The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) is calling for an independent audit of what benefits Australian endangered wildlife is getting from government grant programs after revelations that claimed threatened species funding is being used for restoring historic ships, weeding bike paths and other unrelated projects.
ACF Policy Analyst, James Trezise, welcomed the existing Australian National Audit Office inquiry into threatened species program design, but said it must be followed with a complete and independent audit of projects to ensure grants are delivering benefits for Australia’s threatened species, as claimed by the Turnbull Government.
“Funding for the Federal Environment Department has been slashed by almost a third since the 2013-14 budget. We need to make sure what is left is well targeted and effective,” Mr Trezise said.
“While we have seen some solid progress from the Turnbull Government in halting the damage of feral cats, the majority of its claimed threatened species funding is drawn from generic grant programs, which may provide good local environment outcomes, but in many cases should not be represented as threatened species projects.
“It is scandalous that some of these projects are being passed off as helping threatened species. Australia has one of the worst extinction rates in the world and we need to have trust that our elected representatives are taking serious action to avert species loss.
“The ACF is calling for an independent audit of all projects claimed to be benefiting threatened species to restore community trust in the system.
“The problems in threatened species protection is more evidence that Australia needs new national environment laws to ensure a stronger and more independent system. Only then can the community have complete confidence our national laws are working to save Australia’s animals and plants.
“National funding for the environment must also be restored. In the next Federal Budget, the Turnbull Government should establish a $1.1 billion fund to boost threatened species recovery, support the expansion and management of protected areas, and improve Great Barrier Reef water quality.”