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Damning DSE and DPI Reports from Victoria Auditor-General

Effectiveness of Compliance Activities:
Departments of Primary Industries and Sustainability and Environment

Victorian Auditor General's Report October 2012

In a report released 24th October, Auditor General Des Pearson said DSE's compliance standards were worse than DPI but neither were adequate. He said neither department could be sure its compliance activities contributed to protecting natural resources, primary industries and the environment as the legislation intended.

Neither DPI nor DSE has a comprehensive whole-of-organisation, risk-based approach to managing their compliance responsibilities. They have not clearly identified how compliance activities contribute to achieving legislative objectives and corporate outcomes, how they measure success, or how they monitor and report compliance performance.

The departments of Primary Industries (DPI) and Sustainability and Environment (DSE) are responsible for sustainably managing the state’s environment, primary industries and natural resources. This includes managing compliance for such diverse sectors as fisheries, agriculture, mining, parks, forests and biodiversity protection. Without controls, unsustainable use can contribute to the loss of high-value species, ecosystems and industries, such as whales, red gum forests and the abalone fishing industry. In other words, “business as usual” is not an option as biodiversity will be eradicated and the State sterilised of ecological “services” needed for our (growing) population.

Issues arising from state environment laws being broken could include illegal logging, illegal duck hunting, inconsistent rabbit control, and introduction of pest species, among numerous others, the Auditor-General's report says.

Our State's emblem, the Leadbeaters Possum, is deliberately being driven to extinction by logging in state old-growth forests. There's no protection for endangered species or control of threatening processes causing it.

Noncompliance can contribute to the loss of high-value species, ecosystems and industries. For other species and systems, the cumulative impacts of environmental crime are incremental and less obvious. Obvious, yes, because we can't sustain any life on a dead landscape!

Wild licences and Permits

The Auditor-General recommends that The Department of Sustainability and Environment should:

strengthen its management of wildlife and plant licences and permits by:
• upgrading the wildlife and plant licence and permit systems without further delay
• requiring staff to record all relevant information in the systems, such as licensee inspections and interviews, and periodically reviewing how they use the systems
• accurately recording the number of licences, permits and authorisations it issues, and making this information publicly available
• reviewing its policy on using licence conditions and sanctions as a response to noncompliance.

Greens Leader Greg Barber wanted a report from DSE about Authority to Control Wildlife (ATCW). The DSE responded that there is "no central electronic management system that allows for such searches”. Also, relevant officers have advices that individual documents are not scanned, and the report would mean scanning for 4 pages from 8500 pages across 5 regions. The photocopying charges would be over $1,700.00 and 566 hours or 16 working weeks to examine files and to copy and collate relevant materials for his FOI request! Hardly efficient or transparent filing systems or record control for accountability!

Authority to Control Wildlife permits issued under cloak of secrecy

Authority to Control wildlife permits have been liberally distributed to land-holders without proper assessment and non-lethal alternatives. The quality and consistency of DSE’s processes for issuing wildlife and plant licences and permits varies greatly. It is difficult to measure the consequences of this because DSE does not monitor them adequately. DSE’s wildlife licensing is managed by a central licensing team, using a central licensing database. While the process is only partially documented, the small team knows the system well and works cohesively.

In contrast, plant and wildlife permits and authorisations for killing wildlife are issued by compliance staff across the five regions. This creates significant potential for inconsistency and until recently, there has been little guidance for them on how to address this. DSE introduced a flora permits policy in June 2012, providing regions with comprehensive and detailed .

The report exposes that there is very little programmed compliance monitoring of licences, permits or authorities to control wildlife .

Unsustainable industries

Industries such as agriculture, coal mining and forestry are important to Victoria’s economy, providing jobs and producing food, electricity and other commodities for local use and export. Other sectors such as recreational fishing and state parks have significant social value. All of these require controls, or regulations, to manage them sustainably so that our environment, economy and social values are protected.

Without controls, unsustainable use can contribute to the loss of high-value species, ecosystems and industries, such as whales, red gum forests and the abalone fishing industry. For other species and systems, the cumulative impacts of noncompliance are incremental and less obvious. In other words, precedents that fail to manage or control species and ecosystems get propagated down the line of control and the impacts balloon over time.

The departments of Primary Industries (DPI) and Sustainability and Environment (DSE) do not have the whole-of-department, risk-based compliance frameworks needed to secure balanced and effective actions across their compliance responsibilities. Both are now strengthening their approaches, particularly DPI.

The report recommends that the Department of Sustainability and Environment should improve its regional compliance planning and strengthen its management of wildlife and plant licences and permits.

Conclusion
Neither DPI nor DSE has a comprehensive whole-of-organisation, risk-based approach to managing their compliance responsibilities. They have not clearly identified how compliance activities contribute to achieving legislative objectives and corporate outcomes, how they measure success, or how they monitor and report compliance performance.

Download the report

NEW POPULATION BOOK HOLDS SOLUTIONS TO HABITAT DEPLETION: Sheila Newman has just published new theory in a new book, Demography, Territory & Law: The Rules of Animal and Human Populations (see link). Two chapters are on multi-species demography, the rest apply the theory to non-industrial societies and the author comes up with a completely new test for the collapse model of Easter Island, which will stun those who thought they knew all about it. Forensic biologist, Hans Brunner writes of it: "This book takes us to a completely new paradigm in multiple species population science. It shows how little we understand, and how much we need to know, of the sexual reactions when closed colonies with an orderly reproduction system are destroyed, be it people or animals."
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Comments

The Federal Government commissioned a review of the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act several years ago. The review recommended strengthening the scope and degree of environmental protection, and improving efficiency by removing duplication in environmental assessments and approvals. But instead, they are ignoring the strengthening recommendations, but pursuing the efficiency ideas under the banner of removing so-called “green tape”.

Importantly, the Federal Government has proposed handing the states its authority to approve developments harming matters of national significance. It's a proposed deregulation of our environmental laws, and placing them into the power of developer-driven State governments.

The fight against “green tape” by development lobbies relies on a fundamental misrepresentation – that national environmental laws don’t really do anything for the environment and they are there simply as obstacles to overcome!

On the contrary, we a a mega-diverse continent but we have 50 extinct animal groups already and some 1400 endangered and critically endangered plant and animal groups. The future is poor for wildlife for many extinctions are likely this century unless we act now. Now is not the time to be weakening our national environmental laws. "Green tape" is about protecting our environment, not just rules for nothing!

The environment can't be assessed in monetary terms, and has abstract, intrinsic value along with capital value.
The key reforms that COAG agreed to are:

-- the withdrawal of Federal involvement in the approval of environmentally sensitive developments under federal environmental laws, through delegation to states,
-- the fast-tracking of approval of major developments in each State,
-- removing energy efficiency and climate change schemes in each State, and
-- the removal of other environmental laws seen as ‘unnecessary’ and ‘costly for business’

It's about allowing humans more space to foul their own nests!!

The environment is seen only as a sub-set of the economy, not the basis for it and our ongoing existence with Nature. Environment Minister Tony Burke must not disbandon his duties but actually do what his portfolio requires of him - to protect the part of the planet that holds together not only our welfare, our resources, but also of the millions of non-human species.

Placing environmental protection policies in the hands of States, already under the heavy control of business and developers, would be like putting the fox in charge of the chickens.

There's no life on a concrete, sterile, dead planet with dying ecosystems. The web of life needs to be included in our policies, not have them overwhelmed by the greed of powerful lobby groups.