Biodiversity Bill long overdue and much-needed: Greens

The Greens congratulate Minister Jacob for a new act for biodiversity and conservation on the precipice of what is shaping up to be one of Western Australia’s most fierce environmental campaigns to save the Beeliar wetlands.

"A Bill to replace WA’s outdated Wildlife Conservation Act is a welcome step although given the time lag since the draft legislation was first proposed it will warrant careful public scrutiny,” Greens Biodiversity Spokesperson Lynn MacLaren MLC says.

“It has been 14 years since the former Labor Government came to power promising an overhaul of WA wildlife conservation laws and we have had successive Labor and Liberal governments since then promise to introduce new biodiversity legislation without managing to do so,” Ms MacLaren said.

“The Minister therefore deserves congratulations for getting this Bill this far.

“More incentives to protect and conserve the environment are welcome as are increased penalties as deterrents for offences against wildlife but unlike the Federal EPBC Act, this Bill stops short of jail terms, which means some offenders may be prepared to take the risk.

“We are keen to see swift progress in the listing of threatened ecological communities and critical habitat. Special protections for whales and dolphins and even sandalwood are welcome.

“However, it has also been more than a decade since the public has had opportunity to comment on the proposed legislation, and in the meantime WA’s wildlife has suffered greatly from pressures ranging from habitat loss to disease, feral animals and climate change.

“I welcome the Minister’s comments that there will be opportunity in the New Year for public briefings and feedback on this Bill, as the devil may be in the detail.

“This Bill appears give greater discretionary powers to the Minister, which may pose a concern although I note that the Bill also provides for greater transparency and clarity around ministerial decisions.

“I have strong concerns that the Department of Parks and Wildlife, which has been subject to successive annual Budget cuts, and will lose 90 full time staff this year, including mainly from science and conservation programs, will be asked to implement this new legislation without any extra funds.

“While Departments such as Main Roads spend millions of dollars with very little scrutiny, DPaW is obliged to scrape by on less and less and some of the most critical work regarding WA endangered species is being funded by public donation, if at all.”