MEDIA RELEASE – 21 March 2016
Biodiversity Bill must not allow extinction: conservation groups
Conservation groups have welcomed Premier Barnett’s statement that the government would accept amendments to new biodiversity legislation tabled for debate in the State Parliament this week. Without significant changes including specific provisions to prevent wildlife extinction, conservation groups say the Bill should be withdrawn.
The Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2015 was initially welcomed by conservation groups after being introduced into the Parliament without consultation; however independent analysis by the WA Environmental Defenders Office has since shown that the bill falls well short of contemporary practice for environmental law.
CCWA Director Piers Verstegen said “WA’s unique native wildlife is under huge pressure from climate change, land clearing, logging, mining, gas fracking, feral animals and other impacts.
“Now is not the time for the Government to be putting forward half measures that will fail to address the decline of our unique biodiversity, or creating extraordinary new powers to allow Ministers to approve extinction.
“There is no provision for an independent Biodiversity Authority, no requirement for scientific advice, no targets for wildlife recovery, and no requirement for the Minster to use any of the powers in the legislation or to publicly report on the condition of wildlife. Instead the Bill creates new powers for a Minster to play God by allowing the extinction of an entire species.
Like the 1950’s legislation it seeks to replace, the Bill is full of loopholes and exemptions for certain activities and classes of animals.
Wilderness Society Coordinator Peter Robertson said, “This Bill was drafted without consultation and contains many fundamental flaws and omissions.
“In its current form it is not “fit for purpose” as 21st century biodiversity conservation legislation. The lack of any statutory public involvement, including third party enforcement rights, shows this legislation is outdated before it is even law.
“In our view the legislation is so deeply flawed that it should not be passed unless there are major amendments.”
“Arresting the decline of our native wildlife demands a comprehensive package of reforms including funding, increased protected areas, major changes to the management of forest and other public lands, and contemporary legislation,” concluded Mr. Verstegen
The Conservation groups have written to all Members of Parliament outlining major amendments that are required for the Bill to be effective, and asking Parliament to refer the Bill to a Committee where amendments can be considered in detail.
Piers Verstegen, Director CCWA – 0411 557 892
Peter Robertson, Acting Coordinator, The Wilderness Society WA – 0409 089 020