3 March 2023

The Pocock Honeyeater? Canberra politicians sign up as ambassadors for local threatened species

| James Coleman
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David Pocock as a Regent Honeyeater

ACT Senator David Pocock chose the Regent Honeyeater as his ‘Bush Bud’. Photos: Wikimedia Commons/Region (digital mischief by Region).

The ACT’s peak environment body has come up with an innovative way to boost awareness of our threatened animal species: give them their own politician.

The ‘Bush Buds’ campaign by the Conservation Council ACT Region invites federal and local elected representatives to become ‘ambassadors’ for local threatened species.

There are 30 – from the gang-gang cockatoo to the northern corroboree frog – and after choosing their very own, each politician is provided with a fact sheet explaining why the species is under threat.

They’re then invited to attend a walk with a local expert to learn more about their Bush Bud.

READ ALSO Conservationists slam Canberra Airport as ‘dragon killers’ for new road plans

The campaign was launched by volunteers at the Mulligans Flat Wildbark Visitors Centre on Thursday (2 March), with support from across the local political spectrum.

A total of 12 local members – including the ACT’s independent senator David Pocock and Labor Member for Bean David Smith – have signed up so far. As ‘Bush Bud people’, the Conservation Council says they’ll now learn how to “support the nature that makes the ‘Bush Capital’ so special”.

“Bush Buds is Canberra’s chance to connect with local species and also with their elected representatives on caring for the environment together,” Conservation Council ACT Region executive director Elle Lawless said.

“Human wellbeing and environmental wellbeing are indivisible from one another, and in the bid to tackle the triple planetary crisis of biodiversity loss, pollution, and climate change, it is imperative that decision-makers and the public take a leading role in caring for the environment.”

Bush Buds

ACT Greens leader (and ambassador for the northern corroboree frog) Shane Rattenbury receiving his ‘Bush Buds’ plaque. Photo: Conservation Council ACT Region.

Here’s the full list of elected representatives and their species:

  • David Smith MP (Australian Labor Party) – Gang-gang Cockatoo
  • Senator the Hon David Pocock (independent) – Regent Honeyeater
  • Dr Marisa Paterson MLA (ACT Labor member for Murrumbidgee) – Superb Parrot
  • Leanne Castley MLA (Canberra Liberals member for Yerrabi) – Glossy Black Cockatoo
  • Shane Rattenbury MLA (ACT Greens member for Kurrajong) – Northern Corroboree Frog
  • Johnathan Davis MLA (ACT Greens member for Brindabella) – Greater Glider
  • Nicole Lawder MLA (Canberra Liberals member for Brindabella) – Eastern Bettong
  • Rebecca Vassarotti MLA (ACT Greens member for Kurrajong) – Canberra Grassland Earless Dragon
  • Andrew Braddock MLA (ACT Greens member for Yerrabi) – Striped Legless Lizard
  • Jo Clay MLA (ACT Greens member for Ginninderra) – Golden Sun Moth
  • Emma Davidson MLA (ACT Greens member for Murrumbidgee) – Small Ant Blue Butterfly
  • Peter Cain MLA (Canberra Liberals member for Ginninderra) – Swift Parrot.

READ ALSO Canberra Liberals’ election review set to be released to party members

As the ACT’s Minister for the Environment, Rebecca Vassarotti, said she was “delighted” to join the campaign.

“As we face an extinction crisis, caring for our environment and our local threatened species is above politics, so it is great to see this campaign being embraced by politicians across the political divide,” she said.

“It is my honour to care for all threatened species, but today, I am proudly the ambassador for the Canberra Grassland Earless Dragon, which is one of my personal favourites. What they lack in stature, they make up in personality – something that I share in common with them!”

Ms Vassoratti officially opened a new breeding enclosure for the endangered dragon at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve last week as the culmination of a two-year partnership with the University of Canberra (UC) and Melbourne Zoo to bring back an “insurance population” for reintroduction to the wild.

Rebecca Vassarotti as a Canberra Grassland Earless Dragon

Greens MLA Rebecca Vassarotti chose the Canberra Grassland Earless Dragon as her ‘Bush Bud’. Photos: ACT Environment Directorate, The Greens ACT (digital mischief by Region).

Shadow Minister for the Environment, and now ambassador for the Eastern Bettong, Nicole Lawder, described the Bush Buds campaign as an “exciting opportunity”.

“Caring about our local environment and wildlife is something that all Canberrans are passionate about. There’s always more that we, as individuals, can do to protect and nurture our Bush Capital.”

The Mulligans Flat nature reserve in the ACT’s far north is the result of years of teamwork between ACT Parks and the Australian National University (ANU) to eradicate foxes and other pests, and to create a safe place for critically endangered flora and fauna.

Outreach manager at the new Wildbark visitor’s centre Millie Sutherland-Saines says there is still work to do for species that have dwindled in number over the past 50 to 100 years.

“Bush Buds is a fantastic initiative to create more social awareness on the plight of our threatened species,” she said.

“I’m honoured to be a part of this trailblazing campaign and hope it will help inspire people to care and make changes that will benefit our local wildlife.”

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Capital Retro8:20 am 04 Mar 23

Were the so-called threatened species consulted on this?

We have huge cost of living issues in the ACT and this what we get fed.

it always comes back to the simpsons, old man yells at cloud!

Capital Retro7:40 am 06 Mar 23

I assume you are referring to The Simpsos TV comic show? Note the absence of capital letters and creedence on cartoon characters with a hint of ageism thrown in.

The epitome of a comment from the poorly educated youth of today.

@Capital Retro
Well, CR, at least he can spell Simpsons – even if he didn’t capitalise it.

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