Widow raises worries

Law change: Glen Turner, his wife Alison McKenzie and their children Jack and Alexandra. Mr Turner, an Office of Environment staffer, was inspecting land clearing in 2014 when he was gunned down. Photo: Tracy Fulford PhotographyThe wife of murdered environmental investigator Glen Turnersays she is worried theBaird government’s new land-clearing lawswon’t resolve the circumstances that led to her husband’s death.
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AlisonMcKenzie said she told Environment Minister Mark Speakman of her concerns when he rang her on Tuesday, just as the state’s upper house was debating thenew package of biodiversity conservation laws that will replace existing native vegetation protections.

Mr Speakman’s tone was pleasant and thorough, but his explanation of the four tiers of codes and other regulations intended to discourage farmers from stepping up broadscale land clearing without associated conservation measures failed to reassure her, she said.

“I’m concerned that it seems all too complicated,” Ms McKenzie told Fairfax Media. “I don’t see how they are going to enforce them.”

The new bills passed the upper house early on Wednesday morning and were approved in the lower house on Thursday afternoon, passing into law.

The government pressed ahead with itsplan to replace the native vegetation and threatened species laws – long demanded by its Nationals coalition members -despite calls that Mr Turner’s murder should stop the process in its tracks.

Mr Turner, an Office of Environment staffer,was inspecting land clearing at Croppa Creek, north-east of Moree, with a colleaguein July 2014 when he was gunned down by farmer Ian Turnbull.

In June this year, theoctogenarian farmer was found guiltyof murderand jailed for 24 years, andone of his sons ordered to carry out remediation of the landpotentially costing millions of dollars.

Ms McKenzie said she was not convinced the newlaws would curb habitat destruction and, if anything, would be more complex and frustrating for farmers and harder for government workers to implement.

“How are they going to enforce it with the skeleton staff they have?”

The government has argued the existing laws were failing to prevent extinctions and placing an unfair burden on farmers to conserve habitat compared with other developers.

Mr Speakman said the package of reforms was “not a free kick for landholders to do the wrong thing”.

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