Samuel review advocates better way to address threats to Australia’s natural wonders

Media Release |

The interim review of the national Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act finds that the law is failing to address the main threats to nature and proposes a new system for tackling current and emerging threats.

“We congratulate the reviewer Graeme Samuel for his plain-speaking assessment of the major failings of the EPBC Act in the face of a declining natural environment,” Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox said today.

“This review should be the catalyst for less reactive, more comprehensive responses to Australia’s growing biodiversity crisis.

“The Invasive Species Council strongly supports the proposed reforms to strengthen the abatement of major threats to nature such as invasive species, inappropriate fire regimes and habitat destruction.

“In particular, we support the initiative to develop ‘strategic national plans’ to address major threats, prioritise investment and research and ensure action occurs across all levels of government.

“Similarly, the proposed ‘regional plans’ have the potential to address cumulative impacts, key threats and build environmental resilience at the landscape scale,” Mr Cox said.

The review found that ‘key threats to the environment are not effectively addressed’ and threat abatement plans are ‘not achieving their intent and many threats in Australia are worsening’.

This is consistent with the assessments of the Invasive Species Council, Threatened Species Scientific Committee, Australian Academy of Science and other organisations.

Mr Samuel highlighted that the limited resources for implementing the Act have meant ‘the Commonwealth has retreated to transactions, rather than “leading” strategically in the national interest.’

“On the negative side, the review has failed to recommend the listing of key threats as matters of national environmental significance and doesn’t clearly link key threats to the proposed national environmental standards.

“We strongly endorse Mr Samuel’s proposals for better including Indigenous Australians and the protection of their heritage as a core concern of the EPBC Act.

“We are greatly disappointed that the federal environment minister today ruled out Samuel’s proposal for an ‘independent monitoring, compliance, enforcement and assurance regulator’. This is essential for transparent and effective implementation of the EPBC Act and to regain the trust of the Australian community in environmental regulation.

“While the federal environment minister has flagged that her government will act on some areas in the interim report, we are keen to ensure that an improved approach to strategically addressing current and emerging threats is addressed when the report is finalised in October,” Mr Cox said.

The Invasive Species Council will continue to participate in the EPBC review process, identifying positive solutions for the major threats to nature.

The Invasive Species Council is a member of the Places you Love Alliance, which has been calling for a new generation of national environmental laws.

Image: Swift parrots are listed as critically endangered in Australia. Threats include loss of habitat, predation by cats and changes in habitat due to climate change. Photo: Judith Deland | Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

More info

Help protect NSW!

Our expert team has written a list of policy asks detailing exactly what the next NSW government needs to do to stamp out some of the worst invasive species impacts across the state. But they will only become a reality if every key political candidate at the 2023 NSW state election hears about it from you!

Dear National Deer Management Coordinator,

Please accept this as a submission to the National Feral Deer Action Plan.

[Your personalised message will appear here] 

I am very concerned about the spread of deer and am pleased that a national plan has finally been developed. Without urgent action, funding and commitment from all levels of government it is clear that feral deer will continue to spread and damage our environment.

The feral deer population in Australia is growing rapidly and spreading across the country, damaging our natural environment, causing havoc for farmers and foresters and threatening public safety. Unlike much of the world where deer are native, our plants and wildlife haven’t evolved to deal with these heavy hard hooved animals with a voracious appetite.
With no natural predators and an ability to adapt to almost all environments, they could occupy almost all of Australia unless stopped. Despite this, state and territory governments have been slow to respond and in Victoria and Tasmania they are still protected by law for the enjoyment of hunters.

This plan should be adopted by all governments but must also be underpinned by dedicated funding and clear responsibilities. A plan without funding or accountability is a plan that will fail and Australia cannot afford for this to fail.

In order to prevent the spread of feral deer and reduce their impact on our native wildlife, ecosystems and agriculture, I ask that the following recommendations be adopted for the final National Feral Deer Action Plan:

1. All federal, state and territory governments should adopt the National Feral Deer Action Plan and declare feral deer to be a priority pest animal species.

2. All federal, state and territory governments should commit to:

  • Contain deer to the existing large population areas.
  • Reduce and eradicate smaller and isolated populations.
  • Protect important environmental assets such as world and national heritage areas.
  • Develop and fund regional plans and strategies to manage deer populations which involve land managers across all tenures.

3. In order to drive action and the success of this plan, there should be dedicated Commonwealth funding and support for:

  • A permanent national feral deer coordinator position.
  • A permanent federal feral deer action committee with representatives from the commonwealth and state and territory governments and the environmental and agricultural sectors.
  • An ongoing public education campaign on feral deer.
  • A network of regional feral deer coordinators to drive local action across tenures.

4. The expected outcomes for the plan need to be more ambitious, with clear interim targets including:

  • Within one year, all States and Territories should have in place arrangements to implement the National Feral Deer Action Plan, including allocating dedicated funding for implementation.
  • Within one year, feral deer management plans should be developed for key environmental assets of national significance, including the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, the Greater Blue Mountains, the Australian Alps, the Gondwana Rainforests and the Wet Tropics of Queensland.
  • Within five years coordinated landscape scale management should be in place where land owners, land managers, government and community are demonstrably working together.

5. A national feral deer containment map with three zones should be adopted. It should be more ambitious than the zone map in the current draft plan and there should be greater clarity in the naming of the zones. Improvements that should be adopted include:

  • Renaming the zones to better reflect the management intention to ‘Containment Zone 1’ (the current large population zone), ‘Containment Buffer Zone 2’ (the current buffer zone) and ‘Eradication and prevention Zone 3’ (the current small isolated population zone).
  • The NSW northern rivers area should be in the eradication and prevention zone as there are few feral deer currently in this region and eradicating isolated populations and preventing spread into this area is still possible.
  • The whole of South Australia should be in the eradication and prevention zone as eradication is the goal of the SA Government.
  • The Tasmanian region in the containment zone should be smaller to reflect greater ambition and potential for eradication of deer populations.
  • In eastern Victoria areas such as Wilson’s Promontory, Westernport islands and the Mornington Peninsula should be in the eradication and prevention zone.

6. There should be consistent laws and regulations across all states and territories that:

  • Recognise feral deer as a pest animal and treat them as such.
  • Establish a clear responsibility for all landholders and managers to be involved in feral deer control programs.
  • Set clear penalties to stop the wilful or negligent release of feral deer.
  • Prevent new deer farms in areas where no feral deer are present and phase out all deer farms in the eradication and prevention zone.
  • Enable enforcement of compliance, including on government land.

I support the follow principles being adopted in the final National Feral Deer Action Plan:

  • Feral deer are a pest and should be treated as such on all tenures, except on approved deer farms.
  • Federal, state and territory governments have a responsibility to fund the outcomes under this plan.
  • All land managers in areas where feral deer are present have a responsibility to be involved in feral deer control programs.
  • The focus of management efforts should be on eradication of isolated, satellite populations, protection of key environmental assets currently impacted and stopping the spread to new regions.
  • Feral deer control should be undertaken humanely, safely and professionally according to agreed protocols and all tools which meet this criteria should be adopted, including aerial control.
  • Funding for coordination, regional planning and community engagement is necessary for effective feral deer management.
  • Ongoing management and follow up control efforts are required to achieve long lasting results.
  • Rules and regulations should be consistent across jurisdictions and land tenures.
  • Recreational hunting is not an effective strategy for feral deer control and should not be relied upon.
[Your name]
[Your email address]
[Your suburb], [Your state]