Greens move to improve WA biodiversity laws after years of devastating species loss

numbat; Biodiverity Conservation Bill 2015; Lynn MacLaren; Lesgislative COuncil; Numbat Task Force; biodiversity; Western Australia

After 30 years of successive ALP and Liberal state governments allowing outdated laws for protecting WA’s rare and threatened plants and animals to languish, the Greens last night tabled amendments in an eleventh hour bid to improve the Government’s Biodiversity Conservation Bill.

“The Government’s Bill is a welcome modernisation that doesn’t go far enough,” Greens Biodiversity Spokesperson Lynn MacLaren MLC said.

“It won’t protect WA’s wildlife unless amendments proposed in the Council are successful and unless the regulations underpinning it are robust.

“The Bill’s weakness probably reflects the fact that the Minister’s consultation with environment groups was inadequate,” she added.

"That said, the Government’s Bill represents a small improvement on the archaic Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 and Sandalwood Act currently in force.”

Alarmingly, the ALP have failed thus far to make any commitments regarding introducing better legislation for biodiversity should they win next year’s State election.

“In this context, the Greens will move to amend the Government’s Bill so that any environment minister would be obliged to base decisions regarding the listing of threatened species on science,” Ms MacLaren said.

“I will also move to remove the God clause, and require that any decision that may cause a species to become extinct must first be debated and passed by both Houses of Parliament – which would set the bar a fair bit higher than it is currently.

“I will also propose an amendment to improve links between the new Act and clearing regulations, so that critical habitats cannot be cleared.

“Our biodiversity laws have failed for far too long. 

"This matter is now urgent."

Ms MacLaren said currently, species of plants and animals are going extinct in WA without any scrutiny. 

She said just last year, four more animals were added to the ‘presumed extinct list’ in WA, bringing the total that have gone extinct since European settlement to 23, which is 10 more than the total in 2001, the year the ALP first said they would improve WA’s biodiversity laws.

“Between 2002 and the present, the Greens introduced two Bills to reform WA’s biodiversity laws as a matter of urgency, yet these received no support from the old parties,” Ms MacLaren said.

“The Greens recognise that WA – home to one of 25 globally recognised biodiversity hotspots and also eight of Australia’s 15 national biodiversity regions – is in a race against time.

“While the old parties play political games over these laws, WA has been losing species year by year.”

 

FACT FILE:

  • According to Hansard, in 2001, there were 135 animal species 337 plant species listed under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 as ‘threatened and likely to become extinct’: http://www.parliament.wa.gov.au/parliament/pquest.nsf/Parliament/pquest.nsf/SrchQON/9078147FEC2CC66A482571CC0033947C?opendocument
  • Today, according to the Department of Parks and Wildlife website, there are 245 animal species and 425 plants species listed threatened and likely to become extinct. See relevant links at https://www.dpaw.wa.gov.au/plants-and-animals/threatened-species-and-communities
  • In other words, 110 WA animal and 88 WA plant species have gone from healthy populations in WA to being considered threatened with extinction  since 2001 when the ALP began consulting about this Bill.
  • As of  November 2015, 23 animal species were ‘presumed extinct’ in WA, which is 10 more than in 2001 (four were added to the list in 2015).  The list of 23 includes particular species of bettong, bandicoot, hare wallaby, bilby, hopping mouse, potoroo and echidna as well as various molluscs.

Picture: With thanks to Numbat Task Force.