21 May 2024

10 years on, have the ACT's Nature Conservation laws done their job and protected Canberra's biodiversity?

| Claire Fenwicke
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Environment Minister Rebecca Vassarotti releasing fish

Environment Minister Rebecca Vassarotti wants to know how the ACT Government can better protect and enhance nature and ecosystems in the Territory. Photo: Supplied / EPSDD.

The ACT’s Nature Conservation Act 2014 has been in place for the past 10 years, with the main goal of ” protecting, conserving and enhancing” Canberra’s biodiversity.

Now the government wants to know if the community feels this objective is being achieved.

The 10-year statutory review of the Act will examine the legislation and policy framework governing environmental safeguards in Canberra.

Environment, Parks and Land Management Minister Rebecca Vassarotti said this impacted every Canberran, which was why the government needed to know if it was “getting the rules right.”

“In a climate crisis, we need to remain alert and responsive to the emerging needs of the environment and how we can best protect it, both through our practice and our laws,” she said.

“These laws define the rules and responsibilities that everyone must follow when it comes to conserving and protecting our environment, including penalties and offences for breaching the Act.”

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The government has already heard that the Act requires a review of compliance and enforcement provisions, such as penalties, powers of conservation officers, and how activities in reserves and national parks should be prohibited.

Reserve designation currently falls under the Planning Act 2023, but some suggest it would be better aligned under the Nature Conservation Act.

The need for protection of areas with no threatened/protected native species or communities but that are important for connectivity and conservation from a “landscape perspective” has also been raised.

Native invertebrates and fish are not protected in reserves unless they are threatened or have special protection status, and there’s no formal process for declaring, naming or revoking reserves.

Another issue already identified is that while ‘enhancing’ Canberra’s biodiversity is a key object of the Act, only one section has provisions directly relating to the enhancement of nature or biodiversity.

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The ACT Nature Conservation Strategy is also being examined as part of this statutory review.

The strategy is the overarching policy for nature conservation in the ACT. It outlines the protection, management and conservation of native species and significant ecosystems, as well as strategies to address the impacts of climate change.

Ms Vassarotti said it was also important to update this policy to ensure nature conservation efforts were modern, effective, and adaptable to a rapidly growing city and a warming climate.

“In reviewing the Act and the Strategy, we’ll also be seeking to learn from innovation and best practice in conservation legislation and policy across Australia and around the world,” she said.

You can read the discussion paper, contribute to the Nature Conservation Act review and complete the online survey via the ACT Government’s YourSay Conversations page.

Consultation closes on 1 July.

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Locking up more public land and allowing it to turn into weed and feral pest breeding havens isn’t it.

Have sensible people run it. Not the fruitloop greens who never leave the CBD.

Totally agree, get someone younger it properly not a greens rep, maybe someone from the Ngunnawal 1st nation people who actually know what they are doing, especially clearing of land to build new homes only to bulldoze the wombat homes it’s called look before you dig

I said we didn’t want it locked up and left to rot.

I’d be more inclined to manage things the way Victoria has until recently, where people seem to be encouraged to use the bush for recreation, and facilities to do so are provided and maintained.

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