The federal government has approved the destruction of more than 200,000 hectares of threatened species habitat – a total area larger than Fraser Island (K’gari) in Queensland or Adelaide’s entire metropolitan zone – in the last ten years.

A new investigation by the Australian Conservation Foundation reveals:

  • Koalas lost more habitat to federally-approved destruction than any other animal, with more than 25,000 hectares of koala habitat approved for destruction in 2011–21, around a fifth of which was for a single project: the Olive Downs coal mine in Queensland. 
  • Greater gliders (7,400ha), swift parrots (2,500ha), forest red-tailed black-cockatoos (1,800ha) and spot-tailed quolls (1,200ha) also had large areas of habitat approved for demolition.
  • The rate of destruction is rapidly increasing – in the five years to 2016 the government approved the destruction of 80,000 hectares of threatened species habitat, but the amount went up to 120,000 hectares in the following five years.
  • Mining accounted for 72% of the total habitat destruction approved under the national environment law, but this is the tip of the iceberg, as clearing for agriculture is rarely assessed under this law and native forest logging is exempt altogether.
  • More habitat destruction was approved in Queensland than in all the other states and territories combined.

“This investigation exposes the cumulative impact of the government’s individual decisions to approve the destruction of the habitat Australia’s threatened species need to survive,” said ACF’s national nature campaigner Jess Abrahams.

“It shows how over the last decade, rather than protecting our most vulnerable and beloved native animals, the federal government has been aggravating extinction.

“Sadly, Australia is a world leader in annihilating nature.

“We’re the only developed nation on the list of global deforestation hotspots and we’ve caused the extinction of more mammals than any other nation.

“More than 6,500 hectares of the habitat approved for demolition in the last ten years was home for species listed as critically endangered at the time of approval – one of which, the Christmas Island Pipistrelle, is now extinct.

“More than 50,000 hectares approved for destruction was habitat for species listed as endangered at the time of approval.

“If we value Australia’s unique wildlife and plants, we must do more to protect them.

“That means stronger environment laws to stop the rampant wrecking of habitat revealed by this research, increased funding and specific plans for threatened species recovery.

“This decade of destruction covers the period of the last two Australian State of the Environment reports. 

“We call on Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley to release the overdue 2021 State of the Environment report so Australians can get a full understanding of just how dire the situation is for the places and wildlife we love.”

In this investigation ACF compiled ten years’ worth of publicly available (but difficult to find) information on all EPBC decisions that approved the destruction of threatened species habitat. We compared these findings with a dataset of threats to Australian fauna and flora.

In addition to the investigation report, ACF is today releasing the full dataset as a public resource, because there are many more stories to be told.

Aggravating extinction investigation report

ACF Media Enquiries

Journalists with enquiries may contact Josh Meadows on 0439 342 992. For all other enquiries please call 1800 223 669 or email [email protected]