A scathing report from the Auditor General has been handed down in Parliament today showing a catastrophic failure of Victoria's Environment Department to halt the decline of threatened species. It echoes similar findings handed down two years ago after Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio commissioned an independent review. The report released today states the Department; "...cannot demonstrate if, or how well, it is halting further decline in Victoria's threatened species populations" and "continues to make limited use of available legislative tools to protect threatened species".
There are almost 2,000 species at risk of extinction in Victoria, and the report says "Australia’s native plants and animals have the highest rate of species extinction of any developed nation..."
Yellow-bellied Glider set to be listed under the FFG Act after the bushfires
Credit: Fauna and Flora Research Collective
The report also identified that the Department:
- Isn't transparent and their decisions aren't justified or explained to the community
- The "decisions and priorities are not based on consistently applying an evidence-based approach, but rather a disparate set of decision-making factors"
- They don't use rigorous or up to date data to inform threatened species management
Logging is identified as one of the key risks to threatened species that impact on their habitat in the report. Threatened species numbers continue to plummet and the Environment Department are completely failing in their role to prevent species and biodiversity loss
One of the key Victorian legislative frameworks - the Fauna and Flora Guarantee Act, has a mechanism called a Habitat conservation order, where the Environment Minister can take immediate action to prevent damage to critical habitat for threatened species. This has never been used.
We made recommendations in our report After the Fires; Protecting our forest refuges for the Minister to use that power to protect key areas for wildlife after the bushfires. This was ignored, and there have been no changes to logging plans since the bushfires and thousands of areas are stilll being targeted for logging despite their known importance for the survival of forest dependent species like the Greater Glider and large forest Owls.
Recent logging in Swifts Creek, refuge for wildlife following the Black Summer bushfires
Statement from GECO spokesperson Chris Schuringa:
"It is deja vu with the Environment Department. Just two years ago there was independent review after they failed to prosecute VicForests for illegal rainforest logging. Now there's another damning report showing that they're not only failing to stop Victorian wildlife from going extinct, but the Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio is completely hands off when it comes to using powers to protect habitat for our most vulnerable species."
"Victoria is meant to be a so-called progressive state, but we're leading in global extinction rates and still destroying wildlife habitat when we know their numbers are plummeting, and available habitat is shrinking. The Black Summer bushfires should have made this clear, but nothing has changed. We're seeing more and more destructive logging being signed off by the Department."
"The Environment Department is in charge of regulating logging, but we frequently see them bend over backwards to favour logging over protection of wildlife. The Environment Minister needs to take control of her Department and fix this mess."