Conservator of Flora and Fauna

The position of Conservator of Flora and Fauna is established by the Nature Conservation Act 1980 (NC Act) and has additional responsibilities under the Planning and Development Act 2007 (P&D Act), the Fisheries Act 2000 and the Tree Protection Act 2005.

The Deputy Director-General of the Directorate held the office of the Conservator of Flora and Fauna until 28 October 2013. The position is now held by the Executive Director, Environmental Policy in the Directorate.

The Conservator acts on issues that affect conservation matters embodied in the NC Act, in particular to protect native plants and animals. The position includes: 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.

Action plans

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. Action plans contain proposals for the identification, protection and survival of the species or proposals to minimise the effect of processes that threaten the species. Action plans for the following species were finalised during 2013–14:

  • Little Eagle – declared a vulnerable species and Action Plan No. 35 was finalised in 2013, which meets the requirements of the NC Act
  • Glossy Black Cockatoo – declared a vulnerable species and Action Plan No. 33 was finalised in 2013, which meets the requirements of the NC Act
  • Murrumbidgee Bossiaea – declared an endangered species and Action Plan No. 34 was finalised in 2013, which meets the requirements of the NC Act
  • Smoky Mouse – revised and updated version of the original 1999 Action Plan No. 23.

The following action plans were reviewed:

  • ACT Aquatic Species and Riparian Zone Conservation Strategy (Action Plan No. 29) – the review commenced in June 2013. Highlights included river rehabilitation projects such as the engineered log jam near Tharwa, and conservation activities for Macquarie Perch and Two-spined Blackfish at the Enlarged Cotter Dam (factsheet on Directorate website).
  • Woodlands for Wildlife, ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy (Action Plan No. 27) – reviewed in September 2013. Highlights included additions to reserves (Gungahlin), connectivity research and restoration projects.
  • Spotted-Tailed Quoll Action Plan No. 30 – reviewed December 2013. The future priority is to invest in on-ground research and data collection.

Native animal and plant licensing

The following licences relating to plants, animals and fish were issued
Licence 2012–13 2013–14

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

722

783

Import a non-exempt animal into the ACT

122

134

Export non-exempt animal from the ACT

86

58

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

85

95

New keep licences to keep a non-exempt animal

122

143

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.)

8

8

Import/export live fish under the Fisheries Act 2000 (entirely related to the pet retail industry)

17

9

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 P&D Act.

Planning and development

The P&D Act requires plans of management for reserved areas of public land. Under s. 320 of the NC Act, these plans are prepared by the land custodian and referred to the Conservator for comment. No plans of management prepared under the provisions of the P&D Act were referred for comment in 2013–14.

The Conservator has statutory obligations under the P&D Act to comment on, among other things, Territory Plan variations, environmental impact statements and development applications. The Conservator was consulted on 11 draft variations to the Territory Plan (s. 61) and no scoping requests for environmental impact statements (s. 26 Planning and Development Regulation 2008). The Conservator made recommendations on nine leases (s. 337) and six licences affecting public land (s. 303). The Conservator also provided 12 environmental significance opinions (s. 138AB) that proposed development was unlikely to have a significant adverse environmental impact, allowing the proposals to be assessed in the merit track under the P&D 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 2012–13 2013–14

Applications for a tree damaging activity

2119

1913

Number of decisions made

2965*

2440

Approvals granted (with conditions)

842 (217)

716 (176)

Approvals under urgent circumstances

187

132

Applications not covered by the legislation

127

162

Applications declined

358

347

Reconsideration requests received

86

40
(46 trees)

Decisions changed following reconsideration

34

11

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

307

269

Withdrawn/Closed/General advice

42

39

Not finalised

39

5

ACAT Review

3

5

*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

Tree register

One individual tree and no groups of trees were added to the Provisional Register, and 15 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 Tree Protection 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 (Chair)
  • Mr Allan Moss
  • Mr Robert Friederich.

Investigations

Of the 32 matters referred for investigation:

  • No briefs of evidence were submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for the NC Act or the Tree Protection Act.
  • A magistrate made a finding of guilt on a matter submitted to DPP in 2012 with relation to offences of take a native animal and keep a native animal without licence and issued 12 month good behaviour bonds under ss. 45 and 46 of the NC Act and s. 8 of the Animal Welfare Act 1992.
  • Three offenders were issued with formal cautions under the Tree Protection Act. One offender was issued with a formal caution under the NC Act.
  • Nine offenders were issued with 11 infringement notices: 5 x $250 under the NC Act – keeping/selling animals other than exempt without a licence and/or fail to produce records; 1 x $75 under the NC Act – driving in an area not designated; 1 x $75.00 under the NC Act and 1 x $150 under the NC Act - Damage or destroy a natural structure, disobey signs; 1 x $1250 under the NC Act – sell an animal other than exempt without a licence; 2 x $1250 under the Tree Protection Act – Damage protected trees, work done as part of a business.
  • Five investigations remain active with relation to the Tree Protection Act.
  • Of the remaining referrals, there was either insufficient evidence to proceed to a full investigation, the matter was investigated however 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 are appointed as Conservation Officers to enable them to issue infringement notices under the Nature Conservation Act and Fisheries Act if they come upon illegal activities in the course of their duties. The AFP also targeted illegal motorcycle 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.

The Conservator of Flora and Fauna wrote to local fishing supply retailers to raise awareness of the dangers to wildlife caused by the use of Opera House traps and to encourage them to display posters on the dangers, and to point out that it is illegal to use these traps in any open waterway. Waterwatch information and the Directorate’s Recreational Fishing in the ACT brochures were included in the package to the retailers. Smaller retailers were very helpful and keen to display the material at point of sale. The larger chain stores have been contacted through their national offices.

For more information:
Helen McKeown
Conservator Liaison
Telephone: (02) 6207 2247
Email: helen.mckeown@act.gov.au
Web: www.environment.act.gov.au