Late news: Conservation Council was told on morning of proposed debate (30 October 2014) that consideration of the Nature Conservation Bill would be delayed to November sitting. While there seemed to be general agreement on the legislation there were matters to be sorted out between ACT Government directorates. The Conservation Council was pleased delay was envisaged to be only four weeks given the Review discussion paper was dated nearly four years earlier as November 2010.
After many years in development the Nature Conservation Bill 2014 will be considered by the ACT Legislative Assembly on Thursday 30 October 2014.
The Conservation Council welcomes the debate and has made participated in a range of processes with input from several member groups including Friends of Grasslands, Canberra Ornithologists Group, National Parks Association and the Environmental Defender’s Office.
The Conservation Council particularly welcomes the changes which give effect to an ecosystem or landscape approach to biodiversity. This means looking not just at individual species or ecological communities or managing areas of biodiversity within reserves, but rather the broader landscape and also focussing on addressing actual biodiversity outcomes.
The Conservation Council has also put forward some proposals which would further enhance the legislation. These include:
Biodiversity Offsets – assessment / approvals and governance
The Conservation Council has a number of issues on how the new arrangements introduced through the Planning and Development (Bilateral Agreement) Amendment Bill 2014 will deliver intended biodiversity outcomes. While the Conservation Council had previously proposed that biodiversity offset principles, governance arrangements and conditions be incorporated into the Nature Conservation Act (our recommendation 23) we now suggest that the issues are significant enough to warrant separate consideration either via amendments to the new Nature Conservation Act 2014 once passed or the Planning and Development Act 2007, rather than via consequential amendments to the Nature Conservation Bill 2014.
The Conservation Council recommends to further enhance an ecosystem approach within the legislation the following additional changes be made:
- Require that the Conservator must take into account findings of the biodiversity research and monitoring program, action plans and reserve management plans in exercising functions under the Act [section 21 (4)
- Critical habitat – put in place mechanisms that critical habitat identified in action plans is factored into decision-making
Dedicated Conservator position
The Conservation Council welcomes the strengthening of the role of the Conservator and requirement for the Conservator to have suitable qualifications and experience. It remains a high priority for the Conservation Council that the position of Conservator be a dedicated position. While it might be unusual for legislation to specify this the Conservation Council believes that if it is not in the legislation then the Government should make a formal commitment to create a dedicated position. The PriceWaterHouseCoopers Report on the role of the Conservator (page 2) recommended Creation of Dedicated Position of Conservator.
The Conservation Council also provided comments on several other matters including:
- Transparency / Reporting / Consultation
- Conservation on private land – Rural Landholders
Our comments as provided to Government and all parties in the Legislative Assembly are attached.
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