".
Likewise, the state was rolling out Australia's largest energy savings plan that could save households $7.8 billion in smaller energy bills by 2050 and businesses $9.1 billion, she said.
Mehreen Faruqi, the Greens environment spokeswoman, said the government deserved credit for its deposit scheme "but even that is at risk of being handed over wholesale to the big drinks companies like Coca-Cola".
"I don't think it is too far a stretch to say that the NSW Liberal/National Government has been the worst for the environment in living memory," she said.
Penny Sharpe, Labor's environment spokeswoman, said the environment had "been under relentless attack by the Liberal government."
"Increased land clearing, loss of urban trees and bushland, cuts to National Parks and lack of action on climate change show utter distain for the environment," Ms Sharpe said.
"Over 1000 animals and plants on the threatened species list and koalas on track to extinction by 2055 mean that without investment and commitment many will be gone forever."
The green groups - which also included the Colong Foundation for Wilderness and the North Coast Environment Council - welcomed the government's plan to make the state net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 but said the policy would remain merely aspirational without legislated goals including interim targets as introduced by Victoria.
"We recognise it's a first step but it's not going to get us the emissions reductions we need to do our part to [avoid] catastrophic climate change," Ms Smolski said.
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