The Victorian Government has delivered on its commitment to develop Victoria’s biodiversity plan, Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2037. Coupled with reviews of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (FFG Act) and native vegetation clearing regulations, the Plan will ensure that Victoria has a modern and effective approach to protecting and managing Victoria’s biodiversity.
Turning the plan into action
An Implementation Plan to accompany Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2037 is in development, due for release in 2017.
Victoria’s natural environment is richly diverse, unique and precious. Victorians treasure the environment not just for its own sake, but for its indispensable value to individuals, communities, Aboriginal Victorians and society as a whole.
While all Victorians enjoy the benefits of biodiversity, relatively few are fully aware of its importance, or are prepared to share the cost of – and responsibility for – sustaining it.
Climate change and population growth are expected to exacerbate existing threats and bring new challenges for Victoria’s biodiversity.
The Biodiversity Plan presents a long-term vision for Victoria’s biodiversity, supported by two goals –Victorians value nature and Victoria’s natural environment is healthy.
The Plan sets statewide targets for both goals.
To get more people engaged with nature and acting to protect biodiversity, we need to better understand the barriers to community involvement – and the opportunities to be involved.
Biodiversity investment should be more strongly focused on prevention and earlier intervention, rather than just crisis response, and we now have the tools and scientific analysis to do this.
The impacts of climate change, and the uncertainty it brings, will be considered in all conservation decisions and will affect what can be achieved.
1. Deliver cost-effective results utilising decision support tools in biodiversity planning processes to help achieve and measure against the targets.
2. Increase the collection of targeted data for evidence-based decision making and make all data more accessible.
A healthy environment is fundamental to a healthy society.
More needs to be done to enable Victorians to access nature, including increasing people’s awareness and understanding of the environment and how they can act to protect it.
We all need to work together – across government, business and the community – to ensure that we have a healthy environment to support a healthy society.
3. Raise the awareness of all Victorians about the importance of the state’s natural environment.
4. Increase opportunities for all Victorians to have daily connections with nature.
5. Increase opportunities for all Victorians to act to protect biodiversity.
By protecting and building the state’s natural capital, we can enhance Victoria’s ability to generate wealth and to compete on the world stage.
The use of environmental-economic accounting will help reveal the linkages between natural capital, society and the economy, and identify risks and opportunities for Victoria.
Victoria will increasingly need to protect and utilise its environmental assets, including its world-class tourism attractions, to deliver co-benefits for the economy and environment, and to help communities become more liveable, resilient and climate adapted.
6. Embed consideration of natural capital into decision making across the whole of government, and support industries to do the same.
7. Help to create more liveable and climate-adapted communities.
8. Better care for and showcase Victoria’s environmental assets as world-class natural and cultural tourism attractions.
The long-term health of Victoria’s natural environment relies not only on a clear future vision, but on financial resources and a collective effort across society.
The government is committed to initiatives that will result in more sustained and diverse sources of investment to help achieve the targets of this Plan.
A key to increasing investment in biodiversity conservation will be supporting landholders to significantly increase the amount of native habitat that is protected and managed on private land.
9. Establish sustained funding for biodiversity.
10. Leverage non-government investment in biodiversity.
11. Increase incentives and explore market opportunities for private landholders to conserve biodiversity.
Victoria’s approach to biodiversity conservation needs to be modernised, with more structured collaboration between stakeholders to drive alignment, accountability and measurable improvement.
To ensure everyone can participate in this collaborative process, the capacity of some interested parties and stakeholders needs to be enhanced.
12. Adopt a collaborative biodiversity response planning approach to drive accountability and measurable improvement.
13. Support and enable community groups, Traditional Owners, non-government organisations and sections of government to participate in biodiversity response planning.
Aboriginal people have profound cultural, spiritual and economic connections to land, biodiversity and resources through their relationship with Country. Connectedness to land, biodiversity and resources on Country is fundamental to the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people.
Participation in biodiversity planning and management will be supported to address the rights and interests of Aboriginal people.
Improving access to biodiversity and increasing the role of Aboriginal people in biodiversity management provide Aboriginal people with opportunities for economic advancement.
14. Engage with Traditional Owners to include Aboriginal values and traditional ecological knowledge in biodiversity planning and management.
15. Support Aboriginal access to biodiversity for economic development.
16. Build capacity to increase Aboriginal participation in biodiversity management.
Threats need to be better managed across the landscape to ensure that species and ecosystems are conserved, and to give biodiversity the best chance to adapt to the effects of climate change and human population growth.
The government will demonstrate leadership by significantly increasing investment in targeted biodiversity management across conservation reserves and other public land, and by transparently reporting on performance.
The system of conservation reserves requires periodic review to ensure that permanent protection of biodiversity is as effective as possible under changing climate conditions and land uses.
17. Deliver excellence in management of all land and waters.
18. Maintain and enhance a world-class system of protected areas.
Success of this Plan will rely on government leadership in its implementation.
This will include widespread incorporation of biodiversity into decision making, a best-practice regulatory and accountability framework, and regular evaluation to refine and improve its implementation.
19. Adopt a whole-of-government approach to implementing the Plan.
20. Establish a transparent evaluation process to report on progress towards delivering the Plan.
Case study 1: Gundtij Mara basket weaving – reconnecting all Victorians to Country
Aunty Eileen Alberts pulls off the seeds from the freshly pulled Poong’ort sedge (Carex tereticaulis) and lets it fall back into the soil to propagate. With no native animals attracted to the seeds, it grows in wild abundance across Gunditjmara Country, which stretches from Portland in far south west Victoria to past the Eumeralla River and up towards the Grampians in the north.
The sedges provide a bounty for traditional basket weaving, a cultural practice that is carried on by Gunditjmara women who are now sharing their knowledge with the broader community.
Elder Eileen Alberts believes basket weaving can be a catalyst for reconciliation. “We have groups of up to fifteen women here for a few hours,” she says, “and often the classes go on for a few hours past the finish time, because we are all talking so much, sharing stories and enjoying each other’s company, and the friendships continue outside the classes.”
Yet while the sedges are abundant, the cultural knowledge about basket weaving was very nearly lost, and with it the clear benefits of well-being provided by cultural pride and connection to tradition and community. When the Gunditmara were subject to the civilising mission at Lake Condah and forbidden from practicing their culture by the Mission Managers, the women stopped passing down the tradition for fear of having their children taken away. It was only the tenacity of Aunty Connie Hart who was raised on the mission, ‘peeking around the corners’ and secretly watching the female elders, that kept this knowledge alive. However it wasn’t until many years later when Connie was 67 that Eileen managed to convinced her to pass her knowledge on to others. “Even then she would only do it with the blinds pulled down and was convinced that our children would be taken away,” recalls Eileen. “It took three months for her to realise times had changed.”
Nowadays, woven baskets are in demand from people who commission one-off pieces for museums and private collections, supplementing the demand from tourists who disembark from cruise ships in Portland and schedule a stop at Windamara Aboriginal Co-operative to buy smaller items. But Aunty Eileen still has time to weave and mend the traditional eel baskets – nets of three or four metres long – that are used by the rangers today to capture eels at strategic trapping points along the waterways of Budj Bim.
With the revival of the cultural tradition secured, the landscape needs to be actively managed to ensure the survival of the Poong’ort. Aunty Eileen asks the rangers to undertake mosaic burns across the Indigenous Protected Areas before winter to ensure the regrowth for next season. Yet in many other areas the sedge remains under threat from cattle, who eat the entire plant and prevent its natural reproduction.
Case study 2: Friends of Fabbro Fields
Our initial motivation for convening a ‘Friends of’ group was to get involved in the local community and do our bit for the environment. When we discovered a new environmental reserve was planned for our local area, we knew the time was upon us and we were excited to get involved. Commencing work in 2012, the Friends of Fabbro Fields started with the humble (yet considerable) task of removing rubbish from the five hectare parcel of land. Now, having removed countless bags of weeds and installed thousands of local native plants, we’ve made immense improvements to ecological values throughout the reserve.
Dozens of passionate people have attended our working bees and we’ve made lasting connections with like-minded people in our neighbourhood. With assistance from Nillumbik Shire Council, grant funding from DELWP and Melbourne Water, and hundreds of volunteer hours, we are making great progress with our restoration efforts.
We have enhanced vegetation values on the reserve and have improved connectivity of habitat along the Diamond Creek corridor. In so doing, we hope the aesthetic improvement to the site will inspire others to admire local plants and actively engage in environmental volunteering.
With continued regard for state priorities and guidance from the local council, we hope to restore the best example of riparian forest on the Diamond Creek and foster community admiration for our local environment.
Development of the Plan
Work on drafting the Biodiversity Plan began in 2015. Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2036 was developed in collaboration with key stakeholders through three main reference groups, and various other collaborative processes.
The reference groups were:
Stakeholder Reference Group, comprising representatives from:
Victorian National Parks Association; Environment Victoria; Environmental Justice Australia; Federation of Victorian Traditional Owner Corporations; Bush Heritage Australia; BirdLife Australia; Victorian Farmers Federation’ Municipal Association of Victoria; Urban Development Institute of Australia (Victoria); City of Greater Geelong; Corangamite Shire Council; Nillumbik Shire Council; National Australia Bank; Environmental Farmers Network; Science representation (LaTrobe University); The Nature Conservancy; Victorian Landcare Council; Farm, Tree and Landcare Association.
Portfolio Reference Group, comprising representatives from the following government agencies:
Catchment Management Authorities ; Trust for Nature; Melbourne Water; Victorian Coastal Council; Museum Victoria; Royal Botanic Gardens; Zoos Victoria; DELWP.
Science Reference Group, comprising scientists from university, government and non-government organisations:
La Trobe University; Trust for Nature; Bush Heritage Australia; University of Melbourne; RMIT; Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources; Griffith University; Deakin University.
These groups met individually or jointly twelve times between June 2015 and November 2016, to provide input and direction into the development and finalisation of the draft plan.
The draft biodiversity plan, Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2036, was made available for public consultation for eight weeks, from 17 March 2016 to 15 May 2016.
During this time Victorians were invited to attend community information sessions held across the state to learn more about the draft plan.
250 submissions were provided on the draft plan by individuals and organisations.
Public submissions on the draft Plan were analysed following the close of public consultation. Although most submissions were positive, many suggestions were made to improve the Plan, including the need for statewide targets. The Plan was updated and re-written during the latter half of 2016 to reflect the public feedback received. This included the development of statewide targets that were considered by the Plan’s reference groups and included in the final plan.