Critical Habitat and other issues
An inalienable legislative protection of critical habitat is
essential for ensuring the survival of threatened species population in the
long term.... there is evidence that the longer the species is listed and the
longer it has critical habitat, the more benefit ensues.
As discussed in Chapter 4, habitat loss and fragmentation is an
identified key threat to threatened species and ecological communities. As a
result, it was generally recognised that habitat and its management are 'central
to the recovery' of threatened species.
The committee heard about the fundamental importance of identifying and
protecting critical habitat. 'Critical habitat' is currently defined as
habitat critical to the survival of a listed threatened species or ecological
For example, Ms Alexia Wellbelove from HSI declared that 'if we are not
able to protect our critical habitats, which are the feeding and breeding areas
of our species, then we are really wasting our time'.
Critical habitat registers
However, it was generally observed that legislative provisions to list
critical habitat have been under-utilised in those jurisdictions that have such
At the state and territory level, the evidence to the committee indicated that
Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania and NSW have provisions for the registration or
listing of critical habitat.
However, there has been only one temporary critical habitat listing in Victoria
in 25 years;
only four critical habitat listings in NSW—three of which are in already
protected areas; 
and no listings in Tasmania.
At the Commonwealth level, there have been only five critical habitat listings
under the EPBC Act.
The critical habitat provisions in the EPBC Act are limited in scope to
protection of critical habitat in Commonwealth areas.
However, as noted in Chapter 1, the Hawke review recommended that the EPBC
Act be amended to discontinue the critical habitat register. The Hawke review
found that 'maintaining a separate register of critical habitat is
unnecessary', suggesting instead that the critical habitat provisions could be
used more effectively. The Hawke review stated that:
Identification of critical habitat during the development of
recovery plans, threat abatement plans, conservation advice and regional plans
would result in critical habitat being factored into decision-making under the
Act and also raise community awareness of areas requiring protection.
The Hawke review recommended that the EPBC Act be amended to require the
identification of critical habitat for listed threatened species at the time of
listing, and that the critical habitat register be discontinued once
information about critical habitat has been included in listing documentation.
Some suggested that the critical habitat provisions should be maintained
and enhanced—for example, that listing should be made mandatory, rather than
or that the public should be able to nominate critical habitat.
HSI argued that critical habitat identified in recovery plans should be
automatically included in the critical habitat register:
How hard can it be to transfer what has been identified in
Recovery Plans across to the Register?...HSI has provided the Commonwealth with
the data to allow it to list critical habitats for well over 60 species in the
Register, but all our applications have been ignored.
HSI made a number of other suggestions to strengthen the legislative
provisions for critical habitat, including, for example, prohibiting the minister
from approving actions that cause detrimental impacts on critical habitat; and designating
critical habitat as a matter of national environmental significance in its own
As Ms Rachel Walmsley from ANEDO observed:
...at the moment, you can, for example, still approve a
development that will impact critical habitat, be right in the middle of
critical habitat. They can still be approved...It makes you ask: 'What is the
point of identifying that critical habitat if it has absolutely no effect on
how development decisions are made?'
Dr Martin Taylor of WWF-Australia described the protection of critical
habitat as a 'key failing of the legislation and funding arrangements that we
have at the moment'.
WWF-Australia compared the protection of critical habitat under the EPBC Act
with endangered species legislation in the US:
The EPBC Act provides for a register of critical habitats,
but this is discretionary, a serious deficiency in the Act. Under the US
Endangered Species legislation, critical habitat designation and protection is
obligatory. Research shows that designation of critical habitats under the US
law has a significant additional benefit for species recovery over and above
listing itself and recovery plans.
Dr Taylor explained that his research showed that critical habitat
designation in the US 'has made a real difference in turning around species
He explained the US provisions in further detail:
...designating critical habitat is mandatory in the US, so when
you list a threatened species you have a time period to do that but you also
have to list the critical habitat—[this] has the effect that any federal action
may not adversely modify that critical habitat. The important difference
between that and just listing the species is...critical habitat includes not only
those places the species currently occupies but also those places—and here is
the beautiful logic of the act—that that species needs to re‑occupy when
it is in a phase of recovery and is expanding. The northern hairy-nosed wombat
is confined to a little national park in Central Queensland, but that is not
its critical habitat. Under the US thinking, critical habitat is the area that
that species will need to be in tiptop condition, so it can expand into it and
can recover to the point that it can be taken off the threatened species list.
SEWPAC advised that the definition of critical habitat under the EPBC Act
is proposed to be amended so that:
...all elements of a species' habitat that are important to its
ongoing persistence and resilience in a landscape and/or marine environments is
captured. For a threatened species, this includes habitat required for the
species to recover to levels that are viable in the long term considering
current and known emerging threats.
HSI highlighted identification of critical habitat as a key issue and
suggested that critical habitat maps be developed:
If we cannot identify those critical habitats then the
conversation with developers becomes more difficult...The problem at the moment
is that we do not have sufficient resources to do that adequately. That is what
we need to tackle first. If we can get those resources and identify those
habitats, that conversation with other users of the environment is easier.
SEWPAC explained the rationale for the government's agreement to the
Hawke recommendation to discontinue the register of critical habitat:
This is principally because offences relating to critical
habitat only apply in Commonwealth areas under the EPBC Act, and because the
listing of areas outside of Commonwealth areas on the register does not offer
legal protection. It was also noted that there is already appropriate
protection for critical habitat through controls on activities that may have a
significant impact on a protected matter. In addition, critical habitat on
Commonwealth land will continue to be protected through the approval
requirements on all activities involving Commonwealth land that are likely to
have a significant impact [on the environment].
SEWPAC explained that the EPBC Act will be amended so that a description
and location of critical habitat will be included in each conservation advice
at the time of listing, and that this advice could be readily updated as new
information becomes available.
Finally, representatives from SEWPAC also told the committee that the Hawke
review had found that the register of critical habitat:
...was not actually being terribly effective in providing
protection for the important habitat for threatened species.
SEWPAC representatives advised that the department is 'strengthening our
capacity to deal with habitat conservation as opposed to the much more narrowly
cast species conservation...' through a range of activities, including the
national wildlife corridor policy and 'the approach being taken in Caring for
our Country; things like the Biodiversity Fund, with protecting and restoring
habitats and managing invasive species'. They told the committee this is also
designed to ensure 'that we preserve enough habitat in the landscape to give
the biodiversity conservation outcomes that we are generally seeking'.
Importance of protected areas
Several submissions also expressed support for protection of critical
habitat through protected areas such as National Parks and the National Reserve
System, pointing to recent research which suggests that protected areas are an
important measure for the protection of threatened species and communities.
For example, Professor Hugh Possingham and Associate Professor Michael
McCarthy submitted that research shows that 'protected areas contribute to
stabilising or recovering some threatened species'. At the same time they
warned that 'there is increasing evidence of species declines within protected
Similarly, Dr Taylor told the committee that his research shows that:
...critical habitat protection through strong national
legislation and new protected areas are the only things that show significant
links to turnarounds in declines of threatened species, both in the United
States and here. These should be the priorities for reform.
Indeed, several submissions expressed support for the National Reserve
System—'Australia's network of protected areas, conserving examples of our
natural landscapes and native plants and animals.'
The National Reserve System currently includes more than 9,700 protected areas
covering 13.43% of Australia—over 103 million hectares. It is made up of
Commonwealth, state and territory reserves, Indigenous lands and protected
areas run by non-profit conservation organisations, through to ecosystems
protected by farmers on their private working properties (see Tables 6 and 7
Table 6: Protected areas in Australia by governance
Number of protected areas
Total area (ha)
Average size (ha)
Percentage of Australia
Proportion of total protected area
65 235 146
23 581 827
8 325 751
6 156 226
103 298 950
Table 7: Protected areas in Australia by jurisdiction
Jurisdiction area (ha)
Number of protected
Protected areas (ha)
Average size (ha)
Per cent of
Per cent of NRS
80 121 268
7 081 783
134 778 762
14 795 437
172 973 671
11 505 188
98 422 137
27 246 888
6 840 133
2 845 157
22 754 364
3 991 600
252 700 808
35 643 205
768 826 956
103 298 950
ACF described the National Reserve System as 'one of the most effective
tools available for preventing mass extinction of native wildlife and
degradation of ecosystems...The National Reserve System needs to be maintained,
resourced and expanded'.
It was suggested that the National Reserve System will be increasingly valuable
in the context of climate change.
Others expressed support for National Parks. For example, Wildlife
Queensland described National Parks and protected areas as 'the cornerstone of
biodiversity protection and conservation'.
The Save the Bilby Fund agreed that:
National Parks make a significant contribution to the
protection and management of critical habitat for threatened species in Qld and
the majority of these species have been recorded on the protected area estate.
This is a great result. However the management of the park estate is also
plagued by insufficient funding and it can sometimes be hard to manage multiple
threatened species that have competing needs.
Marine parks and sanctuary zones were similarly noted as important
mechanisms to protect critical habitat for marine species. For example, the National
Parks Association of NSW remarked that, for marine species:
...marine parks and specifically marine sanctuary zones are a
vital element of marine species and ecosystem conservation, as part of a
broader, well‑managed marine estate.
However, it was pointed out that of course habitat protection
alone is not sufficient: habitat also needs to be managed appropriately.
For example, WWF‑Australia observed that:
Even for critical habitats inside protected areas, the
permanence, security and audit arrangements to ensure management effectiveness
are more important issues than tenure.
Zoos Victoria pointed to the Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve in
Victoria—where wild populations of Helmeted Honeyeaters and Leadbeater's possums
occur (both listed as endangered under the EPBC Act).
Zoos Victoria argued that although this is a protected area, it is not being
managed effectively for either of these species and 'as a consequence, ongoing
habitat degradation and the limited availability of high quality habitat are
the major threats for both species'.
BirdLife Australia also expressed dissatisfaction with some aspects of
habitat protection in protected areas. They suggested that there is too much
focus on landscapes and general threats, which 'has diluted the emphasis on
managing critical habitat for threatened species':
Thus Norfolk Island National Park is managed to reduce the
density of cats and rats but without detailed management of the threatened
species such as the Tasman Parakeet or the Norfolk Island Owl. Kakadu National
Park has general fire management but no specific management for remnant
populations of White-throated Grasswren or Yellow Chat. In fact there is almost
no knowledge of where these species occur in the park. This attitude is also
common in many state and territory parks.
BirdLife Australia recommended that specific actions for threatened
species recovery, and management of critical habitat, should be incorporated
into the management plans of all Commonwealth parks.
Dr Taylor of WWF-Australia expressed concern that:
Under Caring for Our Country, investments in new protected
areas, whether government or private, by purchase or by conservation agreement
under the National Reserve System program, has been about six times lower than
it needs to be to meet this commitment.
He was further worried that the National Reserve System has been
'demoted' and 'stripped of its budget allocation in round two of Caring for Our
In response to these concerns, SEWPAC stated:
The strong progress towards achieving a comprehensive
terrestrial National Reserve System under the first phase of Caring for our
Country means that the priorities for investment through the second phase of
Caring for our Country can now shift, from 2013–14, to place a greater emphasis
on establishing and managing the marine component of the National Reserve
System. In particular, initial funding has been committed to the implementation
of management arrangements for the recently declared national network of
Commonwealth marine reserves.
SEWPAC also told the committee that :
At the same time, the government has committed to continuing
investment in the Indigenous Protected Areas program. This will build on the 36 million
hectares currently protected in Indigenous Protected Areas, 15 million
hectares of which has been achieved under the first phase of Caring for our
Finally, SEWPAC advised that:
Limited funding may also be available for expanding the
terrestrial component of the National Reserve System for projects which
strongly meet the objectives and priorities set out within the One Land - Many
Stories: Prospectus of Investment, although there will not be a specific allocation
of program funding for this component.
The importance of connectivity of habitat was highlighted in some
For example, Wildlife Queensland observed that conservation of migratory
species 'requires planning for habitat protection over very large areas and
between different jurisdictions and provision for free movement between areas
For this reason, they emphasised the importance of developing connecting areas
between protected estates.
In this context, some submissions expressed support for the National
Wildlife Corridors Plan.
SEWPAC explained that the National Wildlife Corridors Plan:
...is a further new landscape-scale initiative and
collaborative approach for managing biodiversity. Supported by investment under
Caring for our Country and the Biodiversity Fund, it aims to improve the
resilience of our landscapes in a changing climate and repair and reconnect
landscapes that have become fragmented. It plans for a network of wildlife
corridors across the nation, ranging from small corridors created by local
communities to large corridors that stretch across many different landscapes.
Creating a network of wildlife corridors, with adequate management of invasive
species, should contribute substantially to the future protection of threatened
species and ecological communities.
SEWPAC submitted that threatened species also receive protection through
the protection of Ramsar wetlands, Commonwealth marine areas, world heritage
properties and national heritage places. SEWPAC pointed to recent natural
heritage listings which will provide 'substantial extra protection for many
threatened species', including species on the Ningaloo Coast, in the Australian
Alps and in the West Kimberley.
Protecting critical habitat outside
Some warned that protected areas alone are not enough.
In particular, it was suggested that protection of critical habitat on private
land needs to be considered. For example, Professor Possingham and Associate
Professor McCarthy advised that 13% of threatened species occur entirely
outside protected areas and '80% of species do not have enough habitat
protected for their survival'.
As Associate Professor McCarthy told the committee:
...current protected areas are not adequate for protecting all
of Australia's threatened species...there needs to be a lot of thought about
protecting species beyond protected areas as well as better management within
Similarly, the Save the Bilby Fund stated that 'critical habitat also
requires management on private property and other state lands'.
For this reason, many submissions emphasised the importance of
conservation agreements and covenants as mechanisms for the protection of
critical habitat on private land.
As Mr Philip Collier observed:
...much critical habitat is in private hands, and the owners of
any less‑alienated remnants need to be engaged as conservation managers,
or offered an opportunity to sell their land to conservation-minded new owners.
Mr Collier believed that:
...there is scope for private landholders to make a significant
contribution to the care and protection of threatened species on their own land.
We recommend that, with the endorsement of landholders and where requested,
they are helped with surveys and then empowered to undertake their ongoing
adaptive management, supported by relevant knowledge and management advice when
requested. Voluntary land owners and managers should be fully appreciated for
the efforts they provide, which is often much more intensive than can be
provided by professionals in a resource constrained world.
Dr Taylor of WWF-Australia also discussed the importance of working with
.... to get a covenant over the portions of their property that
are important for that threatened species, so that when that property is sold
or that landowner changes their mind or their circumstances change, that
covenant is still binding on that property.
Some suggested more funds are needed to help landholders covenant areas
of high conservation value.
For example, Dr Taylor believed that we need to:
...greatly increase the money that is spent securing enduring
outcomes, principally through covenants, not necessarily through just buying
it, but principally through negotiating covenants. A lot of the natural
resource management bodies, for example, could be spending their money actually
securing covenants over properties. And this need not be solely for
conservation of this little patch of habitat for this particular species. It
can also be for conservation and land management, so that that land itself is
managed in an enduring way—in a lasting way, complementary to conservation—so
the production side of that property can also be managed better. And of course
that could actually have production benefits, but it would surely have
In this context, the committee notes that several submitters expressed
support for the Environmental Stewardship Program.
SEWPAC explained that the Environmental Stewardship Program component of Caring
for our Country:
...uses a market-based approach to enter into funding
arrangements with private land managers to manage matters of national environmental
significance listed under the EPBC Act. Since 2008, the Environmental
Stewardship Program has resulted in the management and protection of over 58
000 hectares of five nationally threatened ecological communities on more than
580 sites on privately owned land. This includes 40 187 hectares of the
critically endangered white box, yellow box, Blakely’s red gum grassy woodland
and derived native grasslands (known as box gum grassy woodland) which occurs
in southern Queensland, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and
Victoria. Ecological monitoring being undertaken by the Australian National
University has also identified threatened species on a number of these sites.
SEWPAC further explained that the Environmental Stewardship Program component
of Caring for Our Country 'supports private land managers for up to 15 years
to manage matters of national environmental significance listed under the EPBC
SEWPAC also noted in its submission that landowners may be eligible for
tax deductions and/or concessional capital gains tax treatment as a result of
permanently protecting environmental values of high significance or quality.
Ecosystems of national significance
Another mechanism with potential for protecting critical habitat might
be the proposal for 'ecosystems of national significance' as a new matter of
national environmental significance.
Indeed, several submissions supported the Commonwealth government's
proposal for a new matter of national environmental significance under the EPBC
Act for 'ecosystems of national significance'.
ACF suggested this was particularly important in the context of climate change
(the issue of climate change is discussed further in Chapter 4 of this report).
SEWPAC submitted that the proposal for 'ecosystems of national
significance' is 'aimed at better integrating the conservation of ecosystems
into development planning and environmental assessment processes'.
SEWPAC also submitted that it is increasingly using 'landscape wide' strategic
assessments and bioregional planning 'to identify important areas of habitat
for threatened species and ecological communities as part of the development
However, the Australasian Bat Society observed:
Critical habitat can be a relatively minor and restricted
feature of the landscape, and broadscale approaches to management may not
adequately address these. For example, installing and maintaining bat‑friendly
gates on old mines is a specific action that would address protection of
critical roost sites very effectively, but such actions have been ignored or
implemented haphazardly and not maintained.
The committee recognises the fundamental importance of the
identification and protection of critical habitat to the survival of threatened
species and ecological communities. The committee is therefore disappointed at the
failure of all Australian jurisdictions to clearly identify and adequately protect
critical habitat. This was in marked contrast to the evidence received of the
success of the US Endangered Species Act in protecting critical habitat.
The committee supports the recommendations of the Hawke review that
there is no need to continue the register of critical habitat under the EPBC
Act. The committee notes that the Hawke review found that the register was not
Instead, the description and location of critical habitat should be identified at
the time of listing for each threatened species and ecological community, and
in the relevant conservation advice or action plan for that species.
The committee recommends that the Environment Protection and
Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 be amended to require the identification
of critical habitat for listed threatened species and ecological community at
the time of listing.
The committee notes SEWPAC's evidence that 'there is already appropriate
protection for critical habitat through controls on activities that may have a
significant impact on a protected matter'.
However, the committee considers that there is a need for critical habitat to
be clearly identified and information about that critical habitat to be made
readily available and easily accessible. The committee considers that this will
increase certainty for all stakeholders, including development proponents, and
also improve protection of that critical habitat.
The committee notes that the description and location of critical
habitat is included in each conservation advice at the time of listing.
Further, many existing recovery plans—at all levels of government—also identify
critical habitat. However, there is a need to ensure that information about
critical habitat is easily accessible, rather than scattered throughout various
plans and advices. The committee therefore recommends that all critical habitat
for threatened species, as identified in Commonwealth, state and territory
recovery plans and conservation advices, be compiled into easily accessible
maps, readily available online and updated at regular intervals. This will
provide a clear source of information to all stakeholders, to ensure they are
informed of key areas where projects might be needed to support threatened
species or ecological communities; where initiatives to tackle threatening or
invasive species could be targeted; and to inform potential development
The committee recommends the Department of Sustainability, Environment,
Water, Population and Communities ensure that all critical habitats for
threatened species and ecological communities, as identified in Commonwealth,
state and territory recovery plans and conservation advices, be compiled into
easily accessible maps which are readily available online and updated at
The committee also recognises the evidence of the importance of the
protected area estate in providing protection of critical habitat for many
species and communities. At the same time, the committee notes with some
concern the evidence suggesting that the management of some protected areas may
not be adequate. For example, the failure to eliminate feral animals such as
rats and cats from Norfolk Island, particularly Norfolk Island National Park,
is a concerning example of the lack of effective management of invasive species
in that area.
Commensurate with the need to better identify critical habitat, the
committee believes that the relative value and contribution of land within the
National Reserve System to supporting threatened species needs to be better
understood. Where targeted to building on critical habitat supporting
threatened species, the committee supports the National Wildlife Corridors
Plan, particularly for the protection of habitat connectivity. The committee
also notes the need for critical habitat protection on private lands, and the
evidence of the importance of conservation covenants and the Environmental
Stewardship Program in this regard.
In light of the important contribution it should make to the protection
of habitat for threatened species and ecological communities, the committee
recommends that an audit be undertaken to identify all critical habitat within
the National Reserve System.
The committee recommends that the Environmental Stewardship Program be
maintained in order to continue to provide assistance to private land managers
to manage and protect habitat for threatened species and ecological communities
on their land.
Other issues raised during the committee's inquiry included the role of
- private sector; and
broader community, including the need for wide-ranging
Role of the private sector
The committee received considerable evidence during its inquiry
supporting the important and increasing contribution of the private sector.
This included zoos and other private conservation organisations managing
private reserves and captive breeding programs.
The role of private nurseries in collecting and propagating threatened plants
was also noted.
One of the most heartening success stories received by the committee was
from the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC), which told the committee it
protects over 80 per cent of the bird species in Australia and about two-thirds
of all native mammal species.
In particular, AWC protects 73 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and
amphibians listed as threatened under the EPBC Act. And as noted in Chapter 4, AWC's
feral free Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary has seen a substantial increase in several
nationally threatened species, including greater bilbies, bridled nail-tail wallabies,
numbats, burrowing bettongs and woylies.
Mr Atticus Fleming from the AWC suggested that:
...a broader acknowledgment is needed that non-government
entities—and I am talking about organisations like AWC, but I am also talking
about Indigenous ranger groups and, in some cases, pastoralists and other
landholders—are often in the best position to provide really cost-effective,
practical action on the ground. That is where we are going to generate the wins
for threatened species.
Mr Fleming acknowledged that:
Government is always going to have a critically important
role to play. If government can be better at working out how to get investment
out into the field in a way that empowers private conservation groups,
Indigenous ranger groups and landholders to deliver—within the right kind of
accountability framework—the practical action that needs to happen, then I
think we will have more bilbies, more bettongs and more Gouldian finches for
the available dollars if we can do that.
The National Parks Association of NSW (NPA NSW) also observed that:
...there are now dozens of organisations, along with countless
individuals, including thousands of primary producers, across Australia that
are dedicated to long-term stewardship of land for nature conservation and the
provision of sustainable environments. Approaches range from property‑based
management activities with no formal agreements, to the management of land
through a legal covenant, to the acquisition and management of land
specifically for the purpose of nature conservation. These approaches need
support, and with that support the public benefit would be greatly enhanced.
The NPA NSW suggested that:
...tax concessions and reforms could greatly assist the further
protection of Australia’s unique flora and fauna on private land through
increased philanthropic activity.
SEWPAC noted in its submission that landowners may be eligible for tax
deductions and/or concessional capital gains tax treatment as a result of
permanently protecting environmental values of high significance or quality.
In this context, the committee notes once again the support expressed
for the Environmental Stewardship Program,
as discussed in Chapter 3 of this report.
Captive breeding programs
The importance of captive breeding programs was also highlighted for the
committee by a number of submissions and witnesses.
For example, Zoos Victoria told the committee that native threatened species
were a priority for them and that it:
...has extensive experience in the field of native threatened
species recovery, with captive-breeding programs spanning two decades for
several species. Our investment in threatened species recovery currently
amounts to approximately 2.5 million dollars per annum.
Zoos Victoria also told the committee that, following its experience
with the Christmas Island pipistrelle (as outlined in Chapter 3), they
conducted a study on which species were likely to go extinct in the next 10
years in Victoria. They came up with a priority list of 16 native threatened
species upon which to focus efforts and resources.
They told the committee that, for example:
The mainland Eastern Barred Bandicoot would be extinct if it
were not for the breeding and release program undertaken by Melbourne Zoo.
Similarly Victoria's bird emblem, the Helmeted Honeyeater would almost
certainly be extinct if it were not for the breeding and release program
undertaken by Healesville Sanctuary. Lastly, the Orangebellied Parrot is
predicted to go extinct in the wild within the next five years, its survival
now resting on a large insurance population established in captivity.
They concluded that recovery of these Victorian species relies on
successful captive-breeding and release programs. At the same time, they noted
that, although breeding programs for these species have been in place for 20
years, 'wild populations for each species are still at risk'.
Zoos Victoria told the committee that captive intervention comes at 'enormous
cost' and that 'the costs are carried by the zoos at the moment':
....we need to be more realistic, especially with this next
wave of extinction that we are being warned we are facing, and to make sure
that captive interventions are also funded accordingly, because it is not cheap
and if you are going to do it properly it needs to receive adequate funding.
Zoos Victoria also highlighted the important educational and awareness‑raising
role of zoos. For example, the committee was told that 1.9 million people come
through the gates at Zoos Victoria and research showed that 'zoos are very
influential in getting community behaviour to change'.
Zoos Victoria expressed the view that:
Zoos have a vital role to play in not only raising the
profile of threatened species programs but also influencing conservation
sensitive attitudes, knowledge and behaviours. Zoos Victoria's visitors and
members now far exceed the membership numbers of any other conservation
organization in Victoria (with more than 120,000 members). Recovery efforts
that harness the reach of organization such as zoos to drive social changes
that compliment environmental strategies are welcomed by our organization
because human behavio[u]rs drive many of the processes threatening wildlife.
Role of community
The committee also heard about the importance of landholders, community
groups and community volunteers in range of areas relating to threatened
species, particularly in the development of recovery plans and conducting
on-ground threatened species work.
As the Director of National Parks observed 'the protection, conservation
and recovery of ecosystems and native species will increasingly rely on
cooperation between stakeholders, both within and outside protected area
The Director of National Parks also emphasised the 'value of strong
partnerships with scientists and research institutions' to continue to improve
our understanding of the systems that we manage.
The Queensland government told the committee that it is:
...looking to encourage communities, landholders, NGO's, NRM
bodies and corporate entities to play a much greater role in threatened species
protection and recovery. In most cases, it is not government that is making the
day to day decisions resulting in threats to a species and it is therefore
relevant for government to partner with those decision makers to develop an
appropriate mix of policy, regulation and practice to achieve a sustainable
As Dr Tanzi Smith observed, 'community organisations and volunteers
undertake countless hours of weeding, planting, raising awareness and looking
after their local area'.
The NPA NSW acknowledged the role of 'citizen science'—that is, data collection
about threatened species by trained community volunteers. They cited the
example of the substantial collection of data about birds, including threatened
birds, collected by BirdLife Australia's volunteer network.
BirdLife Australia itself observed that successes in relation to
threatened species and ecological communities are often thanks to the 'sustained
commitment of key individuals, either belonging to government agencies, non-government
organisations or voluntary groups'.
They felt that government should 'provide strong support of non-government
organisations and community groups that are actively involved in conservation
of threatened species'.
The importance of engaging Indigenous communities was
also emphasised in some submissions.
Professor John Woinarski observed that:
Some recovery plans have proven to be remarkably effective
catalysts for delivering social outcomes in addition to environmental outcomes.
In this context, Professor Woinarski described the recovery plan for the
warru, or black-footed rock-wallaby, as 'inspirational':
...in its recognition that in remote (and in this case,
Indigenous) Australia, recovery plans aimed at the maintenance of threatened
species provides an opportunity for employment, and restoration and showcasing
of cultural strength; and that these social and environmental factors may be
However, Ms Sera Blair felt there is not enough support for some
Funding for current on ground conservation efforts for
Leadbeater's possum has had to come from community groups like Friends of
Leadbeater's possum through fundraising. This fundraising is done through
community donations, sausage sizzles and grants. Government grants can be
useful but they generally do not cover support for employees or
equipment...community groups are left on their own to implement complex projects
and this is unacceptable.
Unfortunately, the committee also heard that community work can often be
undermined. ANEDO told the committee:
We have calls to EDO saying, 'I've been in my local reveg
group for 20 years. We've weeded this bit of bushland, however, it's now a
major project development and it's being cleared'. The planning laws of New
South Wales will just say, 'Well, we've considered that but we've decided this
development is going ahead'. ...then the good work that is done can still have a
freeway built through it.
As ANEDO observed:
There is no point in spending public money and having people
volunteer their time and the use of their land and so forth to achieve certain
things only to find that it is undermined somewhere else because someone has
permission to do something that is completely in the opposite direction.
Finally, BirdLife Australia made the following interesting observation:
Many threatened species occur in rural, remote or regional
areas with lower levels of income and higher levels of disadvantage than urban
areas. There is a major opportunity to consider threatened species funding as
part of portfolios of support for regions that have both threatened species
needing management and qualify for other forms of support. The flow-on effects
of employment in threatened species management are likely to be far greater in
the smaller economies of rural and remote areas than urban areas while
involvement of land managers in threatened species research is one of the most
effective means of transforming land practice.
The committee welcomes the evidence from many organisations, such as—to
name but a few—the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, Zoos Victoria, BirdLife
Australia and the Save the Bilby Fund, who are working hard to deliver and
achieve on-ground outcomes for threatened species and ecological communities.
The committee particularly commends the work of the Australian Wildlife
Conservancy and its impressive record of successful management of areas
protecting a large number of threatened species, as well as its success in
achieving substantial increases in the numbers of several nationally threatened
The committee recommends that SEWPAC assess the success of private conservation
organisations in establishing sanctuaries of critical habitat for threatened
species to examine and establish any lessons that could be applied across the
National Reserve System. SEWPAC should also examine how and whether such
private conservation organisations could play an effective role in improving
outcomes for threatened species, including within publicly owned assets within
the National Reserve System.
The committee recommends that the Department of Sustainability,
Environment, Water, Population and Communities assess the success of private
conservation organisations in establishing sanctuaries of critical habitat for
threatened species to examine what lessons could be applied across the National
Reserve System and how such private organisations could play an effective role
in improving outcomes for threatened species, including within publicly owned
assets within the National Reserve System. Such a role must be in cooperation
with and following consultation with public land managers.
The committee also acknowledges the need to engage the wider community
in the protection and management of threatened species and ecological
communities. Indeed, the committee heard that many of the success stories in
saving threatened species arose from the sustained commitment of key
individuals, either belonging to government agencies, non-government
organisations or voluntary groups.
The committee wishes to particularly recognise and commend landholders
and community volunteers for their work on the ground with threatened species
and ecological communities. The committee considers that, without these
efforts, threatened species and ecological communities in Australia would be in
a far worse state.
The committee recommends that the Commonwealth government continue to
support the important contribution of all sectors of the community, including
private sector and non-government organisations, landholders and community
volunteers, in delivering outcomes for threatened species and ecological
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