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State of Environment report shows national crisis and proves need for independent environmental watchdog

Updated:

  • Almost all environmental indicators have declined since first State of the Environment report 20 years ago
  • More than 1,200 Australian plants and nearly 400 animals threatened with extinction
  • Report calls for new national vision and leadership for the environment 
The State of the Environment report released today has confirmed the continued deterioration of Australia’s natural world and proves we need a fundamentally new approach to the environment, including a new independent national environmental watchdog and new national laws that actually work.
 
“For 20 years the Australian Government has been releasing these depressing reports that simply highlight that our existing approach to environmental protection is failing,” said Wilderness Society National Director Lyndon Schneiders.
 
“The Australian Government has made an art form of buck-passing and has tried for years to further weaken already weak national laws. We need a tough, new, independent environmental watchdog, with wide powers and real funding to deliver an environment plan that also addresses climate change so we can finally turn around 20 years of failure by the national government.”
 
“The State of the Environment report shows most indicators of environmental health have declined since the first State of the Environment report 20 years ago. 
 
"Across Australia, we’re dealing with a toxic legacy of land clearing and overuse of our coastal areas, groundwater and soils. One million hectares of Australian bushland has been destroyed in the past five years, while 50,000 abandoned mines need to be remediated. More than half of the Great Barrier Reef’s coral has been lost in the past 30 years and it’s suffering more bleaching events.
 
“More than 1,200 Australian plants and nearly 400 animals are listed as threatened with extinction. Since the first State of the Environment report in 1996, three animal species have been listed as extinct—including the first mammal in the world to go extinct because of climate change, the Bramble Cay Melomys—with two more likely to be listed. 
 
"Others, such as the Leadbeater’s Fairy Possum and the Swift Parrot, have gone from endangered to critically endangered because of logging and climate change. One in five of our mammals is now endangered, and efforts to save endangered marine creatures are failing.
 
“The report is also the latest in a long line of recent reviews that shows there is a severe lack of coordination between governments at all levels. There’s a critical lack of national leadership on climate and biodiversity, and it’s undermining our efforts to turn these problems around. 
 
“We need environmental laws that work; that protect nature and give certainty. We need a new, national environmental watchdog that's free from political interference as part of a major reform of environmental law. 
 
“We need laws and regulations that don’t just limit environmental damage but actually give better environmental outcomes.
 
“We need environmental approvals that are independent and trustworthy. We need separation between the developer and the assessor. The community has lost faith in the approvals process and takes to the streets and courts instead. 
 
“Many approvals just don’t make any sense. Dumping dredge spoil on the Great Barrier Reef was never going to help the tourism industry. One government approving massive tree clearing while another spends taxpayers’ money keeping trees in the ground or planting new trees is just completely illogical and a massive waste of taxpayers' money. 
 
“A new, independent environmental watchdog would help Australia meets its obligations for environmental protection. It could coordinate all environmental assessments with independent assessors; give transparent advice to the Environment Minister; look after monitoring, compliance and enforcement; and become a central repository of environmental data. It would also give certainty to business.”