Written by Grainne Maguire/BirdLife Australia
The future of BirdLife Australia’s Beach-nesting Birds Program is currently facing uncertain times. We were unsuccessful in the first stage Expression of Interest for the latest round of Caring for Our Country funding. This has left us shocked that the Federal Government could cut loose a program that has been so active and successful around the Australian coast — a program where results are obvious, projected outcomes are consistently met or exceeded, and where you actually get a sense that you are making the world a better place. Without wanting to sound ungrateful for the wonderful support we have received from the Federal Government, we were surprised that they let something build positive momentum and widespread community support and then cut it off mid-journey.
While the program appeared to be a perfect fit with one of the key target areas in this cycle of Caring for Our Country funding — the Australian Coast — the lack of recognition of any resident shorebirds as nationally significant species has let them down. The irony is that the EPBC Act has greater powers for protecting migratory species than it does for shorebirds which live only in Australia, mainly due to international agreements. For the Hooded Plover, the lack of recognition of their nationally threatened status, and the political nature of EPBC Act listings has meant that they aren’t on the list. We don’t have nearly enough information on the Beach Stone-curlew to confidently state whether this species is in trouble or not — we certainly know it is threatened in NSW and Qld, and that the supposed strongholds on Cape York, offshore islands and the Top End aren’t as pristine or resilient as we thought.
And yet, to our knowledge, these issues are not on the Government’s radar as a concern, and are really only half-heartedly being addressed by state and regional agencies due to resourcing issues.
Without the Beach-nesting Birds program, we are likely to lose our voice and our connection across the nation. Because these birds are highly dispersed, their conservation requires a unified cross-border, multi-landmanager approach. As an NGO, we have the capacity to bring everyone together and, as scientists who are independent of politics, we have the know-how to identify priorities for conservation management and get them implemented.
BirdLife Australia is putting together a crisis appeal which can be reached at http://www.savethebirds.org.au/. For more information please contact Grainne Maguire, Project Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org (Editor)