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15 July 2015 - Commonwealth action needed to protect habitats of threatened species      

Commonwealth action needed to protect habitats of threatened species

Commonwealth action needed to protect habitats of threatened species

15th July, 2015    

SYDNEY - On the eve of Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s national Threatened Species Summit tomorrow in Melbourne, Humane Society International (HSI) is calling upon the Minister to undertake a range of actions that will protect the fast diminishing habitats of Australia’s long-list of threatened species.

HSI Campaign Director Michael Kennedy said, “These actions must start with a decision by the Commonwealth to throw in the towel on the environmental assessment “one-stop-shop” policy currently stuck in the Senate. Unless this is done, recovery programs are doomed, while effective environmental assessment procedures are given lip service by the states and territories, and the major threats to our wildlife continue unabated.”

The following basic actions were recommended to Minister Hunt in late 2014, contained in an HSI report entitled, “Conserving Australia’s Threatened Ecosystems – An overview of HSI’s Habitat Protection Program[1

1.         The Commonwealth must retain full and comprehensive Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, 1999 (EPBC Act) powers, significantly strengthening its protective provisions, leading to “next generation” environment laws, and halt the dangerous “one-stop-shop” plan to devolve national environment responsibilities to the states and territories.

2.         The following EPBC Act Matters of National Environment Significance (MNES) triggers (requiring intervention by the Commonwealth) must be added to the Act as a minimum; vulnerable ecological communities; land clearing, 15 national biodiversity hotspots; ecosystems of national importance; wetlands of national importance; all critical habitats; the National Reserve System; all remaining Australian wild rivers; all private and corporate “Conservation Agreements” and major greenhouse gas emitting projects.

3.         The Commonwealth must allocate significantly more resources to permit the assessment of all nationally Threatened Ecological Communities (endangered habitats).

4.         The Commonwealth must develop a 10 year strategy for assessing and listing all known endangered habitats and reverts to the original EPBC Act public nomination processes that requires the Commonwealth to assess all public nominations received, and not leave the Minster to determine priorities.

5.         The EPBC Act Register of Critical Habitats must be reinstated and reinvigorated, and used to immediately list the critical habitat areas for all listed endangered species and habitats. All items listed on the Register must also become priority MNES matters.  

6.         Further and significant funding must be allocated to existing Commonwealth stewardship programs to provide management funds to land owners with endangered habitats.

7.         The Commonwealth should undertake a “quick and dirty” assessment of all endemic state and territory endangered habitats for immediate transfer to the schedules of the EPBC Act, if not already listed.

8.         The Commonwealth must commit to a fully developed, funded and representative National Reserve System by 2020, and should seek to include as many recognised endangered habitats in the National Reserve System as soon as possible.

9.         The Commonwealth must take a far broader view of places for National for Heritage listing. It must be seen as a critical national conservation tool for protecting Australia’s biological diversity, and not just a rarified stamp collection.

10.       The Commonwealth must look at a raft of new heritage conservation themes, including arid/semi-arid zone refugia; a “heritage species” program; nationally and internationally important Threatened Ecological Communities; eucalypts; “heritage rivers”; “wildlands”; migratory species congregations, biodiversity hotspots; from which to trigger natural area assessment and listing.

11.       The Commonwealth must ensure that the much neglected and underfunded National and Commonwealth natural heritage listing programs are reinvigorated and given a new and significantly increased funding commitment over the next 10 years.

12.       The Commonwealth must re-establish a National Biodiversity Hotspots Program to help purchase high value conservation areas within the 15 nationally agreed hotspots, providing stewardship monies for land owners and managers, and continue to use the hotspot priorities to help guide national program funding.

13.       State and local governments must provide rate relief for landholders with in-perpetuity conservation agreements in effect on their properties - as both an incentive to enter into such agreements and protect high biodiversity value land, and to provide additional resources for its management.

14.       Governments must review relevant taxation laws, necessary to properly recognise conservation as a legitimate land use; allow owners of land managed for conservation purposes to deduct non-capital expenditures on conservation works against income tax; and allow land protected by in-perpetuity conservation mechanisms to be exempt from capital gains tax on future sale or purchase.

15.       Commonwealth and state governments must increase stewardship funding available for endangered habitats on private land, as well as reinvigorating and providing adequate resources for programs to establish in-perpetuity conservation agreements through both government and non-government programs.

Mr Kennedy concluded, “Habitat loss still remains as one of the primary cause of species endangerment in Australia. Unless national strategies are developed, funded and fully implemented that result in increasing dedication of fully protected reserves and the safeguarding of other endangered habitats from inappropriate development, then there will be very few species recovery stories for our grandchildren to enjoy. The ball is in the Abbott Government’s court.”


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