President’s letter

Published 02/03/14 | by Brian Bainbridge

I regretfully set aside my natural tendency for optimism for this letter. In case you have not heard, in Victoria, biodiversity protection legislation is ‘critically endangered’. 

In a pre-Christmas double-pronged attack, the badly flawed new vegetation protection processes (described in the last edition of Indigenotes) have been passed, and for good measure, for any site that still warrants it, DEPI has been shorn of its capacity to compel biodiversity protection! The systems for vegetation protection have been redesigned to facilitate vegetation clearance. Vested interests are seeing the fruits of their hard lobbying of governments for removal of environmental protections. These changes are well described in the blog of the Environment Defenders’ Office (http://www.edovic.org.au/blog/department-deals-themselves-out-native-vegetation-regulations). 

What is left to protect native vegetation and heritage? 

Precious little. 

The Federal government has set about implementing its slogan of slashing ‘green tape’ (i.e. biodiversity protection) with gusto, trashing the controls that it had acquired over matters of national significance. 

Councils, with their stretched resources rarely proportional to their biodiversity assets, retain important planning controls and some environmentally-minded councils have exercised valour in resisting the backlash against biodiversity protection. However the capacity and willingness of councils to apply these is variable. 

Which leaves ... err ... us! We have a fight ahead of us to regain protections that have been removed. How did we get these protections in the first place, some of them dating back 30 years? Political pressure, arising from a broad-based consensus that a civilised and sane society should stop erasing its natural landscapes and commit itself to reversing the processes of extinction. 

Do we retain this broad-based consensus today? I suspect we have not been as successful in growing the constituency for nature. In particular, I sense a dwindling of the public opinion that is fuelled by a love of nature experienced first-hand. Such experience fuels an enduring and enabling energy, a connection to nature that makes it impossible to contemplate its loss without a fight. 

IFFA’s committee does have a small capacity to pursue advocacy, and we can join our voice to groups devoted to running committed campaigns such as Environment Victoria. But IFFA’s primary purpose, ‘educating ourselves and others about Victoria’s biodiversity’ does suggest a vital role all our members might play in re-building the broad-based constituency needed to make environmental campaigns work. 

Simply, we all can all share with our friends, neighbours and family our own wonder of nature. 

One of the exciting IFFA projects for this year is a workshop to build skills in presenting about biodiversity. We hope that building these skills among conservationists will have a strong multiplier effect as individuals become more effective at sharing our vision of ‘Victoria’s biodiversity, thriving and valued by all.’ 

Dammit- here comes back that old optimism! 

Brian Bainbridge