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14 May 2008 - No bonus in budget for biodiversity      

No bonus in budget for biodiversity

Sydney, 14 May 2008                          

Humane Society International (HSI) is urging Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, to ensure biodiversity becomes a major beneficiary of the government’s Caring for Country program. Aside from funds to conserve the Tasmanian devil and tackle the cane toad menace, the budget papers released yesterday give little detail as to funding that will be dedicated towards protecting threatened species and habitats systematically and comprehensively across Australia.

“While acknowledging the importance of the previously announced $180 million to bolster  the National Reserve System and the $200 million Great Barrier Reef Rescue Plan, we are hard-pressed to find anything new that is specifically for biodiversity conservation in the federal budget,” said Michael Kennedy, HSI’s Director.

“We welcome the multi-million dollar programs to save the Tasmanian devil and reduce the impact of cane toads on biodiversity,” said Mr Kennedy. “However, the same quantum of funding is required for many other national priorities among Australia’s 1800 threatened species and 2891 threatened habitats that face an impending extinction crisis.”

“While overall expenditure on the environment is still no where near enough to address the enormity of the challenges ahead, HSI is pleased that the Government is signalling a more strategic approach for how it is spent,” said Mr Kennedy.

The outgoing National Heritage Trust tended to be ad hoc and piecemeal and the Rudd Government is promising to address this with a more strategic approach towards conserving national priorities in its Caring for Country Program – identified as Biodiversity and Natural Icons; the National Reserve System; Coastal and Aquatic Environments; Sustainable Farming; better Natural Resource Management in northern and remote Australia; and building Community Engagement, Skills and Knowledge.  HSI has been invited to a meeting next week to help the Government ensure this expenditure is outcome focused.

“To ensure bang for its buck, HSI will be urging the Government to make sure protecting threatened habitats is a central strategy of the Caring for Country Program,” concluded Mr Kennedy. 

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