Summary of Public Hearing Interview with House of Representatives

Brief Summary of Public Hearing Interview with House of Representatives inquiry into Biodiversity in a Changing Climate.

After our submission last year to the inquiry, the committee invited ESA to a public hearing to discuss our submission.  Our members who wrote the submission were not available so I, as President, attended the public hearing on Wed, 28th March in Sydney.   

I met with three of the committee for 3/4 hour; Mr Tony Zappia (chair), Dr Max Washer (deputy chair), Ms Jill Hall. I briefly summarised the main points of our submission and then they asked questions. The questions covered the following issues (a summary of answers in italics):

  • How the ESA was able to coordinate submissions of this kind and capture the opinions of professionals –I described how we did this submission and the development of hot topics
  • The concept of connectivity and whether many small and a few big reserves are important. I described the need for larger reserves for species migration as environments changed and herefore connectivity was important.  I described the change in the role of a reserve from protecting what is currently present (the original aim of a reserve) to one which is large enough to be flexible to movements and re‐sorting of ecosystems.
  •  whether increasing population size was a significant part of the problem. Yes it is probably underlying many of the current environmental stressors
  • What about dryland salinity? Not my area of expertise but there are certainly knowledgeable people within ESA who would be able to discuss this better.
  • whether the extinction rates associated with the last 250 years were at all ameliorated by current conservation activities.  I suggested that we had been more successful recently with our efforts to save some species but that the future held a whole new range of possible extinctions so that we must continue to do more.
  • whether fire was a useful tool in management – fire regimes was what was crucial – too little is as bad as too much and the value in using fire will be region and habitat specific.
  • whether the CMAs and/or NRMs were successful – variable! I stressed the need for highly skilled ecologists to be more influential in these groups as ecologists understand how biodiversity may be affected by particular activities better.
  • whether there was enough skilled individuals to fulfill new roles in conservation.  I suggested that there was adequate at present, and that many who have been trained were leaving the field through lack of jobs.  I also stressed that higher degree students were most valuable.
  • whether funding was adequate and equitable  ‐ NO.  ARC was poorly funded with a large percentage of the ‘brain‐power’ in the country being unfunded and therefore not contributing adequately. Current funding for more applied projects was often poor relative to on ground works. Strategic reworking of funding options was needed.
  • whether we were leaking skilled people overseas or elsewhere – somewhat but people leaving the field was likely to be more of an issue.
  • the value of marine reserves – For functioning marine ecosystems, maintain biodiversity and providing a source of recruits for more disturbed areas. 
  • whether the public and private sector understood the value of ecosystems well and if dollar values were good. No – this is why public awareness is so critical