Biodiversity Theme Report
Australia State of the Environment Report 2001 (Theme Report)
Prepared by: Dr Jann Williams, RMIT University, Authors
Published by CSIRO on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 643 06749 3
In line with changing understanding of biodiversity and the ways in which it needs to be protected, roles and responsibilities in biodiversity management have changed significantly in Australia in recent years, and continue to evolve. Consideration of all classes of biodiversity indicators - pressure, state, response and implications - are influenced by these changes in terms of who has policy and law-making power, who gathers information and who is involved in management in the field.
The changing roles and responsibilities of the Commonwealth, state and territory governments were outlined earlier (see The biodiversity challenge: Responsibilities, roles and partnerships). Change has occurred within jurisdictions as well. Traditionally a statutory authority (a parks and wildlife authority or service) was responsible in each jurisdiction for almost all practical wildlife protection and nature conservation activities perhaps with a related policy-making branch in a government department. Some jurisdictions have moved away from this with reserve management becoming an activity carried out by a government department (e.g. the Commonwealth after the EPBC Act, although the statutory office of Director of Parks is maintained).
Another model is where the parks service is incorporated into a broader arrangement. This approach is being used in Queensland where the reserve management agency is part of a larger Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). The responsibility for biodiversity has changed often as well, ranging from an environment department to various combinations of agriculture, forestry, water pollution control, cultural heritage planning and land administration. Increasingly, other portfolios (e.g. water, agriculture) have to some extent incorporated biodiversity into their decisions (whether adequately or not).
These changes in the organisation of the public sector are reflected and in many ways are products of broader changes outside of government. The expansion of focus to include off-reserve conservation matches the move away from single government agencies managing reserves. The increasing inclusion of private landholders and community groups in policy formulation management and program delivery has been a feature of the 1990s, as well as the emphasis on self-regulatory approaches by firms and industry sectors and greater focus on the role of local government.
Not only have the statutory sources of responsibility and the number of organisations protecting biodiversity changed, but also the relationships between these bodies has changed. Few of the initiatives covered in this Report are undertaken by one interest alone. Partnership arrangements are becoming normal rather than the exception and they exist in all combinations between the following:
- governments: state or territory, Commonwealth, local
- community groups representing conservation, development, public health and other interests
- private sector individuals and organisations: landholders, firms, industry associations
- research and scientific practitioners and institutions.