ACTION ALERT - APRIL 13, 2007
Macquarie Island is home to a staggering array of wildlife as well as representing an outstanding example of the major stages of the Earth's evolutionary history. It is a Nature Reserve, a Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO, listed on the Register of the National Estate, inscribed on the World Heritage List and listed as Critical Habitat for grey-headed and wandering albatrosses under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The island provides the only Australian breeding habitat for these nationally and internationally threatened albatrosses. If this habitat is lost, these birds will most likely leave Australia altogether.
Despite this weight of protected status, its role as home to many of the Southern Ocean's iconic species is now threatened because of the sky-rocketing populations of invasive rabbits, mice and rats, and the inability of State and Commonwealth Governments to agree on how the necessary eradication program should be funded. The eradication program has been fully developed and is ready to be implemented but is on hold until the two Governments reach agreement. Each year that passes renders the damage to the island more irreparable, as rabbit grazing denudes hillsides and provokes landslides, while rats eat the newly exposed eggs of vulnerable nesting seabirds.
The jurisdictional dispute has arisen because while, the Commonwealth has World Heritage obligations, the island is under Tasmanian sovereign jurisdiction and Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service management control. In these circumstances, it is customary for governments to share costs. The Commonwealth has offered to pay its half of the $24M cost of the pest eradication plan but the Tasmanian Government has refused to front a single dollar of its half. Meanwhile, as the two Governments remain locked in this funding impasse, the damage to one of Australia's World Heritage sites continues at a rapid rate.
Please write to The Tasmanian Premier, The Hon. Paul Lennon and urge him to hand over sovereign control of Macquarie Island to the Commonwealth Government ' if Tasmania does not want to meet its management obligations, let the Commonwealth take over completely . Point out the benefits, which extend beyond straightforward environment and conservation benefits, of relinquishing the island. For example: 1) if the Commonwealth goes ahead with the eradication plan on its own, about $12M will still flow through the Tasmanian economy; 2) the Tasmanian economy will also continue to benefit from the ongoing tourism, monitoring and research uses of the island; and 3) Tasmania will save money by ceding responsibility for a potentially high-intensity management site.
The crisis at Macquarie Island is on the agenda to be discussed at the 2007 annual World Heritage Committee meeting in June in New Zealand, which will be an embarrassment for both Australia and Tasmania if the status of the island and the eradication plan remain uncertain. Tasmania can take this opportunity to avoid further international embarrassment and simultaneously gain acclaim for taking the action to allow the recovery plan to go ahead.
The Hon. Paul Lennon's address is: The Premier, 11th Floor, Executive Building, 14 Murray Street, Hobart, TAS 7000 or by email email@example.com