Conservator of Flora and Fauna

The Deputy Director-General of the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate holds the office of the Conservator of Flora and Fauna. Established by the Nature Conservation Act 1980, the Conservator of Flora and Fauna has additional responsibilities under the Planning and Development Act 2007, the Fisheries Act 2000 and the Tree Protection Act 2005.

Nature conservation

The Conservator acts on issues that affect the conservation matters embodied in the Nature Conservation Act 1980 (NC Act). This relates, in particular, to protecting native plants and animals, including the administration of a licensing system for the taking, keeping, selling, importing, exporting, disturbing, displaying and killing of native plants and animals; managing the nature reserve system; and protecting and conserving threatened species and ecological communities. Activities undertaken during the year include those listed below.

Section 40 of the NC Act requires the Conservator to prepare an action plan for each species or community that has been declared vulnerable or endangered. The action plan must contain proposals for the identification, protection and survival of the species or proposals to minimise the effect of any process which threatens the species.

Action plans for the following species were finalised during 2012–13:

  • Northern corroboree frog: a revised and updated version of the original 1997 Action Plan
  • Canberra spider orchid: adoption of the Commonwealth’s recovery plan which meets the requirements of both the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and the NC Act, with minor modifications
  • Brindabella midge orchid: adoption of the Commonwealth’s recovery plan which meets the requirements of both the EPBC Act and the NC Act, with minor modifications.

The following action plans were released for public comment and expect to be finalised in 2013–14:

  • Little eagle: new action plan
  • Glossy black-cockatoo: new action plan
  • Murrumbidgee bossiaea: new action plan
  • Smoky mouse: review of existing action plan.

Native animal and plant licensing

The following licences relating to plants and animals were issued

Licence

2011–12

2012–13

Keep licences
(These include the private and commercial keeping of native animals including birds, reptiles, amphibians and a small number of exotic species)

716

722

Import a non-exempt animal into the ACT

60

122

Export a non-exempt animal from the ACT

36

86

Take native flora and fauna from the wild (these are entirely for scientific research )

84

85

New keep licences to keep a non-exempt animal

205

122

Remove and/or interfere with the nest of a native animal
(these are entirely related to authorised tree removal and result in the relocation of the nest and animal)

4

8

 

Licences issued under Fisheries Act 2000

Licence

2011-12

2012-13

Import/export live fish (entirely related to the pet retail industry)

14

17

 

Land management

The Conservator is responsible for managing public land identified in the Territory Plan in accordance with the management objectives specified in Schedule 3 of the Planning and Development Act 2007.

Plans of management

Plans of management for reserved areas of public land are required by the Planning and Development Act. The Act also requires that plans are prepared by the land custodian and referred to the Conservator of Flora and Fauna for comment (s. 320). No plans of management prepared under the provisions of the Act were referred for comment.

The Conservator has statutory obligations under the Planning and Development Act 2007. The Conservator was consulted on three draft variations to the Territory Plan (s. 61) and seven scoping requests for environmental impact statements (s. 26 Planning and Development Regulation 2008). The Conservator made recommendations on eight leases (s. 337) and 22 licences affecting public land (s. 303).

The Conservator also provided 12 environmental significance opinions (s. 138AB) that a proposed development was unlikely to have a significant adverse environmental impact, allowing the proposals to be assessed in the merit track under the Planning Act, and rejected one application.

Tree protection

The Conservator is responsible for making decisions on applications to undertake defined tree-damaging activities on trees on leased urban land that meet the criteria for protection in the Tree Protection Act 2005.

Application decisions

 

2011–12

2012–13

Applications for a tree damaging activity

1978

2119

Number of decisions made

2311

2965*

Approvals granted (with conditions)

1025 (132)

842 (217)

Approvals under urgent circumstances

148

187

Applications not covered by the legislation

157

127

Applications declined

397

358

Reconsideration requests received

55

86

Decisions changed following reconsideration

27

34

Advice provided to the planning and land authority on development applications (s. 82)

359

307

Withdrawn/Closed/General advice

N/A#

42

Not finalised

N/A#

39

*Note: An Application for a Tree Damaging Activity can relate to more than one tree requiring more than one decision e. g. an application that is received which contains five trees will require five decisions for that one application.

#Note: This is a new category that captures activities previously contained within other categories.

Tree Register

  • One individual tree and no groups of trees were added to the Provisional Register.
  • Fifteen individual trees and three groups of trees were fully registered.

Appointment of advisers

The Tree Advisory Panel provides advice to the Conservator regarding the functions provided under the Act, including applications for approval to remove or otherwise damage a protected tree.

The Conservator retained the following people as members of the Tree Advisory Panel:

  • Mr Phillip Unger
  • Dr Peter Coyne
  • Mr Tony Fearnside
  • Mr Allan Moss.

Mr Fearnside retired in December 2012 and Mr Robert Friederich was appointed to the Panel in May 2013.

Investigations

Eighteen matters were referred for investigation. Of these:

  • Two briefs of evidence were submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions pending court action for breaches of the Nature Conservation Act 1980 or Tree Protection Act 2005
  • Seven offenders were issued formal cautions (five under the Nature Conservation Act 1980, one under the Fisheries Act 2000, and one under the Tree Protection Act 2005)
  • One offender was issued an Infringement Notice to the value of $1,250.00 under the Tree Protection Act 2005.
  • One investigation remains active (Tree Protection Act 2005).

Of the remaining referrals, there was either insufficient evidence to proceed to a full investigation, the matter was investigated but no offence disclosed, or an offender was unable to be identified.

Conservation offences

Regular liaison occurred between Parks and Conservation Service rangers and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) Rural Patrol. As a result of the strong working relationship established with the AFP Rural Patrol, the AFP continued to target anti-social behaviour and dealt with a number of acts of vandalism.

Seven members of the AFP were made Conservation Officers to enable them to issue infringement notices under the NC Act and Fisheries Act if they came upon illegal activities in the course of their duties. The AFP also targeted illegal motor bike riding and the recovery of stolen and abandoned vehicles.

Minor offences, such as walking a dog off a lead in a reserve area, were reported during the year, and warning notices issued.

For more information:

Helen McKeown
Conservator Liaison
Phone: (02) 6207 2247
Email: helen.mckeown@act.gov.au