The Greens (WA) Urban Bushland Policy

The Greens (WA) note that, despite increasing concern in the community about the need to preserve urban bushland and wetlands, the state government has presided over the continued destruction of thousands of hectares of urban natural areas. New clearing controls have failed to adequately control urban clearing. The Government's commitment to Bush Forever has been half-hearted and seriously underfunded. Government is reluctant to acquire or secure all sites fully. Public ownership is not essential for all sites, but legal protection is.

The major Metropolitan Region Scheme (MRS) Amendment for Bush Forever and Related Lands (1082/33) has not been presented to Parliament, four years after being released for public comment. There is no statutory protection for all Bush Forever sites and the proposed 'Bush Forever Protection Areas' have been removed from the draft Amendment.    Many sites are unmanaged and are degrading by neglect.

The second stage of Bush Forever, known as the 'Swan Bioplan', has neither been released nor implemented. The Whicher Range area has outstanding conservation value and remains unprotected. Both the Government and Opposition have failed to commit to proper funding and management of Bush Forever, Swan Bioplan and the Bunbury Region Scheme.

Goals

The Greens (WA) want:

  • a halt to clearing of bushland and wetlands within the Perth Metropolitan Region and the South West of Western Australia in line with the National Objectives and Targets for Biodiversity Conservation 2001-2005
  • full protection of all of the 287 areas identified in the Bush Forever report volumes 1 and 2 (Government of Western Australia, December 2000) and any additional sites added after December 2000 - such protection includes all the mapped area in those sites identified for ‘Negotiated Planning Solutions’
  • full protection of all conservation areas identified in the Swan Bioplan and any additional sites which may be added
  • full protection of all conservation areas identified in the Bunbury Region Scheme and any additional sites which may be added


Initiatives

The Greens (WA) will initiate and support legislation and actions that:

  • strongly promote the outstanding natural heritage values of our unique bushland, within an internationally recognised ‘hotspot’ for biodiversity, to all sectors of the community - corporate, private and public
  • include other areas of regionally significant natural areas as Bush Forever sites
  • by statutory government policy and with State assistance, require all local government authorities to implement biodiversity planning according to the Perth Biodiversity Project Biodiversity Planning Guidelines for Local Government and include a program to support local authorities to acquire and manage locally significant bushland for conservation
  • create a new zoning classification for the land use of Conservation of Bushland, Wetland, Coastal and Foreshore Landscapes and Other Significant Natural Landscapes within the Metropolitan Region Scheme and other regional planning schemes to ensure that bushland is conserved and managed for its natural attributes and social benefits
  • fully and fairly fund the acquisition of conservation sites by government
  • establish a revolving fund to enable the acquisition, imposition of conservation covenants and on-selling to private landholders of conservation lands identified in Bush Forever, the Swan Bioplan or the Bunbury Region Scheme
  • raise public awareness of the biodiversity values of urban bushland
  • vest Regional Parks in the Conservation Commission and thereby give them legal status under the Conservation and Land Management Act and/or a new Biodiversity Conservation Act
  • create rate relief and other financial incentives to protect bushland, wetlands and bushland on groundwater catchments in private ownership
  • recognise and encourage the role for community participation in management of bushland and wetland areas with increased resources and support
  • ensure and promote the retention of bushland around schools by providing adequate funding of education so that schools are not forced to sell off adjoining bushland
  • ensure school education programs include appreciation of bushland at, or in the locality of, all schools
  • rezone land adjoining Moore River as a Regional Park linked to the Yanchep Regional Park
  • ban the disturbance, dewatering or clearing of sites with acid sulfate soils or potential acid sulfate soils
  • recognise the environmental and social importance of urban bushland in the terms of reference for appeals against development
  • recognise the threat to biodiversity of invasive weeds in urban bushland and ensure adequate resources to combat weeds

Background

Urban Bushland is bushland remaining in the built up areas of our towns and cities. These precious areas of bush are irreplaceable, and have many environmental and social functions. The flora and fauna of our region are recognised as some of the most diverse in the world, with many endemic  species. To keep this biodiversity we must protect our remaining bushland and wetlands and ensure they are properly managed for conservation. We have already destroyed over 70% of our bushland in the metropolitan area and in some cases less than 10% of particular ecological communities remain.

The greatest threats to biodiversity in urban bushland are clearing and climate change. Clearing, despite new regulations, is continuing at an alarming rate to accommodate urban sprawl and coastal developments. The Perth region is predicted to suffer up to a 60% drop in rainfall and up to a 6?C rise in average temperatures by 2070. Continuing residential and industrial expansion will compound the effects of declining groundwater levels on bushland ecosystems.

The protection of urban bushland will depend on the development of responsible planning strategies that recognise the significance of bushland to the long-term health of the environment and the community.

About 28% of bushland remains on the Perth metropolitan coastal plain - the figure of 30% being recognised as the minimum target for sustainability. We will need to retain all that remains to maintain our biodiversity into the future.