Garrett must take brake off species and habitat protection
Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, has announced a list of priorities for assessing threatened species and habitats for protection under Australia’s national environment laws - but some of the excessive timelines have not impressed Humane Society International (HSI).
Winners in this year’s priority assessment list are the shy albatross and Tasmanian devil where the Minister has given his Scientific Committee 12 months to assess whether they qualify for protection under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. He has also allocated 12 months for assessing whether HSI nominated Cumberland Plains Woodlands should receive upgraded protection as critically endangered due to development pressures in western Sydney.
HSI’s nomination to list the Coorong and Lower Lakes has prompted a very welcome assessment of all the Lower Murray River wetlands, flood plains and groundwater systems from the junction of the Darling River for listing as a threatened ecological community. Expanding our nomination up to the junction of the Darling River is to be applauded, but HSI is very disappointed the Minister has given his Scientific Committee until 30 September 2011 to undertake the assessment.
“Anyone who has watched the news this year can tell the Minister the Lower Murray River system is endangered and needs an emergency listing. It should not take the Scientific Committee three years to work this through”, said Nicola Beynon, HSI Senior Program Manager.
HSI is also alarmed our nomination for the Macquarie Marshes has been left off the priority list when their problems are also well known and the subject of considerable national concern.
“If it’s going to take three years to assess priorities such as the Coorong, how long will it take to assess places relegated to the backburner like the imperilled Macquarie Marshes?” said Ms Beynon.
Coolibah Black Box Woodlands have made it on to the priority list but are still going to have to wait until September 2010 for assessment; more than a decade after HSI nominated them in April 2000! Highly endangered marine fish like Harrison’s, endeavour and southern dogfish, which have already been waitlisted for 7 years, also have another two years to wait for a September 2010 deadline.
It used to be that every threatened species and ecological community nominated for protection was required to be assessed within 15 months. In 2006, after financial under-funding and politically undermining the listing process for several years, the former Government introduced a triage system where only ‘priorities’ are assessed in any given year. Now nominations that do not make the priority list for two consecutive years are sent to the departmental rubbish bin. “In leaving them off this year’s priorities, Minister Garrett has binned thirteen HSI nominations, despite them being eligible and very deserving of listing”, said Ms Beynon. “We’ll now be forced to waste our limited resources to renominate them.”
HSI is the organisation with the greatest experience at nominating species and habitats for legal protection under Australian federal and state laws.