Topics: Announcement of $2 million to boost threatened species protection
Look, I’m delighted to be here at the World Parks Congress today with the Threatened Species Commissioner, Gregory Andrews. Today the Australian Government is announcing as part of its commitment to the World Parks Congress an additional $2 million to protect our threatened species in Australia’s great national park system.
In particular, what we are doing is protecting in Booderee, in Christmas and Cocos Islands, Norfolk Island, in the magnificent Kakadu National Park, and also through the Australian National Botanic Gardens, amongst others, many of our iconic threatened species.
There are plans to help with the northern quoll and the bandicoot to ensure that we are taking on the scourge of feral cats and also cane toads. What we see is that we can take action. It is a great task, but these biological arcs need to be not just protected but also enhanced.
So all up, 10 different projects right across our Federal National Park service, and also using the Australian National Botanic Gardens as a base and a platform for helping with threatened species right across the nation.
But we take this very seriously. Gregory Andrews is Australia’s first Threatened Species Commissioner, and what delights me is he’s not just in the job, he’s not just passionate about it, but it’s a vocation and a purpose and a task. And over to you, Gregory.
Thanks Minister. So we’ve got $2 million of new money for the National Park system that’s really focusing on tackling the key threats, avoiding extinction of multiple species, and securing the investments we’re making, and also building on the successes.
So in Booderee National Park, for example, we’ve very successfully baited foxes and controlled cats, and that’s allowed for a bounce back in a number of species that are still in the park, but some species such as the southern brown bandicoot became extinct in the park locally as a result of the invasive species and the fire.
Now that it’s safe in the park, we’ll be funding the reintroduction of that species into the park.
Alright. Happy to take any questions.
Gregory, you’ve been in the role for some months now. How long do you have before you have to start delivering results?
So I’m delivering results now. I’ve secured half a million dollars through the National Heritage Trust of new money to invest in feral cat eradication at Christmas Island.
Is half a million dollars really enough to cut it?
Half a million dollars is part of a package in partnership with the National Park and the mine to systematically work against all of the threatening species, so I’ll be investing in cat eradication and that’ll be partnered with eradication and management of rats and management of the crazy ants.
So it’s an integrated pest management approach and I’m making a significant contribution that will save multiple species in the park such as the Christmas Island hawk-owl and also to avoid an extinction of the last mammal on the island, the Christmas Island flying fox.
I would just add this – that by having the first-ever Threatened Species Commissioner, what we’re doing is saying threatened species are absolutely our number one land-based priority in this country. The work of John Woinarski and the team that put together the survey into Australia’s threatened species is sobering.
What it says is that we need to do more and it’s not just about money, it’s about that sense of energy. So I had written to – with Gregory – to all of our Natural Resource Management areas in the country – all 56 – asking them to work with local Landcare groups to provide priority and funding for feral cat eradication.
This feral cat problem, with between 15 and 20 million feral cats, is an absolute wrecking ball to our native species, and it’s been ignored in the past and we are going to take it on, and we aim to effectively eradicate feral cats.
What we want to do is work with the States and Territories on a plan to do that. It’s a decade-long task. It won’t happen overnight, but the implementation of the Curiosity Cat bait – of trapping, as we’ve seen, from land care groups around the country of humane euthanasia.
These are fundamental tasks but nothing, nothing, will have more of an impact on protecting our threatened species, reducing invasive species, than the war on feral cats.
So Minister, and obviously there’s a China – large delegations here – and how Australian and China environmental collaborations?
Well, actually I think you’ll find that there’s a lot more on that in the coming days. I know that the President is in Canberra today and is in Tasmania tomorrow. I will be in Tasmania and I am looking forward to some very positive outcomes that – your President visited Kakadu, and he visited Kakadu because of a passion about biodiversity and Indigenous culture.
And so to be able to work on ecotourism, to be able to work on co-investment in rainforest recovery. Just last week, China was part of a Rainforest Recovery Plan with Australia, and so we are going forwards together.
I think you’ll find that there’s more coming in the next 48 hours, and then to have, as one of the world’s leaders, somebody who is so passionate about biodiversity, reducing emissions, and Indigenous culture, is a great opportunity for the world, a great honour for Australia, and I would say a great point of pride for China.
How important is the Red List that comes out later this afternoon as a guideline to what- how the Government may move forward?
Look, the Red List is one of the world’s KPIs, and it’s a KPI, or a Key Performance Indicator, for Gregory Andrews going forward. What’s his job? His job is to help identify the threatened species, and the Red List helps with that, and then to change the trajectory.
What really matters to me is that at home in Australia more animals are preserved, animals that are under threat are able to recover, and that we do the same within our own region; which is why we have a Threatened Species Commissioner, we have a Green Army, why we have a 20 Million Trees program, and why we’ve put enormous effort into National Landcare, and we do the same abroad in our own region.
And I’ve just come from meetings over the last few days with the head of the Global Environment Facility, with the head of WWF, focusing on how we can reduce deforestation in our own region, and to protect these majestic threatened species, such as the orang-utan, within the Asia-Pacific.
Locally, the Black Grass-Dart Butterfly, which is in New South Wales, has been put on the endangered list under this Red List, why should people care about the Black Grass-Dart Butterfly?
Look, all of these species are part of our global biodiversity. And it’s easy to sneer at something like that, but I’d respectfully disagree. These are important parts of our common planet, our common biodiversity.
You look at all these people who are here at the World Parks Congress; they are here because they believe in the majestic worth of the biota. And that’s from the smallest to the largest, from the butterfly to the blue whale. And we have fought against whaling, we have sought to protect the most iconic of the world’s large species, but the small ones matter as well.
Alright? Thank you very…
Gregory can I just ask one last question, do you feel as though you’ve got the money to do your job properly?
I’ve got access to $2 billion from the National Heritage Trust, plus multiple programs. I’ve got a new threatened species hub from the National Environment Science Program, which will inject $5.1million into practical, action-oriented science.
But also, I’ve got communities, and I meet communities every week all over Australia that are working hard and volunteering to save our species. So together, communities, the business sector, philanthropic organisations, and the Government, we can achieve a lot.
How much of that money do you actually have access to? How much of that is yours that you can control though?
What’s important is focusing on the threats and the species, rather than the money. And so I’m focusing, and I’m developing a prioritisation policy advice for the Government, and then prioritising every dollar to make sure that it achieves the best outcomes for species.
Alright. Thank you very much.