I rise to speak on the first interim report of the Climate Change, Environment and the Arts Committee’s inquiry into Australia’s biodiversity in a changing climate. This is an update on the progress of the inquiry itself. We do have additional site inspections planned.
I am a member of the committee and we are continuing to gather evidence. I want to focus briefly on one of the areas that is covered in this first interim report, and that is the committee’s visit to Western Australia and particularly into the area of my electorate.
Of course, most of us know that the south-west of Western Australia is one of Australia’s 15 biodiversity hotspots.
It is actually one of only two internationally recognised biodiversity hotspots. Margaret River forms the western extremity of the Gondwana Link—a landscape connectivity project creating wildlife corridors from the south-west forest to the Great Western Woodlands, 1,000 kilometres to the east.
The committee met with the South West Catchments Council, South Coast National Resource Management, the Cape to Cape Catchments Group and Greening Australia. The committee inspected Lake Cave just to have a look at the declining water levels in the cave itself.
We saw some excellent examples of riparian rehabilitation along the Boodjidup Brook. Many of the issues the committee heard about during the meetings and site visits related to changing rainfall patterns and the serious issue—and this is an extensive issue in the south-west—of phytophthora dieback.
The impact of changing rainfall patterns, reduced groundwater and tree decline are all associated with this very extensive disease in the south-west of WA.
We also focused in these case studies in biodiversity management on site visits to the Tasmanian midlands and Central Plateau.
Several groups focused on the adaptation taking place and that is what we see in the evidence we took about changing rainfall patterns, fire regimes, threats from pests and diseases, cooperative biodiversity conservation approaches and the importance of research and citizens’ science.
In the New South Wales Snowy Mountains region we heard about feral horse management in the Australian Alps, and that had a great impact on me. There was a constant reference to feral pests and weeds—the real practical issues. The issue of feral pests and weeds is a very serious one.
I read recently where weeds cost the Australian economy $4.6 billion per annum. Feral pests and weeds is not a minor issue; farmers spend $1.5 billion themselves to control about 1,000 agricultural weed species. There are another 2,300 weed species that are a problem for natural ecosystems.
The work that this committee will continue to do is a very important body of work on case studies in biodiversity management and Australia’s biodiversity in a changing climate.
I am looking forward to what will come ahead and working on concluding the committee’s work and the recommendations for our final report.
I commend this document, Case studies on biodiversity conservation: Volume 1, to the House and I commend not only the secretariat for the work it is doing but also the committee for its application in looking at this issue.