Cat containment – open letter to Minister

Jon Stanhope was lead signatory, with a range of others, on an open letter to Minister Rattenbury putting the case for a forward declaration of all of ACT to be declared cat containment at some point in the future. Signatories include scientists and CEOs of professional bodies, the ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment, Bob Neil, ACT local environment groups and prominent environmentalists including Ian Fraser and former Senator and Greens Leader Bob Brown. Gregory Andrews, Federal Threatened Species Commissioner, was also supportive of the initiative. This is how the Canberra Times reported it online.

The letter says: “There is an opportunity now for Canberra to become a national leader in biodiversity conservation management, in demonstrating how Australians can live in harmony with our native fauna through responsible pet ownership. Unlike other states and territories, the ACT has the scientific evidence, an already high level of community support and the existing legislative mechanism to significantly reduce predatory impacts of domestic animals on our native species.”

Connecting Canberra’s Community and Environment – 28 March 2015

The Conservation Council 2015 Symposium – Connecting Canberra’s Community and Environment – held Saturday 28 March 2015 was a worthy successor to our 2014 event and augurs well for future symposiums and also for the environment in the region.

Towards an ACT Region Food Policy and Food Plan – March 2015

The Conservation Council called for comments on our Discussion Paper: Towards an ACT Region Food Policy and Food Plan. The aim is to create a resilient ACT food system by: strengthening, and ensuring diversity within, the local food economy to protect the community against potential shocks to the system (for example, oil or water shortages); and ensuring food supplies are adequate, accessible, affordable and nutritionally balanced. We want adoption of an ACT Food Policy and ACT Food Plan by the ACT Government with appropriate resourcing by 30 June 2016 and the target is 30% of food consumption to be sourced from ACT Region by 2030.

For information: Shane Rattenbury, Minister for Territory and Municipal Services (and ‘Minister for Agriculture’ at inter-governmental meetings) hosted a food security ministerial roundtable 22 May 2014 and on 17 February 2015 tabled a Ministerial Statement on the roundtable in the Legislative Assembly.

EIANZ forum on the state of native animals – 11 February 2015

At the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand forum 11 February 2015 on the state of native animals the Conservation Council delivered presentations on the community education program on cat containment and on the ACT Nature Conservation Act 2014 and what it means for native animals.

Student research on ACT Renewable Energy Target – 5 February 2015

Each year, the Conservation Council engages with a student research group from the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society as part of coursework for the unit ENVS3030 Solving Complex Environmental Problems. In the context of the 2014 Federal Renewable Energy Target Review Report (‘Warburton Review’), we had a fantastic group of students investigating the ACT Renewable Energy Target; its delivery and interaction with the Federal RET. Guided by the Conservation Council, the students produced a research paper – The ACT RET: Investigating its delivery and interaction with the Federal RET (37.5MB) – exploring the role of the Federal RET in the ACT, the strategy adopted by ACT Government to reach the target, the industry perspective and ACT public awareness of ACT and Federal RET.

A key recommendation is the need to improve community understanding and knowledge regarding the ACT Renewable Energy Target. Did you know that the ACT has a legislated target of a 90% renewable energy for the ACT by 2020?

Canberra-wide cat containment by 2025 – December 2014

Given that 77% of Canberra residents live within one kilometre of nature reserves or areas of important habitat for species which are vulnerable to cat predation, it is the view of the Conservation Council that all of Canberra should be declared cat containment by 2025 as soon as possible. Cat containment benefits our native wildlife, pet cats and the community at large (see Pets not Pests: Cats and wildlife in the ACT).


Support your voice for the environment and donate today! – December 2014

As 2014 comes to an end, we begin to reflect on the year we have had.  It has been a fulfilling year but not without its challenges.  We have had to work hard to deliver some big projects and continue to achieve environmental outcomes despite losing 25% of our income via the loss of our Federal grant.

We finish this year with:

  • a New Nature Conservation Act which now incorporates an ecosystem approach
  • an ACT environmental offsets policy
  • an extra 758 hectares of land protected in North Gungahlin
  • promising progress on the delivery of an ACT climate change strategy and the divestment campaign
  • another publication in our Treasures series – Molonglo Treasures

We can’t do what we do without your generosity and support.  Let’s work together in 2015 to ensure we continue to be an effective voice for the environment.

Never has a strong and constant voice for our local, regional and national environment been needed more.  Every tax deductible donation will strengthen our ability to show our heads of Government they cannot underestimate your support for the protection and enhancement of our environment.

Will you help us with a donation today? DONATE NOW 

ALP and Greens fail to integrate biodiversity policy, planning, research and management – 28 November 2014

The Conservation Council is disappointed that once again the proposal for an integrated conservation agency, which everyone agrees is needed, has not progressed.  It is business as usual however this is not good for biodiversity outcomes in the ACT.

There remains a need to integrate biodiversity policies, plans, strategy, legislative tools and on-ground management implementation and to consolidate and integrate institutional arrangements.

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and Minister Rattenbury have failed to deliver on a commitment made in the Parliamentary Agreement. Biodiversity outcomes in the ACT are the loser from this decision to not put in place administrative arrangements on which all three parties in the Assembly have agreed is necessary.

The Chief Minister made a statement in the Legislative Assembly on 28 November on a Single Conservation Agency in response to a motion moved by the Liberals and supported by all members. In her statement she said that she saw “no tangible benefits” at this point in time to form a single agency and that current arrangements were adequate. She said that she had discussed this with the relevant Ministers (namely, Minister for Territory and Municipal Services Shane Rattenbury and Minister for the Environment Simon Corbell).


The rationale for an Integrated Conservation Agency is there will be better biodiversity enhancement and protection and improved nature conservation outcomes achieved through:

  • high level strategic policy based on sound evidence
  • operational practices driven by policy informed by science and research closely monitored by operational staff, with results feeding back into policy and management
  • effective linkages between policy, research and planning and on ground works
  • linkages between strategies, action plans, various legislative instruments with appropriate reporting on outcomes and review.

Parliamentary Agreement

The Parliamentary Agreement between Ms Katy Gallagher MLA, Leader of the ALP (ACT Branch) and ACT Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury of 2 November 2012 states (p6):

“Clause 3.12: Merge the ACT’s existing conservation services into a single Conservation Agency to achieve better integration of biodiversity policy, planning, research and management.”[i]

[i] p6

Cat containment – Cat-alyst for media attention — 17 October 2014

Canberra has been abuzz with talk of cat containment this week with the possibility of Canberra becoming the first Australian city to ban cats from roaming free if options from a report on Responsible pet ownership and the protection of wildlife: Options for improving the management of cats in the ACT are adopted. This media coverage has been fantastic for the Conservation Council’s community education program on the impacts of cats on Canberra’s wildlife. The more Canberrans talk about cats and their experiences of roaming cats hunting, fighting and getting injured, the more people will realise that it is better for our wildlife and our feline friends, to keep our cats inside or in our backyards day and night.

It all started Friday (10/10/14) with a Canberra Times article by John Thistleton. The article ‘Time is up for Canberra fat, unrestrained cats’ talks about cat management options in Canberra and highlights the need for further community education – cue the Conservation Council and our awareness building campaign.

This was followed up with a story about our friend Lyn Goldsworthy from the Frank Fenner Foundation and how she keeps her cats from roaming and hunting – ‘Lyn Goldsworthy is a conservationist who loves cats but makes sure birds are out of reach’. Lyn’s story is great as she demonstrates how affordable and easy keeping cats from roaming can be – as simple as supervising our cats on a leash in the backyard. There is no denying that Lyn’s cat Teagha is a content contained cat.

It quickly became apparent that this story has legs! Soon, we were talking to Marcus Paul from 2CC Canberra (who by the way contains his cat) and hearing cat containment discussions on ABC 666 and Radio National.

ABC News Canberra picked up the story Monday night ‘Canberra cat containment could be extended city-wide’ and followed through with the story on Lateline and ABC morning news – ‘Canberra cats may have to stay indoors’.

The reaction we have seen from all this media coverage has been overwhelmingly positive – which doesn’t surprise us given that a telephone survey from 2011 found that 65 percent of ACT residents support cat containment in new suburbs and 91 percent of residents think there are benefits to the community if cats are contained with the key benefit being reduced risk to wildlife.

If you want to keep following our community education program on cat containment, follow us on Facebook for weekly ‘Fursday’ posts!

Good News: ACT greenhouse emissions were going down – two years ago – 26 September 2014

ACT Minister for the Environment Simon Corbell tabled the ACT Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report on 23 September 2014 for the 2011-12 period.

There was a decrease of 2.4% in our total greenhouse gas emissions from the previous year and renewable energy increased from 14.2% of all electricity consumed in the ACT in 2010-11 to 16.9% in 2011-12.

The Conservation Council welcomes the improvements. It is especially heartening to see a reduction in emissions even before the September 2012 Action Plan 2 of the ACT’s greenhouse emission reduction strategy had commenced. So further and faster reductions might be expected in future reports.

The Conservation Council believes that management of greenhouse gas emissions would be enhance if the emissions were measured in a more timely way. It is possible to get faster provisional indications of emissions and this should help policy-makers better develop responses to actual current emissions.

If you would like to join our request to Minister Corbell to undertake faster assessment of the ACT’s greenhouse emissions send an email marked “Measure and Manage” with your contact details by Wednesday 8 October. We will put your name on the letter and send you information on the Minister’s response.

The Conservation Council commends the ACT Government on its ongoing work to take action on climate change and reduce the ACT’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Biodiversity offsets legislation will not deliver environmental outcomes – 23 September 2014

Legislation passed today by the ALP-Green Government will lead to a net loss of biodiversity.
Read the three reasons where the Planning and Development (Bilateral Approval) Amendment Bill 2014 needed to be fixed in relation to biodiversity offsets.

The legislation does not adequately apply the avoid, mitigate hierarchy through a referral and assessment stage to ensure offsets are only considered when appropriate and as a last resort. It does not include a referral stage which is currently available under federal environmental law. Further, it does not consistently apply the principles of additionality, like-for-like and security of offsets. Finally, there is inadequate transparency and accountability in the legislation in regards to proponents and how and when effective offsets management and reporting will be undertaken.

Despite assurances from Minister Rattenbury MLA there will be no public involvement in Offset Management Plans. Minister Rattenbury said he worked with the ACT Government to establish “public and stakeholder input into the many steps to develop an offsets management plan”. However, it does not provide for public input and it does not actually even require the development of offset management plans.

View media release.

ACT Government’s greenhouse gas reduction target undermined by fossil fuel investment – 18 September 2014

Today the ACT Conservation Council joined 22 community groups representing thousands of Canberrans to present an open letter to ACT Treasurer Andrew Barr calling on the ACT Government to divest from fossil fuels.

Conservation Council’s Executive Director Clare Henderson attended the Legislative Assembly to present the letter along with member groups Canberra, SEE-Change and the Australian Association for Environmental Education among others.

The groups are concerned with the ACT Government’s investment in 82 of the top 200 fossil fuel companies in the world including Whitehaven Coal, Santos and Glencore.
The Conservation Council believes the ACT’s ambitious 40 per cent greenhouse gas reduction targets are undermined by these investments in coal, oil and gas companies which contribute to greenhouse gases.

Minister Barr did not attend to accept the letter, but instead it was received by Yvette Berry MLA.

Media: Campaign calls for ACT government to divest fossil fuel interests 18 September 2014

Responsible cat ownership – 17 September 2014

We are about to start a community engagement project on the need for responsible pet ownership. Here in the ACT we have an extensive urban edge right next to our wonderful nature reserves. The benefits of the Bush Capital are enjoyed by the Canberra community however it also creates the need to ensure our local bush and its special wildlife are protected and enhanced. A key issue is the need to protect wildlife from roaming cats. A Background Paper: Responsible Pet Ownership and the Protection of Wildlife has just been released.

Withdraw the draft Bilateral Approval Agreement – 15 September 2014

Our input to the draft Bilateral Approval Agreement between the ACT and Commonwealth Government was pretty straightforward. We did not want hard-won Commonwealth environment responsibilities given to State / Territory Government either here in the ACT or elsewhere. We want the Draft Bilateral Approval Agreement withdrawn.

Take action to protect national environmental responsibilities – 17 August 2014

Moves for the ACT Government to take on federal Government Environment responsibilities is taking shape. Tell the Chief Minister you do not want this to happen.

Sign our petition calling on the ACT Government to save the laws which protected the places you love.

On Thursday 14 August 2014 the Planning and Development (Bilateral Agreement) Amendment Bill was tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly. This bill is intended to make changes to enable the ACT to sign up to the Australian Government’s one stop shop for environmental approvals. We do not support this. The Commonwealth / ACT Bilateral Approval Agreement was circulated on Friday 15 August for public comment. Consultation ended 12 September 2014.

The Conservation Council has expressed its concern to the Chief Minister and Minister Corbell about their support for a “one-stop-shop”. We do not want the ACT Government to take on environmental approvals which are currently, and should remain, the responsibility of the Commonwealth. Our national environment laws need to be strengthened not weakened.

The concept of the “one-stop-shop” being pursued in the ACT is not supported by either the national ALP or the national Greens. In addition the ACT Labor-Greens Parliamentary Agreement indicates an ongoing role for the Commonwealth in environmental approvals on Matters of National Environment Significance.

Our petition to the Chief Minister is here. Please sign up and share with your friends.