Michelle Lensink

Species Loss

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation about species loss.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: On 19 July, the minister released a new strategy to protect the koala population in South Australia. However, I note that other species in South Australia are facing some fairly significant challenges. Honourable members would be aware of the work of Associate Professor David Paton, who has made the following comments:

There is insufficient habitat in the arable regions of South Australia to adequately support the terrestrial biodiversity of these regions so biodiversity will continue to decline. Current predictions based on the amount of habitat that remains indicate that half the bird species that  occupied  the Mt Lofty region will be lost unless substantial amounts of additional habitat are reinstated. 

My question for the minister is: given that he has been prepared to endorse a koala strategy, does he intend releasing any form of strategy for the significant woodland species, which include diamond firetails, beautiful firetails, zebra finches, black-chinned honeyeaters, Jacky Winters, restless flycatchers, southern emu wrens and hooded robins, which are under stress and at risk of extinction?
 
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER  (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change)  ( 14:42 :15 ): I thank the honourable member for her most important question. The government has commenced South Australia's Strategic Plan target No. 69, 'Lose no species: lose no known native species as a result of human impacts'. I note there that the term used is 'lose no known native species', because of course, we do not know exactly how many species we have in this country. I note just recently, in fact, that 13 new species of spiders were discovered in Queensland just these last few weeks—or at least reported in the media in these last few weeks.

To lose no native species as a result of human impacts is an ambitious target that we have set for ourselves. In August 2012, a new measure was added to target 69, 'Trends in extent in protection of ecosystems'. This measure allows broader reporting on ecosystems in addition to the existing reporting on trends in 20 indicator species. It was this state government, of course, that established 19 marine parks, which cover around 44 per cent of the state's waters.
 
The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: I asked you about birds.
 
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Very conveniently, the honourable member says, 'We do not want to talk about the marine parks and marine systems; we only want to talk about birds.' That is because their reputation on parks in this state is in the rubbish bin. We will get to that in a moment.

Our marine parks cover around 44 per cent of the state's waters. This network of marine parks is one of the most significant and important conservation programs ever undertaken in this state to protect some of our most important marine biodiversity, but of course the Liberals in South Australia do not want to talk about that.

For example, in the Nuyts Archipelago Marine Park, the Nuyts Reef and Isles of St Francis sanctuary zones will help protect and conserve breeding sites for Australian sea lions; habitat for birds such as the endangered osprey (there's a bird, Mr President), rare rock parrot (another bird for the Hon. Michelle Lensink), rare Cape Barren geese and of course little penguins; a biodiversity hotspot known for its wide variety of habitats and fish species; and the second-largest short-tailed shearwater breeding colony in South Australia.

There are many ongoing projects aimed at improving South Australia's biodiversity and ecosystem resilience through large-scale replanting and restoration activities. South Australia has almost a quarter of its land managed for conservation and other sustainable uses in the public estate, and this is more than any other mainland state, I am advised, in terms of proportion.

We have enhanced the management and extent of the protected area system in South Australia through the development and implementation of the state's protected areas strategy, Conserving Nature 2012-2020: 'A strategy for establishing a system of protected areas in South Australia.' In 2013, we continued this tradition by providing the iconic Nullarbor Plain with South Australia's highest level of conservation protection as a wilderness protection area. This almost doubled the area of South Australia which receives this level of protection to approximately 1.8 million hectares.

When Labor came to government in South Australia in 2002, just 70,000 hectares of South Australia had wilderness protection status—just 70,000 hectares. We are extremely proud as the government to have given the highest level of protection now to 1.8 million hectares of land, and the species that this land provides habitat for. The real point of this, of course, is that hardly a single hectare of wilderness was added to this list the whole time the Liberals were in government in the 1990s—

Members interjecting: 
 
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: The whole time. The only wilderness areas that existed were actually put in place by Labor governments in the past. But, Mr President, I digress. Over the past 12 years, 68 new parks have been proclaimed and there have been 74 additions to parks. Over 2.2 million hectares have been added to the state's reserve system or reclassified to a higher conservation status under the National Parks and Wildlife Act and the Wilderness Protection Act. As part of its 2014 election commitments, the state government has committed an additional $300,000 over two years to increase South Australia's system of parks and reserves in order to protect more of the state's unique environment.

The growth of our state's public reserve system has been complemented by an extensive and growing area of protected areas on private lands. This is another area on which we have led the country. South Australia now has the largest percentage of land area in both public and private protected areas of any Australian mainland jurisdiction—a total area around the size of the state of Victoria, I am advised. This is a valuable environmental, economic and social resource for all South Australians and, of course, it provides for habitat.

We commenced our South Australian Urban Forest/One Million Trees Program in 2003, expanding our target to 3 million trees by the end of 2014. On 28 August 2014, we completed this program with the planting of the 3 million seedlings at Onkaparinga River National Park. We have committed an additional $21.9 million over four years from 2011 to 2012 in fire management to protect communities, promote biodiversity and help protect the state against the ongoing risk of bushfires.

In addition, we have developed risk-based fire management plans for 154 reserves and expanded this state's firefighting capacity through increased brigade numbers and an enlarged fleet of specialised firefighting vehicles and machinery.

The fire-management budget for the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources totalled $10.12 million in 2014-15 financial year compared to approximately $330,000 in 2002-03. In 2012, the Labor government protected Arkaroola through the passage of the Arkaroola Protection Act protecting the area's conservation values from mining. We have also given Arkaroola state heritage listing, and we are currently finalising the management plan for the Arkaroola Protection Area.

Labor is also committed to establishing the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary to protect internationally important habitat for migratory shorebirds. The state Labor government has already invested $2 million in the purchase of 2,300 hectares of salt flats to add to the bird sanctuary. The sanctuary, which is proposed to stretch for 60 kilometres from the Barker Inlet in the south to Parham in the north, will provide a protected area for more than 200 species, including 50 shorebird species.

The area is a key part of the East Asian/Australasian Flyway and has the potential to be an exciting drawcard for birdwatchers from interstate and overseas supporting both tourism and the environment in South Australia. The government has committed to invest an additional $1.7 million over four years for the establishment and ongoing maintenance of the sanctuary.

This government is not sitting idly by as the Liberals are. We are actively taking steps to protect our precious environment and our native species and will continue to do so. But one of the greatest challenges to species survival over the next 50 years and more is going to be climate change, and what is the Liberal party's position on climate change? What is their position on climate change? They haven't got one, because they don't believe in it. They don't believe in climate change; their federal party doesn't believe in climate change; they don't want to act on climate change; and all they want to do is continue to invest in the 'coal is good for humanity' line of their Prime Minister.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK  ( 14:49 :19 ): Supplementary question: of the specific bird species that I mentioned, what specific measures does the government have? Does it have a particular strategy, or does it only have strategies which apply to cute mammals with big brown eyes?
 
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER  (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change)  ( 14:49 :39 ): Clearly the honourable member opposite and the rest of the cheer squad behind her were not listening to the answers. If you are going to protect species you must actually protect their habitat, where they are to be found, and you have to connect up those areas of habitat instead of having little parklands, small, tiny areas that will not support a species for very long.

As I said, the one thing that members opposite will not contribute to in this debate is talk about the threatened status of species because of changes we are going to face through climate change. Their government, at a federal level, will not do any work on climate change. In fact, it wants to do just the reverse, and stop anyone from acting on it. It is about time that this Liberal opposition stood up to the Neanderthals in the federal parliament who are running this country at the moment, and tell them that they need to act in concert with the rest of the world and get real about climate change, get real about emissions reductions, and take a sensible and real package to Paris at the end of this year.

Don't faff around in this place talking about cuddly species. Let's talk about the real challenges to species loss; let's talk about the real challenges that are confronting us—and that is climate change.

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