Environment Health Australia​

Our Work  |  Biosecurity

Environmental biosecurity – the protection of our natural environment from harmful exotic weeds, pests and diseases – requires much more attention than it currently receives.

At a time when all research tells us Australia is fast losing native species, we really must do better.

That is why we have launched ‘Keeping Nature Safe’, a proposal for the establishment of Environment Health Australia, a national body dedicated to environmental biosecurity.

Quarantine and biosecurity efforts to protect primary industries like farming and grazing are world class but the environment is currently missing out.

Government knows this. It is time to give the environment the same level of protection we give to agriculture.

Stinting on environmental biosecurity investment now is a false economy. It leaves an ever-growing debt for future generations to pay. Once we allow them to enter and establish, new weeds, pests and diseases cost buckets of money to control

Keeping Nature Safe - Proposal for Environmental Health Australia

Farmers, land managers and community groups working to restore our lands and ecosystems understand this. They have huge resources of knowledge, expertise and commitment that the government would do well to harness in the fight against invasive species.

The Australian Government’s own review of quarantine and biosecurity emphasised the need to involve the community at all levels – from policy and decision-making down.

It is time we moved to enshrine this wisdom in a new body, Environment Health Australia, to bring together all the best expertise on environmental biosecurity.

You too can support Environment Health Australia.

Download the report.

Support for Environment Health Australia

Dr Paul Sinclair, Healthy Ecosystems Program Manager, Australian Conservation Foundation

The Australian Conservation Foundation commends the proposal to establish a national organisation dedicated to securing Australia’s environment against further incursions by invasive species. Environment Health Australia would go a long way towards fixing a critical weakness in our national biosecurity defences and substantially benefit Australia’s environment, communities and economy.

Australian Conservation Foundation logo

Greg Hunt, as Shadow Environment Minister (in a letter to the federal minister for agriculture, 25 May 2012. Greg Hunt subsequently became the federal environment minister)

I strongly support the [Invasive Species] Council’s proposal for EHA and believe if implemented it will lead to many direct environmental benefits.

Hunt letter supporting EHA

Samantha Vine, Head of Conservation, BirdLife Australia

Invasive species are a serious threat to bird species in Australia and much more needs to be done to reduce their impacts. We support the establishment of Environment Health Australia as a logical, practical and flexible platform to facilitate the improved environmental biosecurity performance required to secure the future of Australian birds.

Birdlife Australia logo

Tim Kelly, Chief Executive, Conservation Council of South Australia

We support the establishment of an enduring body to facilitate thinking, planning and action on the threats invasive species pose to the land and marine environment. Environment Health Australia will give the environment the special attention it needs when it comes to preventing, eradicating and controlling invasive species in a strategic manner.

Conservation Council SA logo

Professor Daniel Simberloff, Director for Biological Invasions, University of Tennessee and member of National Academy of Sciences

Environment Health Australia would fill a huge gap in Australia’s defences against new invasive species detrimental to the environment, and I hope the Australian Government can act quickly to establish such an institution.

University of Tennessee

You too can support Environment Health Australia.

Other endorsements

National bodies
  • Australian Conservation Foundation
  • Australian Marine Conservation Society
  • Birdlife Australia
  • Environment Justice Australia
  • Foundation for Australia’s Most Endangered Species
  • Humane Society International
  • Island Conservation
  • National Parks Australia Council
  • The Wilderness Society
  • WWF – Australia
State or local bodies
  • Arid Lands Environment Centre
  • Australian Association of Bush Regenerators
  • Australian Network of Plant Conservation
  • Australian Wildlife Society
  • Braidwood Greens
  • Conservation SA
  • Conservation Council ACT
  • Environment Centre NT
  • Environment Tasmania
  • Environment Victoria
  • Environs Kimberley
  • Friends of Merri Creek
  • Friends of Mosman Park Bushland
  • Gene Ethics
  • National Parks Association of ACT
  • National Parks Association of NSW
  • National Parks Association of NSW – Far South Coast Branch
  • National Parks Association of Queensland
  • Nature Conservation Council of NSW
  • Nature Conservation Society of SA
  • North Queensland Conservation Council
  • Queensland Conservation Council
  • Tambourine Bush Volunteers
  • Tasmanian Conservation Trust
  • Tasmanian National Parks Association
  • Victorian National Parks Association
  • Western Australia Conservation Council
  • Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland
  • Adrian Brierley (artist, director ADi)
  • Andrew Hingston (ecologist)
  • Angus Norman
  • Chris Pavich
  • Daman Langguth
  • Denis Wilson
  • Katherine Howard
  • Keith Primrose
  • Linda Thomas (NSW community weeds officer)
  • Maxine McLaughlin
  • Mona Loofs
  • Nancy Pallin
  • Paul Ross
  • Peter Hobson
  • Rachel Cruttenden
  • Ray Coulton
  • plus two people (anonymity requested)

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]