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Westpac’s zero-deforestation target for farmers labelled an ‘overreach’ while environmental groups celebrate

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Cally DupeCountryman
Westpac revealed a full-net profit of $7.2 billion on November 7, after earning a $3.05 billion profit from tis Australian consumer banking operations. 
Camera IconWestpac revealed a full-net profit of $7.2 billion on November 7, after earning a $3.05 billion profit from tis Australian consumer banking operations.  Credit: AAP

Westpac has unveiled an Australian-first zero-deforestation target for beef, sheep and dairy farmers, meaning it won’t lend money those who plan to convert natural forest to agricultural land.

The big bank this month revealed it would decline loans from going to livestock farmers who wanted to cut down trees from December 31, 2025 as part of its ambition to be a “nature-positive” bank.

The move has farmers concerned banks could use definitions of deforestation not suited to the Australian landscape or industries, and the likelihood of it setting a precedent among banks.

Nationals leader David Littleproud labelled the target an “overreach” and called on the Federal Government to intervene and discourage other banks from adopting similar policies.

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“The states already impose strict vegetation regulatory frameworks on farmers through punitive vegetation protection laws,” he said.

“These senseless new rules… are an overreach driven by European standards that simply don’t relate to Australian conditions.

“The Federal Government must urgently send a clear signal to the banking sector that private capital should not be used to regulate Australian farmers and food production.”

Westpac has promised to use what it says is an “internationally standardised framework” to define deforestation and promised to engage with Australian farmers to form its strategy.

The move was quietly revealed in Westpac’s 2023 Climate Report and welcomed by environmental groups including The Australian Conservation Foundation — which said it could go harder.

ACF corporate campaigner Jonathan Moylan said the policy “could be broader”.

The organisation this year released a report suggesting most agribusinesses that unlawfully cleared wildlife habitats in Queensland were financed by an Australian bank.

“But it should help rein in Australia’s unfortunate status as a global deforestation hotspot by focusing on the main driver of land clearing in Australia: pastoral expansion,” he said.

It comes as Westpac revealed a full-net profit of $7.2 billion on November 7, after earning a $3.05 billion profit from tis Australian consumer banking operations.

Westpac’s announcement came the same week the Federal Government also released its Agricultural, Land and Emissions Discussion Paper this week, which foreshadowed Federal Government policy directions.

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