WA Auditor-General Criticises DEC Conservation Programs

To: L&L Knight <>
Subject: WA Auditor-General Criticises DEC Conservation Programs
From: Carl Clifford <>
Date: Wed, 10 Jun 2009 22:53:58 +1000
$8.2 million spent on threatened species! That must be nearly as much as spent on politicians in W.A. I suppose most pollies should be
regarded as potentially threatened species, though in most cases not
threatened enough.

Carl Clifford

On 10/06/2009, at 8:57 PM, L&L Knight wrote:


Western Australia (WA) is globally significant for its biodiversity,
of both flora (plants) and fauna (animals). WA has over half of
Australia’s biodiversity hotspots and the South West is
internationally recognised for its biodiversity. In 2008 there were
601 species listed as threatened in WA.

The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) is the primary
agency responsible for conserving this biodiversity. DEC estimates
that in 2007-08, it spent $8.2 million directly on threatened species activities, including evaluating the conservation status of species,
developing and implementing recovery plans, monitoring species, and
managing data.

DEC has other areas of activity which influence the conservation of
threatened species. For example, creating reserves protects threatened species’ habitat. DEC’s nature conservation programs can also address
processes that pose risks to threatened species. DEC’s programs to
manage dieback and salinity are an example of this. These programs are not targeted at threatened species directly, but contribute to their

We focused on whether DEC is effectively protecting and recovering
threatened species; whether it has clear strategies, plans, policies
and procedures in place to support threatened species conservation
activities, and whether those activities are conducted in line with
relevant legislation, plans, policies and procedures. We included
terrestrial threatened species and excluded marine species.

Examination conclusion…

In many areas DEC is not effectively protecting and recovering
threatened species. The number of threatened species is rising and
only a few species are improving. Recovery action is not happening for most threatened species. The majority of resources and effort are
allocated to critically endangered species, placing vulnerable and
endangered species at risk of further decline.

DEC has some successful programs to address broad scale threats to
multiple species, but in other areas that underpin conservation, such as habitat protection, DEC is facing significant challenges.

DEC cannot demonstrate the overall effectiveness of its threatened
species conservation activities. This limits assurance that it has
effective management and conservation processes and programs to ensure the protection and recovery of WA’s threatened species.

Much of DEC’s threatened species activities are not enabled by
existing legislation and DEC has created policies to cover these gaps. The Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 does not provide species with
adequate protection.

What the examination found...

        • 601 species in WA are listed as threatened with extinction and this
number is increasing. Only a handful of species are improving.
        • Only one in five threatened fauna and less than half of threatened
flora have a recovery plan, while full implementation of the plans
that are in place often does not occur. Without a recovery plan, the
needs of threatened species may not be identified and addressed.
        • Multi-species approaches to conservation are an effective response
to the growing number of threatened species. DEC has a number of multi- species programs.
        • Creating reserves is a key habitat conservation mechanism, but less
than half the amount of land agreed under the national target has been reserved in WA. On average, it takes a decade for acquired land to
become a reserve.
        • DEC cannot demonstrate the effectiveness of its threatened species
conservation activities for all threatened species.
        • Since 1987 DEC and its predecessor agencies have sought to replace
the 1950 Wildlife Conservation Act with new legislation that would
provide greater support for conserving biodiversity.
What the examination recommended...

DEC should:

        • consider changing how it prioritises species for conservation
attention to ensure existing resources are used to maximum long-term
        • continue to identify and acquire land of conservation value and
work with other agencies to achieve reservation more quickly
        • implement an evaluation framework and supporting systems to assist
in measuring threatened species conservation effectiveness
        • continue its efforts to replace the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950
with a new Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Click here for the Full Report in Adobe PDF (251kb

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