Shadow Environment Minister Tjorn Sibma has criticised the Labor Government for failing to provide any additional funding to support the expansion of the State’s conservation estate, following budget estimates hearings.
“While the McGowan Government pats itself on the back for expanding Western Australia’s parks and reserves by twenty per cent, inexplicably there is no recurrent funding to support the environmental management of these additional areas,” Mr Sibma said.
“Furthermore, the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) cannot explain how much money is spent annually on managing the current conservation estate, let alone how effectively these parks and reserves are being managed.”
Mr Sibma has called for an independent and regular evaluation of the management of the DBCA conservation estate and for the reports to be made available to the public.
“We cannot objectively assess DBCA park management performance and whether the agency is focussing its actions properly within current funding levels,” Mr Sibma added.
“I am already concerned about DBCA’s ability to undertake bushfire suppression, manage invasive weed species and control feral animals on Crown land, before we vastly expand the size of the conservation estate that they are responsible for managing.”
Mr Sibma warned that in the absence of clear reporting and a proper budget allocation, the quality of Western Australia’s conservation estate will degrade across the State.
“I am worried that responsibility for core conservation and biodiversity functions will continue to be shifted onto other land users, including pastoralists and the Aboriginal Body Corporates who will be parties to co-managing new parks and reserves,” Mr Sibma said.
“My simple proposition is that while the expansion of the State’s conservation estate is a popular measure, it is a policy and moral error to not adequately resource the ongoing management of this enlarged estate.
“I encourage the Government to place equivalent emphasis on the environmental substance of this measure as it has done on the ‘spin’.”