We are putting forward a range of policies relating to our key focus areas in the lead up to the ACT election to be held 15 October. Here are our policies on biodiversity conservation

Context

About 99% of natural grassland and 95% of Yellow Box-Red Gum Grassy Woodland have been destroyed nationally, for cropping, urban expansion and infrastructure. Large patches in good condition are rare beyond the ACT. The remaining ACT patches have very high regional and national conservation significance, as they protect a range of fauna and flora, many of which are also threatened with extinction, and provide important links across the landscape. These ecological communities have such high environmental value that they should be retained as part of the conservation and rural estate and managed to protect and enhance their ecological value, as is recognised in their national and local listing as threatened ecosystems.

Over the last ten years over 350 hectares of Yellow Box-Red Gum Grassy Woodlands have been cleared in the ACT and the area and quality of natural temperate grassland has diminished due to urban development. We must protect and enhance what remains.

In November 2014 a new Nature Conservation Act was introduced with an ecosystem approach focus central to its operations. An Integrated Conservation Agency will become operational 1 July 2016. Both these measures are welcomed.

It is vital that these changes are appropriately resourced and structured to ensure we can protect, manage and enhance our beautiful and nationally significant critically endangered ecological communities, whether they are in the conservation estate, on rural lands, roadsides or remnants within the urban area.

Biodiversity protection is fundamental environment protection

No more net loss: no development of threatened species habitat and endangered ecological communities as well as allowing for adequate buffers and habitat connectivity

Mature trees: ensure protection of mature trees, many of which are over 200 years old, noting loss of these trees cannot be offset

Central Molonglo: outline and implement measures to ensure the land is protected in perpetuity, as previously agreed by the Government

Biodiversity on Private (leased) Land: facilitate by supporting perpetual conservation covenants, stewardship agreements and financial incentives to all land covered by such agreements

Commonwealth environmental responsibilities: no transfer of Commonwealth environmental responsibilities to the ACT government.

Buffer areas: identify remnant areas of woodland and grassland within and adjacent to the urban area and manage to conserve their ecological values. These areas are particularly susceptible to weed invasion, inappropriate use and poor management practices leading to degradation, but provide roles as stepping-stones and local icons.

Planning for biodiversity protection

  • Strategic forward planning: for all future urban development, including strategic environmental assessments (not piecemeal site by site) identifying what needs to be enhanced and protected before development plans progress
  • Strategic Conservation Estate: identify, protect and enhance areas of threatened species habitat and endangered ecological communities across the ACT
  • Strategic Biodiversity Offset Plan: identify areas for ‘advanced’ biodiversity offset management
  • Hills, Ridges and Buffers: ensure are under some form of biodiversity management program
  • Community Consultation Model: develop a community consultation model which is transparent, open and effective and encourages interaction between conservationists, experts, Government officials and the community (e.g. Bush on the Boundary model)
  • Living next to nature community engagement: ongoing funded program for all of Canberra on importance of our bush capital with emphasis on new “greenfield” suburbs
  • Cats: introduce a forward declaration of all ACT being cat containment by 2025; in interim ensure funded compliance for existing cat containment areas and ongoing community education on the need for cat containment
  • Bushfire Management: focus on bushfire mitigation measures which have a demonstrated reduction of risk
  • Urban Edge Principles: incorporate into planning processes and include as conditions of development approval
  • Rivers and river corridors: protect and enhance all river and creek corridors for biodiversity connectivity balanced with human amenity

Biodiversity Management to implement good policy

  • Measures to protect mature trees: including protection for rural paddock trees and isolated urban trees by formal listing as protected
  • Biodiversity Budget: invest in nature by increasing public expenditure on nature conservation, restoration, reserve management and public education annually over next four years with an emphasis on adaptive management
  • Biodiversity Monitoring: provide specific budget allocation for biodiversity monitoring and reporting
  • Biodiversity Reporting: strategic and accountability indicators for biodiversity outcomes included in appropriate corporate documents including in the ACT Budget papers
  • Offsets: ensure annual public reporting of biodiversity outcomes of offset sites, offset management plans are subject to formal public consultation and the offset calculator reports are included on the public biodiversity offsets register
  • Weeds and Pests: ensure secure, predictable recurrent funding for weed and pest management in order of $3 million per year ($2.4 million weeds, $600,000 animal pests)
  • African Lovegrass: develop and implement a strategy for the long-term containment of African Lovegrass, which is both a very high risk to biodiversity and wildfire management.
  • Nature Reserves: prepare an annual State of our Reserves report linked to the biodiversity monitoring program
  • Recognise and support Parkcare/Landcare volunteers: build and expand existing base
  • Bush Management Teams: funding mechanisms developed to establish Strategic Bush Management Teams across the ACT
  • Climate change conservation planning: support directorates, NGOs and community in transformation of conservation approaches required to respond to climate change. Ensure ACT conservation, parks and reserve management for climate change are included in the full climate change adaptation and mitigation policy.
  • Connectivity for Climate Change: enhance natural resilience to climate change by supporting large-scale conservation initiatives to protect and restore natural connectivity in the landscape.
  • Recreation Plan: develop as an urgent priority a Territory Recreation Plan which protects key reserves and biodiversity while promoting active healthy lifestyle for the ACT’s citizens.
  • Management Plan for off-reserve areas of ecological significance: woodlands, grasslands and threatened species habitat on unleased off-reserve land (including urban open space, roadsides, travelling stock reserves) should have a management plan.