The Victorian government must prioritise investment and make better use of powerful legal tools to stop the biodiversity emergency, environmental lawyers say, following the release of a scathing report into the management of threatened species.
Almost 2000 species of flora and fauna across Victoria are under threat of extinction and 500 are critically endangered.
A blistering report from the Victorian Auditor-General on Wednesday, laid bare the failings of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) which could not demonstrate its work was curbing decline in Victorian ecosystems.
The report found DELWP severely lacked funding to adequately protect species and wasn’t taking full advantage of existing laws to prevent a worsening crisis.
Environmental Justice Australia Senior Lawyer Dr Bruce Lindsay said it was deeply concerning DELWP could not show it was doing anything substantial to halt or reverse Victoria’s biodiversity emergency.
“Strong legislative tools already exist under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act to protect threatened species including recovery plans and critical habitat protections,” he said.
“The government should take full advantage of these and go further, to strengthen laws and create greater mandates to protect and restore nature.”
Biodiversity and conservation funding has fallen short of what is needed to prevent further damage, with a deficit of more than $200 million in the 2019-20 and 2018-19 financial years.
“There has been a systemic failure to adequately invest in biodiversity and conservation across the government, Dr Lindsay said.
“The government must prioritise funding to protect threatened species and no longer enable activities which are perilous to these ecosystems, including logging native forests, overextraction of water resources, or inappropriate fire regimes.
“The current triaging approach, which does not guarantee protection of all species, is unacceptable and signals government is abandoning serious action on the biodiversity crisis. This undermines legal obligations and may pose risks of collapsing ecosystems.”
Media contact: Kathryn Lewis, [email protected], 0411 670 886