Biodiversity management is undertaken at all levels of government, by private enterprise, and by thousands of landholders and volunteers across Australia. At the broadest level, a national framework is provided by Australia’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2010–2030. The strategy, agreed to by the Australian Government and all states and territories in 2010, functions as a policy ‘umbrella’ over other more specific national frameworks, and is intended to provide a guiding policy for the diverse mix of Australian, state, territory and local government, and private-sector approaches to biodiversity conservation. It aims to coordinate efforts at a national level across all sectors to sustainably manage biological resources, and ensure their long-term resilience, health and viability.
It also functions as Australia’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, providing the main instrument for Australia to implement its obligations under the convention at the national level. The strategy contained 10 interim national targets for implementation by 2015. In 2014, the Australian Government reported to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity that, in the 3 years since the strategy was agreed to by all Australian governments, good progress had been made towards some, but not all, of the 10 targets.
In 2015, a review of the strategy found that it was not possible to report achievement against each of the 10 targets because there were insufficient national-scale data to comprehensively report national progress. Also, some targets were inadequately specified to assess progress. Most of the targets remain unmeasured and therefore difficult to assess progress on, although it is clear that some have definitely not been achieved. The targets, and our assessment of their progress, are:
- achieve a 25 per cent increase in the number of Australians, and public and private organisations who participate in biodiversity conservation activities (not measured)
- achieve a 25 per cent increase in employment and participation of Indigenous people in biodiversity conservation (not measured, but some increases achieved through Indigenous ranger programs)
- achieve a doubling of the value of complementary markets for ecosystem services (not measured, and no known markets established)
- achieve a national increase of 600,000 square kilometres of native habitat managed primarily for biodiversity conservation across terrestrial, aquatic and marine environments (achieved through the National Reserve System)
- restore 1000 square kilometres of fragmented landscapes and aquatic systems to improve ecological connectivity (possibly achieved, but not measured)
- establish and manage 4 collaborative continental-scale linkages to improve ecological connectivity (some progress, but not fully achieved)
- reduce by at least 10 per cent the impacts of invasive species on threatened species and ecological communities in terrestrial, aquatic and marine environments (not measured)
- use nationally agreed science and knowledge priorities for biodiversity conservation to guide research activities (not achieved)
- review relevant legislation, policies and programs (by all jurisdictions) to maximise alignment with Australia’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy (some progress, but not fully achieved)
- establish a national long-term biodiversity monitoring and reporting system (not achieved).
No coordinated policy or programmatic response to the strategy was implemented to achieve the national targets, and the targets were not explicitly used to guide on-ground actions and thereby measure success. The process for implementing the strategy rested with a joint ministerial council that was disbanded in 2013, and no processes were put in place to provide a detailed framework for delivery. The 2015 review found that the strategy has not effectively influenced biodiversity conservation activities, and, going forward, increased coordination of effort on shared priorities for biodiversity management will be needed. This highlights the need for ongoing and increased investment in effective monitoring to be able to assess biodiversity condition and trends, and therefore make an assessment of the outcomes of the strategy.