The independent review of Australia’s national environment law has delivered a scathing verdict: The law is ineffective and unfit for purpose. It needs fixing to stave off further extinctions and start the long road to recovery.
“The review of the EPBC Act by Professor Graeme Samuel released today gives an honest appraisal of the dire state of the natural environment and Indigenous heritage and offers a sensible roadmap to recovery,” Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox said.
“We cannot ignore Samuel’s blunt conclusion that 20 years after the EPBC Act commenced ‘Australia’s natural environment and iconic places are in an overall state of decline and are under increasing threat’.”
The review urges desperately-needed leadership by the Australian Government – to set strong national standards and drive national and regional planning.
It calls for a fundamental shift in focus from a project-by-project approach to one centered on addressing threats and ‘effective and adaptive planning’.
“Australia needs an ambitious, well-funded and collaborative national effort to reduce the major threats to nature in Australia,” Mr Cox said.
“This especially applies to invasive species, habitat destruction, adverse fire regimes and climate change.”
The Samuel review proposes helpful ways forward: in particular, strategic national plans for big pervasive threats like weeds and feral animals and regional plans for on-ground threat management.
“We strongly endorse these proposals,” Mr Cox said.
But the review ignores important issues:
- Funding for the system: current funding for recovering threatened species and abating major threats needs to increase by an order of magnitude.
- Comprehensive listing of and responses to major threats: many major threats are unlisted and many listed threats are ignored.
- The need for ambitious intergovernmental agreements: threat abatement must be a collaborative endeavour by federal, state and territory governments.
“While we welcome most of the 38 recommendations and the desire by the government to consult on implementation, urgent and comprehensive reform cannot wait much longer,” Mr Cox said.
“As Professor Samuel said, ‘cumulative impacts on the environment need to be addressed, threats to the environment properly managed, and the legacy of past degradation rectified by pursuing environmental restoration at scale’.”