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Monday, 28 May 2012
Page: 5631

Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (10:09): On behalf of the Standing Committee on Climate Change, Environment and the Arts, I present the committee's report entitled Case Studies on Biodiversity Conservation: Volume 1; First interim report of the inquiry into Australia's biodiversity in a changing climate.

Ordered that the report be made a parliamentary paper.

Mr ZAPPIA: by leave—In June last year, the Standing Committee on Climate Change, Environment and the Arts commenced an inquiry into Australia's biodiversity in a changing climate. The inquiry's terms of reference are very broad, and they encompass: terrestrial, freshwater and marine biodiversity; the connectivity between ecosystems as a potential measure for biodiversity conservation; how biodiversity loss might affect human communities; enhancing our ability and the capacity of ecosystems to adapt to climate change; the sustainable use of natural resources; the adequacy of governance arrangements; and enhancing the community's engagement with the subject of biodiversity.

With such expansive terms of reference, the committee considered an extensive inquiry process to be most appropriate. The committee also decided that it would be appropriate to present an interim report in order to update the House on the inquiry's progress. Similarly, the committee felt that an interim report would allow those outside the parliament to follow the progress on aspects of the inquiry, particularly those individuals and organisations who have contributed to the inquiry by making submissions, facilitating visits and giving evidence at public hearings.

Before moving on to the content of the report, I should add that the committee chose to present this first interim report during the winter sittings of the House in anticipation of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development being held next month. This so-called 'Rio+20' conference marks 20 years since the world's focus on environmental conservation and sustainable development shifted significantly—the Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro. One of the key international agreements on biodiversity conservation came out of that summit, the Convention on Biological Diversity. The presentation of this report is therefore timely. It also highlights the relevance of the committee's inquiry to the broader framework of biodiversity conservation internationally.

In relation to the progress of the inquiry itself, since its commencement in June last year, the inquiry has received 81 submissions, 52 exhibits, and numerous additional documents. To date, evidence has been received from: environmental organisations, state and territory government departments, federal government bodies, natural resource management bodies, academics, natural history museums, and interested individuals. I might add that the committee has been very impressed indeed with the breadth and depth of the evidence it has received to date.

The committee has held seven public hearings in Canberra, Perth, Hobart, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. The committee has carried out numerous site inspections around the country, gathering evidence on case studies in biodiversity conservation. This first interim report of the inquiry sets out the committee's site visit activities in: south-west Western Australia; the Tasmanian midlands and central plateau; the New South Wales Snowy Mountains region; and Sydney.

As the committee still has a considerable forward work program planned, it was the wish of the committee to avoid pre-empting future evidence or deliberations. The report therefore takes a narrative approach to detailing the committee's activities, but refrains from detailing broader conclusions or making recommendations at this stage.

The committee's site inspection program has been shaped by several key principles. The committee agreed it was important to carry out activities in each state and territory to look at different types of ecosystems as recommended to the committee in submissions to the inquiry and investigate the different impacts of climate change in different regions with a particular focus on biodiversity and climate change hot spots. While noting the differences across regions and ecosystems, the inspection program has also given the committee the opportunity to see commonalities in the challenges faced in each region—for example, changes in rainfall patterns, changes in fire regimes as a result of land use and climate-driven factors—and the impact of disease and pest were threats to biodiversity observed throughout various site visits. What is clear from the site inspections is that the effects of climate change on Australia's unique biodiversity are not certain and not uniform. This is a challenge the committee will face throughout this inquiry and it is also a challenge to policymakers and land managers on the ground.

Finally, I would like to record my thanks to members of the committee who have worked together in a bipartisan and collegiate way. I also thank the committee secretariat, made up of Julia Morris, Peggy Danaee, James Nelson, Peter Pullen, Julia Searle and newcomer Susan Dinon for their terrific support of the committee's work. I look forward to updating the House again in the future on this inquiry's progress. I commend the report to the House.