Review of the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity

Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council
Environment Australia, 2001
ISBN 0 6425 4734 3

Executive summary

The goal of the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity is to protect biological diversity and maintain ecological processes and systems.

This document reviews the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity. The Strategy was prepared by the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) and endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in 1996. The Strategy's stated aim is:

To bridge the gap between current activities and those measures necessary to ensure the effective identification, conservation and ecologically sustainable use of Australia's biological diversity.

The structure of this review is as follows:

  • The Executive Summary and the Introduction provide an overview and background to the review. The section entitled Changing Landscapes for Biological Diversity Conservation in Australia examines the changes in the external policy, strategic planning and regulatory environment, and possible impacts on the objectives of the Strategy.
  • The body of the review is made up of the Review in which an assessment is undertaken of each of the chapters of the Strategy and of each objective within the chapters. The objectives are analysed using a uniform set of criteria. This section is structured similarly to the Strategy.
  • The conclusion outlines the areas that pose key threats to Australia's biological diversity and must be addressed if the Strategy's objectives are to be achieved.

This review concludes that substantial progress has been made towards achieving the Strategy's aim. The majority of States and Territories have implemented or are developing specific biodiversity strategies. A National Local Government Biodiversity Strategy (ALGA 1999) is in place and other sectors (such as commercial fishing) are in the process of developing biodiversity strategies.

Commonwealth initiatives including Natural Heritage Trust programs; Regional Forest Agreements; and Australia's Oceans Policy (Commonwealth of Australia, 1998), as well as many initiatives in individual jurisdictions, have all assisted in progress towards achieving the aim and objectives of the Strategy.

Other significant Commonwealth initiatives are the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), the National Greenhouse Strategy (Commonwealth of Australia 1998), the National Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Australia's Native Vegetation, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) water reform framework, State of the Environment reporting, and State of the Forests reporting. The most recent development is the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality in Australia. ANZECC has endorsed the key documents National Principles and Guidelines for Rangeland Management (ANZECC 1999) and the Framework of Regional (Sub-national) Level Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Forest Management in Australia. The next State of the Environment report will provide key information on biological diversity pressures and is due for completion in 2001.

The review finds that significant advances have been made, particularly in mainstreaming biodiversity conservation. These advances include:

  • identifying threatening processes (significant work has been undertaken to identify those processes that are a threat to biodiversity);
  • management for conservation (there have been a range of processes and programs put in place by all spheres of government to improve the management of Australia's biological diversity); and
  • forestry (progress is well advanced in implementing ecologically sustainable forest management practices).
  • However, a number of the specific objectives identified in the Strategy have not been fully met. Reasons for this include:
  • incomplete knowledge of Australia's biological diversity and the threats to its conservation despite significant strides in the area having been made during the life of the Strategy;
  • the time period of more than five years required to achieve the conservation of biological diversity. This is a longer-term objective that will require a concerted and ongoing effort from all jurisdictions;
  • and the subjective qualitative nature of the specific objectives, which means that it is not possible to measure performance and progress. For the most part assessment of performance is subjective and cannot be measured comprehensively across Australia.

The review notes that the world has moved on since the Strategy was developed. We now know more about Australia's biodiversity and the threats to its conservation. Our institutions are more developed and there exists a broader acceptance of biodiversity and a stronger commitment to its protection. To address these developments the review concludes that practical targets and measures for accountability are required to support ongoing implementation of the Strategy. The date set for meeting these targets should be reasonably close, for example 2005, to ensure that activity occurs to meet them. The targets themselves should be realistic, with some prospect of achievement. This will enable us to evaluate progress in conserving Australia's biological diversity.