Every state and territory in Australia has its own unique wildlife and iconic places.
The birdsongs we hear, the animals we love to spot, and the places in nature we go to relax vary so much from state to state. These experiences become part of who we are.
Sadly, nature is being destroyed right across Australia – by bulldozers for unsustainable agriculture and urban sprawl, climate damage, invasive species and pollution.
Every state and territory has treasured animals and places at risk of being lost forever. Across the continent, our current national environment laws are failing to protect the nature we love and rely on.
With the Albanese Government promising new national nature laws in 2023, we have a rare opportunity to change the system that allows damage to our rivers, forests, reefs and wildlife. We can secure new laws that stop the destruction, end extinctions and put nature on a path to recovery.
Nature needs us, now. We must speak up together right across the country to make these new laws count.
Read on to see what nature destruction looks like in the state or territory where you live, and how you can take action to help secure:
Scroll down or jump ahead to your state:
Habitat destruction impacts more threatened species than any other pressure, and yet the ACT’s grasslands and woodlands are still threatened by bulldozers to make way for urban sprawl.
Last year, the ACT’s own animal emblem, the gang-gang cockatoo, was listed as an endangered species. One of the main threats to the survival of this iconic bird is the destruction of mature trees which they need for nesting hollows, and yet, these mature trees continue to be chopped down.
Current environment laws are failing to protect nature in the ACT. Between 2012 and 2021, 16.33 hectares of grassy woodland and native grasslands were destroyed even though they were listed as being critically endangered ecological communities.
Under current laws, do places like Lawson Grasslands even stand a chance? We need strong federal laws that actually protect the ACT’s plants, animals and ecosystems.
SPEAK UP FOR NATURE IN THE ACT
The Murray Darling Basin, Monaro Tablelands and alpine forests have been identified as “collapsing” ecosystems, meaning they have undergone such substantial negative changes they may not recover.
The greater bilby, an iconic species that was once widespread throughout the state, is extinct in NSW.
The koala was listed as endangered in NSW in 2022. Populations have fallen by 60% in 20 years – that’s more than anywhere else in the country.
The permanent clearing of native woody vegetation has increased three-fold since 2015, with an average of 35,000 hectares being destroyed each year. Habitat destruction impacts more threatened species than any other pressure, and yet in NSW habitat continues to be bulldozed at an alarming rate.
Current environment laws do not hold those that destroy nature to account. At least nine polluting coal mines in NSW have received special Federal Government permission to avoid penalties for failing to permanently protect habitat as outlined on their original approval.
The tropical savannahs and western-central arid zones that stretch across the NT have been identified by scientists as “collapsing” ecosystems, meaning they have undergone such substantial negative changes they may not recover.
Species that were once widespread in the NT and important for the health of ecosystems like the burrowing bettong, desert bandicoot and lesser bilby are now extinct in the Territory.
It is only thanks to dedicated community members’ citizen science efforts that endangered Gouldian finches were discovered in bushland at Darwin’s Lee Point, an area approved for destruction for urban sprawl.
The onus should not be on community members to monitor for threatened species in areas earmarked for destruction. It’s a clear symptom of a broken system – the NT needs an overhaul of national nature laws and how they’re enforced.
The Cooktown orchid, Queensland’s state flower, is listed as being vulnerable to extinction.
In 2022, Queensland’s own state animal emblem, the koala, was listed as an endangered species in this state. The state’s koala populations have fallen by 50% in just 20 years, and this is largely due to the destruction of its habitat.
Existing laws have failed to protect Queensland’s amazing wildlife, including the koala.
In 2018-19, more than 680,000 hectares of native vegetation was destroyed in Queensland, including nearly 100,000 hectares of known and likely koala habitat. Almost all of this was done without any federal approval and most of it took place to expand pasture for beef production in places like the southeast of the state. What’s the point of national environment laws if they aren’t even enforced?
And on top of this, there’s the approved destruction. Between 2012 and 2021, the federal government approved more habitat destruction in Queensland than in all the other states or territories combined.
Queensland is a world leader in habitat destruction and is crying out for strong federal laws that actually protect its stunning nature from bulldozers.
The western-central arid zones have been identified by scientists as “collapsing”, meaning this ecosystem has undergone such substantial negative changes they may not recover.
The blue gum woodlands of the Eyre Peninsula, the mound springs of the Great Artesian Basin and Kangaroo Island’s narrow-leaved mallee are among 11 nationally listed threatened ecological communities in SA.
More than 90 South Australian animal species are nationally listed as being threatened by extinction, and half of the state’s freshwater fish species are under threat.
Habitat continues to be bulldozed in South Australia. The southern emu-wren is listed as an endangered species and yet this didn’t stop a rocket launch facility from being built on its habitat at Whalers Bay. This area was meant to be for conservation and yet prime threatened species habitat has been wiped out, replaced by permanent buildings and launch pads.
Tasmanian ecosystems like the Gondwanan rainforests and giant kelp forests have been identified by scientists as “collapsing”, meaning they have undergone such substantial negative changes they may not recover.
Tasmania’s animal emblem, the Tasmanian devil, is listed as being vulnerable to extinction.
Habitat destruction is driving species like the swift parrot to the brink, and current laws are failing to protect it. This critically endangered parrot only breeds in Tasmania and has been reduced to around 750 adult birds. Despite this, old hollow-bearing trees that ‘swifties’ need to nest and breed are still being destroyed by commercial loggers and cut down to make way for urban expansion and agriculture. At current rates, the swift parrot is on course for extinction by 2031.
The destruction of Tasmania’s nature is impacting local people too. In 2020, 180 members of Tasmania’s tourism industry signed an open letter asking the government to end the logging of native forests. The state’s tourism lobby also walked away from its agreement with the forestry industry over concerns that the ongoing logging of forests is destroying Tassie’s ‘green’ reputation as a nature destination.
Current laws are clearly failing Tasmania’s people, place and wildlife.
Victoria’s mountain ash forests and subalpine forests have been identified by scientists as “collapsing” ecosystems, meaning they have undergone such substantial negative changes they may not recover.
The animal symbols of Victoria – the Leadbeater’s possum and the helmeted honeyeater – are both listed as critically endangered species. These animals are irreplaceable, they are only found here in Victoria.
The state-owned logging company VicForests has been found in a court of law to have breached state logging regulations by destroying habitat for two protected species – the endangered greater glider, and the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum.
Despite bulldozing critical threatened species habitat, logging is exempt from our national environment laws. Do Victoria’s iconic threatened species even stand a chance under the current system?
WA’s very own animal emblem, the numbat, is listed as an endangered species.
Habitat destruction impacts more threatened species than any other pressure, and yet in Western Australia, habitat continues to be bulldozed at an alarming rate.
Western Australia comes second only to Queensland for the most habitat approved to be destroyed in Australia – over 66,000 hectares of land was cleared of native vegetation in WA between 2012 and 2021.
Current laws are failing to protect WA’s unique nature from being flattened by bulldozers.
Just this year, two property companies were fined only $250,000 for destroying 10 hectares of endangered black cockatoo habitat for urban sprawl in Baldivis. The project is expected to earn them about $160 million, so the penalty is nothing more than a slap on the wrist and will do little to deter businesses from destroying more threatened species’ homes in Western Australia in the future.
In 2023, the Albanese Government is writing new nature laws which will decide how we look after nature for decades to come – and every state and territory has enormous skin in the game.
Strong new laws will mean stopping the destruction, allowing our bush and waterways to heal and helping threatened plants and animals to bounce back. Weak laws that allow more of the same will push threatened birds, animals, wetlands and forests to the point of no recovery.
Speak up now to hold the government to its pledge to overhaul our laws and end extinctions.