The stoush over koala protection policy that almost tore the NSW coalition government apart is officially over, with cabinet finally agreeing on an amended set of rules and Premier Gladys Berejiklian describing it as a balanced outcome.
On Tuesday night, changes to the State Environmental Planning Policy covering koala habitat were agreed to by ministers who four weeks earlier were at each other's throats over the policy.
"I always predicted we would get it to a very good outcome and I'm really happy with where we've landed," Ms Berejiklian said on Wednesday.
Acting Deputy Premier Paul Toole said the agreement reached would free farmers from "green tape", by separating land management and private native forestry within the SEPP.
"Farmers face enough uncertainty with seasonal conditions and volatile markets. It is critical they have certainty around rules that apply to their farming practices as they bounce back from bushfires and drought," he said in a statement on Wednesday.
Planning Minister Rob Stokes said the government had been working for months to create a policy that would protect koalas and the rights of farmers, and "robust and passionate" discussions played an important part in that.
Last month NSW Nationals leader and deputy premier John Barilaro threatened to blow up the coalition government if concessions weren't made to rural property owners.
He argued the laws were a "nail in the coffin for farmers" and threatened to take his MPs to the cross bench, but backed down less than 24 hours later after an ultimatum from the premier.
The Nationals wanted several changes made including the removal of the controversial koala mapping, which has now been taken out of the policy.
They were also concerned the policy would limit land use on farms and the ability to rezone areas for development as more trees would be classed as koala habitat, which would restrict clearing.
A refinement of the definition of "core koala habitat" was among the changes approved.
Greens MP Cate Faehrmann, who chairs the NSW Upper House Inquiry into Koalas, said the changes were a hugely disappointing backdown.
"I fail to see how the environment minister is going to keep koala numbers stable let alone double their numbers by 2050 if he can't get his government to stick to what the experts are telling them is needed to save koalas and their habitat," Ms Faehrmann said.
Ms Faehrmann said the protection of habitat necessary to stop koalas becoming extinct "must be decided by the science, not by the National Party".
"For the Liberals to back down on the definition of core koala habitat after years of extensive research and mapping by experts is hugely disappointing," she said.
With a third of the koala population estimated to have been wiped out by last summer's bushfires, Ms Faehrmann says every little slice of koala habitat is crucial to their survival.
The Nature Conservation Council says the compromise watered down protections.
"If the Liberals and Nationals want to make it easier to destroy koala habitat and kill koalas, they will be judged very harshly by the public," chief executive Chris Gambian said in a statement.
"No one wants our national icon to disappear."
The NCC wants the government to make the development of koala management plans compulsory for all local government areas where habitat is found, and to help LGAs fund the plans.
Australian Associated Press