Friends of Grasslands
supporting native grassy ecosystems
PO Box 987
Civic Square ACT 2608
Phone: 02 62.. ....
Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601
Consultation draft: biodiversity conservation policy
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.
In general, FOG supports the principles outlined in this policy. In particular, FOG has been advocating the use of landscape-wide approach to management of ecosystems and land use planning, and is pleased to see that the Biodiversity Conservation Policy supports this approach. FOG is also pleased to note the continuing commitment to engage all Australians in partnerships in land management. We note, however, effective implementation is lacking and we cite the following examples.
FOG has been arguing for some time that conservation of grassy ecosystems in south east Australia needs to be undertaken on a landscape–wide basis, rather than on a piecemeal approach of considering specific development proposals and their impact on endangered and threatened species and ecosystems. For example, residential developments impacting on endangered natural temperate grasslands and dependent species in the Gungahlin area of the ACT are being put forward section by section, rather than adopting a strategic approach to development in the entire area.
The increasing emphasis on conserving connecting corridors as well as high quality sites is strongly supported. This emphasis does not always translate into reality. A range of factors contribute to this, including a lack of resources to care for and rehabilitate native vegetation, pressures from increasing urban development, and a lack of understanding in the wider community of the importance of biodiversity and the long term impact of its decline.
FOG notes that “Australia’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2010–2030” has, as one of its three priority actions, “Engaging all Australians”. The Biodiversity Conservation Policy makes mention of supporting the community with information and knowledge, but we would like to see more explicit discussion of increasing the awareness of both the general public and the business sector about the importance of biodiversity. This needs to happen in a way that enables everyone to relate biodiversity concerns to their local environment, not just a general concern about climate change.
FOG considers that not only does it cost less to avoid damage than to restore the functions of ecosystems after damage has occurred, but that in many cases the knowledge or available material to restore these ecosystems properly is lacking. We support the principle of preventative action as articulated under foundation one of the policy, as essential to halt the decline in biodiversity across the landscape and urge that sufficient resources be committed to ensure that it happens.
We note the intent to make more use of strategic assessments and regional environmental plans. In the ACT the lack of a strategic approach has been detrimental to the conservation of grassy ecosystems. Strategic assessments are, however, only useful if their recommendations are taken on board and implemented in the long term. While the strategic assessments undertaken to date in the ACT have been useful, the long term impact of them in terms of an improved conservation outcome is still to be seen.
John Fitz Gerald
19 October 2011