Monday 14/10/2013 Oliver Milman, The Guardian
Victory for Environment East Gippsland, a small group which took the government to court on behalf of four rare animals.
The Victorian government has agreed to properly assess the health of the state's endangered species after settling a court case with a community environment group.
Environment East Gippsland, a small volunteer-run group, took the government to court over its failure to prepare action statements for four species listed as threatened – the glossy black cockatoo, the long-nosed potoroo, the large brown tree frog and the eastern she oak skink.
Under the government's Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, species listed as threatened must have action statements written about them as soon as possible.
These statements assess the status of threatened species and help prepare action plans to ensure they do not become extinct.
Despite the implied urgency of these plans in the language of the legislation, there is a backlog of 374 threatened species that do not yet have action statements.
Each of the four species cited in the Environment East Gippsland case has been without an action statement for at least 10 years, with the glossy black cockatoo first listed as threatened in 1995.
As part of the settlement, the government has agreed to finalise action statements by 30 June, 2014. The assessment of the cockatoo will be completed by the end of this year, with the potoroo the next to be analysed.
The government also agreed to create an over-arching plan for the other species without an action statement by 20 December this year, although this was not part of the main settlement.
There is an enormous backlog here, so this is a decent result, Felicity Millner, principal solicitor at Environment Defenders Office, the legal group that took on the case, told Guardian Australia. We hope this sends the government a message to take threatened species seriously and ensure their own laws are properly enacted.
Ryan Smith, Victoria's environment minister, had not responded to a request for comment on the case at the time of publication.