Our Plan for Biodiversity
The extraordinarily unique and varied plants and animals of this region are what makes it special. Therefore it is no surprise that at both local and regional planning consultations, all communities felt strongly about the importance of protecting our biodiversity and educating people about its significant role.
In 8 of the 10 local landscape workshops we held, projects directly focusing on protecting biodiversity were identified as a priority. In 9 out of 10 workshops, there was a strong focus on building community awareness about the environment in general.
A strong message coming through was the importance of improving habitat condition and connectivity within the landscape, to ensure our ecosystems are resilient and can withstand and survive the impacts of climate change.
Our Plan for Biodiversity is based on extensive engagement and consultation about:
• The challenges preventing us from achieving our Biodiversity Goal
• The things that may assist us in achieving our Biodiversity Goal
• The priority actions that we should put in place to address the challenges and make the most of the opportunities
1. We will influence policy and planning frameworks to ensure they favour land-use and land-use changes with positive biodiversity outcomes.
Challenges: There is strong sentiment that supportive policies and plans at local all the way up to national levels are essential to achieving our goal. There is also overwhelming agreement that protecting what we have through strong planning is much more effective than trying to put back what we have lost.
Currently, the biodiversity impacts of land development decisions are not sufficiently considered within planning frameworks and mainstream decision making processes. There was concern that at the political level, there is insufficient value placed on the environment and biodiversity and that decisions are too often made based on politics rather than science.
Opportunities: On a positive note, there was recognition that there are already statutory frameworks in place to guide biodiversity conservation, and these can be built upon. There is a growing recognition at policy levels about the importance of biodiversity and the values of the Wet Tropics, and a better informed community can also push for change. Good data to support strong and proactive policy is available.
Priority actions focus on ensuring that a compelling story is being told at the political level, and that science is being made readily available to policy makers through practical decision support tools.
2. We will work collaboratively to undertake adaptive planning and management of biodiversity, focusing on making evidence-based decisions which take into account a changing climate and incorporating monitoring, evaluation and review.
Challenges: There are many organisations and individuals within the region that are currently working to protect and enhance our biodiversity assets and there is enormous passion out there in the community to harness.
However, there is limited consensus across the region (within government, industry and community) about how to approach biodiversity conservation and where to prioritise effort. This challenge will be exacerbated with decreasing resources, increasing pressure for urban and agricultural land and future climate uncertainty.
Opportunities: Fortunately the region is one of the best understood tropical systems in the world and new information about the probable impacts of climate change means that we can be proactive in our planning and action. Good will and strong existing networks at both local and regional levels provide an excellent foundation from which to build greater collaboration and adaptive planning and action.
Priority actions focus on the development of a Biodiversity “Charter”, factoring climate change into our prioritisation frameworks and more coordinated planning and project delivery.
3. We will respect and action the desire of Traditional Owners who wish to be more meaningfully involved in biodiversity projects in their community and country from the planning stage through to implementation.
Challenges: Traditional Owners across the region have grave concerns about the threats to biodiversity and are consistently calling for better partnerships with community and government in the region. Although in many circles there is interest in engaging meaningfully with Traditional Owners, many people are unaware how to go about this, and in some cases they simply don’t invest the time and effort to build the relationships that are fundamental to strong partnerships.
Opportunities: The Rainforest Aboriginal People of the Wet Tropics have an enduring connection with the plants and animals of the region and to them, culture and environment are one. Traditional Owners not only have traditional rights to being part of all aspects of caring for country, but they have a lot of value and knowledge to bring to projects. There are already some excellent examples of such benefits from involving Traditional Owners in project development and delivery from which we can all learn.
Priority actions focus on promoting and communicating cultural values and establishing more effective ways to engage Rainforest Aboriginal People in natural resource management.
4. We will secure sustained and diverse resourcing by using the exceptional biodiversity values of the Wet Tropics as the hook for innovative investment partnerships and making the best use of the resources we have.
Challenges: The level of Government investment in biodiversity has been steadily declining since the Natural Heritage Trust days of the early 2000s and this trend is unlikely to change with the country facing increased fiscal challenges. Continuing to rely heavily on the tumultuous cycles of government program funding will not see us moving towards our goal.
Opportunities: We need to seek other opportunities for alternative sources of funding such as through carbon investment, philanthropy, corporate social responsibility and crowd funding. The biodiversity of the Wet Tropics has enormous appeal nationally and internationally if well marketed. It is also more important than ever to pool our resources and collaborate effectively to ensure the best bang for our biodiversity buck.
Priority actions focus on identifying novel funding opportunities and working together to ensure we are making the most out of what we already have.
5. We will work to ensure our community places high value on the health and resilience of our regional biodiversity and is actively involved in its protection.
Challenges: The power is with the people! If they care enough, then things will change, locally, regionally and across the nation. But there is a strong sense that although people would argue the value of the biodiversity of the Wet Tropics, they are not fully aware of the threats, nor the impacts of their own actions. Apathy and a reluctance to make personal sacrifices is a major hindrance across the board.
Opportunities: However, we can capitalise on people’s strong connection to the landscape of the Wet Tropics and find the hooks that will appeal to people’s values, as well as novel and innovative ways for them to engage beyond the traditional ‘tree planting’ events. A key opportunity lies in communicating to the wider community about what they have to lose in terms of both their livelihood and lifestyle, should the status of our biodiversity decline much further.
Priority actions focus on innovative marketing of the things that make the Wet Tropics great, as well as the ways people can make a difference in their own backyard.
For a more detailed list of priority actions identified for biodiversity, click on the Priority Actions menu button.