MEDIA RELEASE 17 June 2020 |

A new Victorian Auditor-General Report is a scathing assessment of the delivery of the Victorian Government’s program to protect critically endangered grasslands. Conservation groups call for immediate action.

The report tabled today in Victorian Parliament clearly confirms long-held community concerns about the promise to protect some of Victoria most endangered ecosystems, the natural temperate grasslands of the Victorian Volcanic Plain, and Grassy Eucalypt Woodlands.

“Grasslands and grassy woodlands are unique and full of threatened species. There are less than 2%-5% of grassland left, which once covered almost a third of Victoria. If we do not act decisively now we will lose what is left – and it’s already taken way too long”, said the Victorian National Parks Association’s Executive Director, Matt Ruchel.

The VAGO audit assessed the implementation of the decade-old joint Commonwealth and State government program (known as the Melbourne Strategic Assessment), to streamline development approvals and ensure the survival of the remaining grasslands and grassy woodlands threatened by urban sprawl, particularly in Melbourne west and north. The commitments included the establishment of two large new grassland reserves (Between Werribee and Melton) by 2020, as well as a new Grassy Eucalypt woodland reserve (near Donnybrook), along with a range of other measures.

“Not only does the audit show that many of state government promises were broken, the delays mean that habitat continues its trajectory toward extinction and that it will now cost significantly more too. It’s a lose-lose,” said Mr Ruchel.

“The promises and commitments to protect the last remaining grassland and grassy woodlands need to be kept. The whole plan was about streamlining approvals for development, but while development continues, nature is losing out.”

Key points from the VAGO Report:

  • Protection is vital to ensure their (grassland and grassy woodlands) future existence.
  • The state’s Department of Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has not met its commitments to deliver the two grassland reserves by 2020.
  • To date, only 10% of designated land has been acquired for the Western Grassland Reserve.
  • No land has been acquired for the Grassy Eucalypt Woodland Reserve.
  • Delays in acquiring land, and continuing threats of degradation, pose risks to the ecological values of native vegetation within the reserves.
  • Delays in acquiring land have been compounded by cost increases. Estimated program costs have increased around 80 per cent between 2013 to 2019, mostly due to rising land values.
  • DELWP was slow to put the Melbourne Strategic Assessment governance arrangements in place and changed them several times.
  • This has limited their effectiveness, meaning DELWP has missed key oversight activities or not always performed them consistently or to expected standards.
  • The full report summaries can be downloaded from the VAGO website: www.audit.vic.gov.au/report/protecting-critically-endangered-grasslands

 

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