The Maddocks View: Threatened Species Action Plan 2022-2032 – Towards Zero Extinctions
The Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has released the Commonwealth’s Threatened Species Action Plan – Towards Zero Extinctions 2022-2032 (Action Plan) which, as the name suggests, aims to prevent any new extinctions of Australian plants and animals.
The Action Plan seeks to map a pathway to recovery for Australia’s threatened species, including targets aimed at improving, protecting and conserving ecosystems which these species rely on. While not changing Australia’s environmental regulatory or legal frameworks, the Action Plan does complement the frameworks conservationist objectives and other government actions to address the increasing impacts of climate change.
In July 2022, we shared our insights on the State of the Environment Report 2021 (Report) and its dire findings regarding the poor and deteriorating health of Australia’s environment. Among other things, the Report found Australia had lost more mammal species than any other continent and the number of species listed as threatened had drastically increased. With the list growing and currently including more than 1,900 species, the Action Plan is a timely update ahead of the flagged changes to national environmental laws coming in 2023.
Acknowledging the findings of the Report and that a ‘business as usual’ approach will result in more extinctions, the Action Plan has set the ambitious target of preventing any new extinctions of endemic Australian species. Building on the Threatened Species Strategy Action Plan (2021-2026) the Action Plan maps a 10-year plan to improve the trajectory of 110 species and 20 places, and to protect an additional 50m hectares of land and sea area by 2027.
Species and places
The identification of these 110 priority species and 20 priority places is a key feature of the Action Plan. The priority species were chosen from over 1900 species listed as Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act).
Of particular note is the Action Plan’s additional 14 mainland places to the existing six natural island places as ‘priority places’, identified for improvement and protection.
The island priority places are:
|Bruny Island, Tasmania||Christmas Island, Indian Ocean|
|French Island, Victoria||Kangaroo Island, SA|
|Norfolk Island, Tasman Sea||Raine Island, Queensland|
The mainland priority places are:
|Eastern forests of Far North Queensland||Brigalow country, Queensland|
|Greater Blue Mountains, NSW||Australian Alps, NSW, Victoria and ACT|
|South east coastal ranges, NSW and Victoria||Southern Plains, including the Western Victorian volcanic plain and karst springs, SA and Victoria|
|Midlands region of central Tasmania||Giant Kelp Ecological Community, Tasmania|
|Mallee Birds Ecological Community, South Australia, Victoria and NSW||MacDonnell Ranges, Northern Territory|
|Kakadu and West Arnhem, Northern Territory||Yampi Sound and surrounds, Western Australia|
|Remnant wheatbelt woodlands, Western Australia||Fitz-Stirlings, Western Australia|
More information on each priority place will be published on the department’s website, including a description, photos, and key actions required to improve condition for threatened species which are found within.
There are over 20 targets in the Action Plan split into various subcategories. Each target has a number of subsidiary 'actions', with attached timeframes ranging from 2022 to 2027.
This Action Plan is described as an ‘open invitation’ for collaboration, particularly with individuals or bodies which may impact a priority place. Some targets specifically encourage collaboration, such as Target 21 which aims for at least half the number of protection projects to receive private investment or support from partners, and Target 22 which promotes the role of community groups in recovery activities. The Action Plan also explicitly recognises the role of Indigenous and First Nations knowledge in guiding protection and recovery action.
Legislative, regulatory, and planning considerations
Identification as a priority place does not involve a change in regulatory requirements under the EPBC Act, but signals a commitment and focus from the federal government on management and research to improve the condition of that place, in partnership with land and sea managers.
The Action Plan also considers the role of conservation planning at a local, state, and federal level, seeking to:
- support the ongoing development of ‘fit-for-purpose’ conservation planning; and
- strengthen integration of conservation planning with other planning processes, and across levels of government and community initiatives, to maximise conservation outcomes.
Future reforms and reports
The Threatened Species Commissioner will publish profiles on each priority species by the end of 2022, and profiles on each priority place by mid-2023. A progress report will be published in 2025, and a 5-year report in 2027, assessing the achievements of the Action Plan against its objectives and targets.
Additionally, the Commonwealth Government has previously announced it will introduce national environmental law reforms in 2023. These reforms should complement the Action Plan and aim to drive further improvements to threatened species protection and recovery.
This e-alert is part of Maddock’s series of updates covering the response to the new Report. Specifically, this e-alert is for clients whose activities may impact priority places or priority species.
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