Conservation under budget threat

Karen HuntManjimup-Bridgetown Times

More needs to be done to protect rare and threatened species but budget cuts have increased the challenge for conservation agencies, WA Auditor General Colin Murphy has warned.

While some improvements had been made, he described progress as “disappointing”.

Mr Murphy made the comments on September 6 as he tabled his report Rich and Rare: Conservation of Threatened Species Follow-up Audit.

The State’s conservation task had increased since his 2009 report, he noted, with the number of threatened species up 12 per cent to 672 and threatened ecological communities stable at 66.

Mr Murphy said species listed as “possibly threatened” rose 29 per cent, noting that WA was the only State to maintain a register of priority species that are at possible threat.

At January 2017, there were 3352 priority species, up from 2604 in 2009. There were also 389 priority ecological communities, up from 255 in 2009.

“This increase is in part due to greater knowledge, however there is no doubt the remarkable biodiversity of WA and the sheer size of our State makes conserving our threatened species a very important, but very challenging task,” he said.

The new Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions’ expenditure and staff were now below 2009 levels while its conservation task had grown, he said.

Legislation passed in 2016 was an important milestone, recognising modern conservation categories and critical habitat and setting in place tougher penalties for offences.

“But progress has been disappointing and DBCA still has considerable work to do to put both the information and the systems to use it, in place.”

On the plus side, 91 per cent of critically endangered species and ecological communities and 55 per cent of threatened species and communities had recovery or interim recovery plans in place.

However, Mr Murphy said there had been little progress since 2009 in reserving land for conservation.

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