JOINT MEDIA STATEMENT: Thursday 2 December
Victorian National Parks Association, Birdlife Australia, Environment Justice Australia, Environment Victoria, Friends of the Earth (Melbourne), The Wilderness Society.
From Greater Gliders in native forests to Regent Honeyeaters in the suburbs – Victoria’s dramatic ecosystem decline revealed in parliamentary Inquiry requires "decisive action" from the Andrews Government.
Leading environment groups call for decisive action on nature and threatened species funding as Ecosystem Decline Inquiry tabled in State Parliament.
The findings of the Inquiry make it abundantly clear – we need to act urgently to halt the decline or possible extinction of 400 animals, plants and communities listed as critically endangered, and almost 2000 animals, plants and communities listed as threatened, under state law.
The Inquiry heard from over 900 submissions and over 90 witnesses, the second biggest ever response to a state Inquiry, demonstrating how much Victorians care about the health of our unique natural heritage.
“Our native animals and natural places are part of what makes Victoria the place to be, our marine world, landscapes and iconic wildlife make us who we are. Within just a few generations, once-common animals and plants are slowly disappearing, confined to smaller and smaller pockets of intact habitat. Ecosystems, the fabric of life, are in the process of collapse before our eyes".
“There is a choice: stand by and watch the continued decline of our native wildlife and their habitats or hear these alarm bells and take action that makes a long-term positive difference,” said Matt Ruchel, Executive Director, Victorian National Parks Association.
Victoria must act or face the possible extinction of 400 critically endangered animals, plants and ecological communities listed as endangered and almost 2000 listed as threatened.
- Greater Glider: populations have declined by between 50-80 per cent in landscapes directly impacted by native forest logging in Eastern Victoria.
- Regent Honeyeaters: occurred across suburban Melbourne (records in Box Hill 1970, Ringwood 1917, Bayswater 1924) but are now subject to a Zoo recovery plan.
- Grey Nurse Sharks: once common in Port Phillip Bay & Westernport Bay, have now all but disappeared from Victorian waters.
- Grasslands of the Victorian Volcanic Plains: once blanketed nearly one million hectares, have as little as 2 per cent left in pre-colonial original condition.
- Hooded Plovers: have experienced major population declines across their range driven by loss and modification of habitat and the severe impacts of recreational pressures on breeding success.
- Eastern Quolls: records show that from the 1860s to 1943 these critters were found around Kew and Heidelberg, with local stories of people finding them in their garden sheds before becoming extinct in the wild.
- South-eastern Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos: an estimated population of about 1500 birds remain, and are in danger of extinction.
- The Mt Cole Grevillea a small endemic plant, range has reduced by 75 per cent, most due to habitat loss from fire and logging.
“Victoria has a diverse and distinctive natural environment, but we also have the highest number of threatened species by subregion and we are the most cleared state in Australia. The challenge is significant and decisive action by the Andrews Government is needed,” said Cam Walker, Campaigns Co-ordinator, Friends of the Earth.
“The dozens of findings and recommendations of the Ecosystem Decline Inquiry are a good starting point, but we now need the government to step up, invest and take urgent action to halt species and ecosystem decline before it's too late,” said Jono La Nauze, CEO, Environment Victoria.
“Conservation action works but we need to use all the levers and tools available. The eastern Hooded Plover remains classed as Vulnerable, populations of this little shorebird have been slowly increasing in Victoria in recent years after decades of decline, largely due to efforts by the community to protect beach-nesting areas in their spring-summer breeding season".
“While breeding success rates have been dramatically improved, we are at the limits of what we can achieve on-ground and we urgently need the support of legislation so we don’t take a step back in recovery," explains Dr Grainne Maguire, Coastal and Wetland Birds Program Leader, BirdLife Australia.
The Ecosystem Decline Inquiry comes on the back of numerous reports over the last decade, and a blistering report from the Victorian Auditor-General in October 2021 that laid bare the failings of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), the state’s main government environment agency.
Victoria severely lacks the funding to adequately protect species and isn’t taking full advantage of existing laws to prevent a worsening crisis. This report makes it very clear that our state is not taking enough action to curb decline in Victorian ecosystems.
The Victorian Government must prioritise investment and make better use of powerful legal tools to stop the biodiversity emergency. Environmental Justice Australia Senior Lawyer Dr Bruce Lindsay said it was deeply concerning that DELWP could not show it was doing anything substantial to halt or reverse Victoria’s biodiversity decline.
“It might not look like it, but we actually already have powerful legal tools with real potential to protect habitat. They are never used. The Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act contains many tools designed to protect threatened species including recovery plans and critical habitat protections," said Dr Bruce Lindsay, Senior Lawyer, Environmental Justice Australia.
“For the government not to take the laws off the shelf, after reforming them is unconscionable and deeply cynical. They like to announce them but are very reluctant to use them," added Dr Lindsay.
Groups are calling for a package of funding for Victoria, of at least $500 million, which will deliver firm commitments in four key areas:
- A dedicated long term threatened species program
- Dramatic increase in public funding for land and sea conservation & threatened species laws & programs
- New $30-$50 million for a Land Conservation Revolving fund run by Trust for Nature
- Strengthen the Wildlife Act to properly protect all native species
The Victorian Parliament, Legislative Council, Environment & Planning Committee, Inquiry into Ecosystem Decline, was tabled in the Victorian Parliament on Thursday 2 December 2021. It is available here.