Friends of Grasslands

supporting native grassy ecosystems

 

PO Box 987

Civic Square ACT 2608

Phone: 02 62.. ....

 

 

Senior Manager
Natural Environment and Resource Management
Department of the Environment, Climate Change, Energy and Water
GPO Box 158
Canberra ACT 2601
email: environment@act.gov.au

 

 

Dear Sir/Madam

 

Review of Nature Conservation Act 1980 (ACT)

 

FOG is a community group dedicated to the conservation of natural temperate grassy ecosystems in south-eastern Australia. FOG advocates, educates and advises on matters to do with the conservation of grassy ecosystems, and carries out surveys and other on-ground work. FOG is based in Canberra and its more than 200 members include professional scientists, landowners, land managers and interested members of the public.

 

FOG welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Discussion Paper on the Review of the Nature Conservation Act 1980 (NCA), which was issued in November 2010. Given the deterioration of at least some of the ACT’s biodiversity (e.g. natural temperate grasslands, as reported by the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment (CSE) in 2009) and the reliance (from the community’s perspective) on Federal legislation (the EPBC Act) to protect threatened species and ecosystems that are found outside our Nature Reserves and National Park, we see this review as essential and changes to the Act necessary to improve conservation of our natural environment. Another key role of the NC Act should be to ensure that Canberrans will continue to enjoy the ‘bush capital’ and having the natural environment close to hand, something that the recent 2030 exercise carried out by the ACT Government shows that Canberrans really appreciate.

 

Detailed comments on the questions raised in the Discussion Paper follow.

 

Part 1.

Page 9 What do you consider are the key issues for future nature conservation in the ACT?

A number of these matters are considered inadequately in the review.

 

Page 9. How do you think conservation concerns can be balanced with social and economic interests?

 

Page 19 How do you think connectivity and ecological sustainability across the ACT can best be protected and enhanced?

 

Page 20 What are your views on no net loss of significant biodiversity and its applicability to the ACT?

 

Page 20 Does the ACT contribution need to be viewed in the broader regional context, and if so how could cross border offsetting considerations apply?

 

Page 21 Should the ACT consider a similar approach to NSW biocertification to allow a better interface between the NC Act and the Territory Plan?

What are your views on including licensing provisions as part of strategic assessments to deliver maintained or improved biodiversity across a planning area?

 

Page 22 Do you think voluntary dedication of leased land for conservation should occur in the ACT? If so, what would be the simplest and most effective mechanism for achieving this?

 

Page 22 Do you think that private management trusts could be one way to encourage private lease conservation? How else do you think private lease conservation could be facilitated?

 

Page 22 Does existing legislation have sufficient powers to deal with encroachments onto reserve land? What, if any, amendments should be made to the NC Act?

 

Page 23 Are the enforcement options and penalties within the NC Act adequate?

If not, what could improve them?

 

Page 25 Is it appropriate for the NC Act to contain civil penalties similar to that used in other jurisdictions? If so, to which matters under the NC Act could these most usefully apply?

 

Page 26 Are the levels of penalties available under the NC Act appropriate?

 

Page 27 Is there a case for the expansion of strict liability offences under the NC Act?

If so what sort of offences?

 

Page 27 Are the current powers of search and seizure under the NC Act adequate?

 

Page 28 Are there further reforms required to better integrate Commonwealth and ACT nature conservation law?

 

Page 29 Should the provisions that control public activities in reserved areas be extended to public activities in open space and unleased lands generally?

 

Page 30 Should the NC Act indicate how to determine the appropriate uses for reserved lands (or other types of public land)? Should certain types of activities have regulated management requirements?

 

Page 30 Should the Conservator be able to issue orders for restoration work on reserved land and/or to cover the cost of reserve staff involvement in assessing the activity?

 

Part 2

Page 32 Should objects be incorporated in an objects section in the NC Act?

What do you consider would be appropriate objects?

 

Page 33. Do you think that the current role of the Conservator is appropriate? If not, how could it be improved?

 

Page 34. Is it appropriate that the Flora and Fauna Committee and the Natural Resource Management Advisory Committee be merged?

 

Page 34.  Is there any advantage in the role of the Natural Resource Management Advisory Committee being legally established as a statutory committee?

 

Page 34. Do you think the role of the Flora and Fauna Committee should be expanded?

 

Page 35 What would be an appropriate model by which Indigenous groups were engaged under the Act?

 

Page 35 Is there a need for a formal community consultation body representing conservation interests?

 

Part 3

Page 36

Should the NC Act establish a formal mechanism and timeframe for reviews of the Nature Conservation Strategy?

How could the role of the strategy in defining areas that require landscape-wide consideration be better integrated with the ACT’s strategic land use planning process?

Should the NC Act allow for amendments to the strategy? If so, given the potential impact on land use planning, should this adopt a transparent public process similar that used for Territory Plan variations?

Should the NC Act allow for some policy documents to be given statutory force? If so,

which and why?

 

Page 37 Are any other changes warranted in relation to the declaration of protected and exempt species?

 

Page 39 Do you think section 38 of the NC Act should be amended to incorporate greater categorisation of threatened status, and should the new categories relate to IUCN categories?

Should the definitions and listing categories in the NC Act and the EPBC Act be better aligned?

 

Page 39 Should the NC Act include the requirement for action plans to have formal monitoring and review provisions?

 

Page 40 How do you think the protection of plants and animals in the ACT should be regulated?

Is there a greater role for self-reporting by licensees on compliance? Should fees reflect the full cost of administering licences?

 

Page 41 Should the definition of animal and native animal under the NC Act, or specific uses of these terms, be amended and how?

 

Page 41 How can the origin of a captive wild animal be verified?

 

Page 42 Should damage or destruction of known habitat (or identified critical habitat) be sufficient evidence for prosecution of an offence?

 

Page 42 Should a provision be included that the taking of native animals and native invertebrates from reserved land requires a licence?

 

Page 42. Should the removal of native timber incur the issuing of an infringement notice?

 

Page 42 Should the definition of native plant be changed to encompass only species indigenous to the ACT?

 

Page 43 Does the NC Act need to retain provisions relating to pest organisms?

 

Page 43 In what circumstances do you think it would be appropriate for the Conservator to issue conservation directions?

What powers should the Conservator be allowed to exercise?

Should the Conservator’s directions be tied to land title rather than to the landowner?

Should the leaseholder be compensated for any loss of amenity or commercial value that results from the directions?

 

Page 44 Should the owner of a vehicle be held liable for the misdeeds of the driver, within a reserve area?

Should the NC Act allow for the restriction of non-motorised vehicles to certain suitable areas?

 

Page 44 Should hunting without a licence be specifically listed as an offence?

 

Page 45 Should there be a licensing provision for the taking of non-native animals and pest plants into a reserved area?

Should the NC Act be amended so that it is clear that it is legal to take animals into a reserve in a way that is allowed by a management plan?

 

Page 45 Should the NC Act provide guidance on the issuing of commercial concessions on reserved or possibly other public land and provide for the regulation of such activity as it affects biodiversity values, nature conservation objectives and general public enjoyment?

Do you support the provision of clauses in the NC Act that would allow regulation of private or community organisation use of reserved land?

 

Page 46 Should the NC Act be amended to allow for the requirement of a restoration plan and/or performance based bond?

 

Page 46 What wilderness protection or restoration provisions do you think should be included under the NC Act?

Are the current management plan provisions under the Planning Act sufficient for the

provision of wilderness management?

 

Page 46. How should damage capable of causing serious or material damage be defined?

What thresholds should be used to distinguish between different levels of harm?

 

Page 48 Should licensing fees reflect cost recovery?

 

Page 48 Are the existing appeals mechanisms as they relate to the NC Act adequate?

 

Page 46 Should the NC Act encompass the concept of royalties for biodiscovery?

Are current royalty provisions for native plants, native animals and timber sufficient?

 

Final comments

 

The very recently released Hawke review of the ACT Public Service provides a good opportunity to look at the administration of nature conservation in the ACT. Unfortunately, we did not have the opportunity to look at this review until after finishing this submission, and it is possible our views may differ in a few places once we know more about the review’s recommendations. Given the number of players involved in conservation matters (including ACTPLA, TAMS, ECCEW, the Conservator, the Fauna and Flora Committee, the Natural Resource Management Council and the CSE), it seems likely that the recommendations of the Hawke review will have an impact on these players outside those canvassed in the Discussion Paper.

 

Given the different views likely to be offered by different segments of the community, outcomes following this consultation process may or may not be along the lines raised in the Discussion Paper. We would welcome the opportunity to comment on the new Act once it is drafted and before it is presented to the Government.

 

Sincerely yours

 

 

 

 

Geoff Robertson

President

 

16 February 2011