Queensland’s Environment Department still behind on saving threatened species, auditor-general finds – ABC

By February 24, 2023 News

By Jemima Burt
Posted 24 Feb 2023

The report found the department was tracking just 10.3 per cent of threatened species’ populations.(Supplied: Flickr)

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More than four years after the Queensland’s Environment Department was found to have no plan to protect threatened species, the agency is still lagging behind, according to the state’s auditor-general.

Key points:
• The report looked at the department’s progress against seven recommendations made in 2018
• It had improved the time it took to assess threatened species, from 506 to 56 business days
• But just 11 wildlife sightings had been entered into its database, with 10 million to go

The latest report, tabled in parliament on Thursday, looked at the department’s progress against the seven recommendations made in 2018.

The original audit found the department had no strategy for conserving or managing threatened species, likely underestimated how many species were under threat, and took years to assess whether species were threatened.

Since then, the department had released its biodiversity conversation strategy, but without any measures or targets, making it difficult to track outcomes, the audit found.
It had also entered only 11 wildlife sightings into its database, with 10 million still to go.

The report found the department had improved the time it took to assess threatened species, from 506 business days in 2018 to 56 days in 2022.

But it also found the department was monitoring population trends for just 10.3 per cent of the state’s 1,034 threatened plants and animals, and was yet to reassess 366 species – 73 per cent – against a classification change that came into effect eight years ago.

The department has entered just 11 wildlife sightings into its database, with 10 million to go.(AAP: Supplied)

‘It’s taken too long’
Queensland’s Conservation Council said the department had made progress, and a record investment in National Parks and protected areas, but change was still not happening fast enough.

“It’s taken too long,” Conservation Council director Dave Copeman said.

“We saw an absolute gutting of the capacity of the Environment Department to protect threatened species under the Newman government, and what that has led to is a long legacy of basically a lack of capacity inside the department.”

He said it was concerning there were no measurable targets under the department’s conservation plan.

“You’ve got to have measurements by which you’re going to know if you’re succeeding or not.

“Without that, there is the danger that this is a document produced by the Department of Environment and Science, but it doesn’t have the power it needs to to protect habitat and to stop the destruction that may be approved by other parts of government,” he said.

The government must work better with community organisations, Mr Copeman said.

“One of the things that concerns me is that we’re not engaging the community effectively in citizen science.
“They’re not working with the kind of apps and the kind of technology that is easy and effective and simple for people to use.”

‘Protect, restore, recover, adapt’
Director-general Jamie Merrick defended his department’s biodiversity conservation strategy.

“The Biodiversity Strategy has four goals, to protect, restore and recover, adapt and connect with a strong focus on threatened species and habitat protection,” he wrote.

“Queensland is well positioned to ensure a coordinated, well planned and monitored approach to biodiversity conservation into the future.”

He also pointed to a 38 per cent decrease in woody vegetation clearing activity since the initial report and a range of multi-million-dollar investments the government had made to restore and protect land and koala populations.