The Victorian Government’s amended Flora and Fauna Guarantee Bill, introduced to parliament this week, continues to give governments too much discretion to act or not act and will do little to help the state’s threatened species, Environmental Justice Australia said.
“Although the FFG Act is one of Victoria’s main environmental laws, it has achieved little for nature and threatened species conservation since it was enacted in 1988,” said EJA lawyer Bruce Lindsay.
“The review of the Act was widely seen as a crucial, once-in-a-generation opportunity to enact nature conservation laws that genuinely protect our natural heritage.
“Unfortunately, this Bill will not meet that challenge,” Dr Lindsay said.
“We made more than 20 recommendations to Government – including to insert mandatory protection for threatened species and their habitats into the Act, which would have significantly strengthened this law – but only two of our recommendations have been included in this Bill.
“Usefully, the proposed Bill updates some language, includes a set of principles and improves the method to assess whether to list a species as threatened, but it makes little change to anything that would actually protect those species once they are listed.
“A key weakness with the FFG Act is that the parts of the Act that could actually protect threatened species from known threats are left entirely at the discretion of Government to use or not to use.
“The experience of the last quarter of a century is that they have not been used – at all.
“Without clear Parliamentary direction they are unlikely to be used.
“Effective environment laws mandate the protection of endangered species, prohibit threatening activities in critical habitats and clearly set out the steps to reverse trajectories of decline.
“Effective laws also insist that legal protections are applied and enforced.
“We have waited a long time for the improvement of the FFG Act, but this bill is disappointing, as it continues to rely on governments choosing to use discretionary tools in the Act to protect biodiversity – a method that has failed miserably over the last 25 years.
“EJA hopes this is part 1 of the reform of this Act and that more changes that will actually protect Victoria’s threatened species will come soon.
“This proposed law does little more than tread water – at a time when the state’s environment is navigating treacherous currents – and it will do little to get Victoria’s much-loved threatened species out of those treacherous waters.”