The Queensland Government’s 2016-17 Budget delivered a better than anticipated boost for the environment and its wildlife when released last Tuesday. Increased funding in education and health was anticipated, but an 11 percent increase in the operating budget for the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection over last year’s, an increase of $23.5M, was a most welcomed result.
The allocations address a range of Wildlife Queensland concerns and provide much needed funding for our wildlife. This is certainly a step in the right direction and Wildlife Queensland commends the Palaszczuk Government in demonstrating its concern for our environment and its wildlife once again. Wildlife Queensland fully appreciates this level of funding as significant and a good start but points out the most critical factor: that it be used prudently and directed wisely with measurable and accountable outcomes.
So where has the funding been directed?
Community Sustainability Action Grants – $12 million over three years for grants to local environmental, wildlife and heritage conservation groups to support community engagement, encourage innovation and enable eligible groups and individuals to help improve wildlife protection, environmental rehabilitation and heritage conservation of local sites.
Wildlife Management – $15.2 million to support a range of wildlife management and conservation activities across Queensland, including $6 million for wildlife hospitals.
Koala Conservation – $12.1 million over four years and ongoing funding of $2.6 million every year for koala conservation and protection measures. To support koala care and rehabilitation services, expanded population surveys and habitats mapping and establishment of two koala refuges. To guide future research and habitat management to protect koalas in south-east Queensland.
NatureAssist Program – $11.7 million over four years and ongoing funding of $3 million per year for management of Nature Refuge agreements under NatureAssist.
Waste management – $1.9million in 2016-17 to invest in waste management and waste reduction strategies. To promote enhanced recycling and waste diversion industries, leading to reduced landfill and reuse materials.
Climate Change Strategy – $6.8 million over four years and ongoing funding of $1.7 million every year to develop and implement a Queensland Climate Change Strategy.
Crocodile Management – $5.8 million over three years for crocodile management, including expansion of crocodile urban management in the Rockhampton region. Includes scientific analysis, public education and management of the removal of problem animals.
Pristine Rivers – $1.5 million over two years to work with key stakeholders to develop and implement strategies to protect Queensland’s pristine rivers from large scale industrial operations.
Rural Assistance Package – Yellow Crazy Ant Management – $3 million over three years – additional funding to assist WRMA to manage yellow crazy ants. Funding conditional on Australian Government funds 80% of costs.
Cape York and Great Sandy World Heritage Area Nominations – $2.2 million over three years to progress nominations in consultation with Traditional Owners.
Of course the environment and its wildlife encompassing both flora and fauna benefits from funding from other portfolios besides that of the Environment. Initiatives such as the Abandoned Mine Lands program of $42M over 5 years and the enhanced Coal Seam Gas Compliance Unit all contribute to bringing direct and indirect benefits to our environment.
There are also funds going towards enhanced biosecurity – granted, primary industries and human health are the primary focus, but some benefits flow to our natural heritage. And the belated response to reduce the ongoing threats to the Great Barrier Reef is the recipient of massive funding. In addition, there are significant funds for the Cape York and the traditional owners to better joint manage significant conservation areas.
It is both interesting and disturbing to note that the first ever article in Wildlife, the forerunner of Wildlife Australia magazine, by Professor A. J. Marshall was entitled Going, Going, Gone! Published in 1963, Professor Marshall’s piece drew attention to the threats faced by our platypus, koala and certain macropods. He concluded his article by suggesting we pose this question:
“Do you, as an Australian want to preserve your native fauna? Or don’t you care? Some of your native animals are going. It is ultimately your responsibility if in your grandchildren’s day they have gone beyond return.”
The words of Professor Marshall are just as relevant today. What have we achieved in over 50 years? Come on, we can do better – in fact, we must. Let us build on the start the Palaszczuk Government has provided. We can do it, yes we can!