EPA reveals Western Australia's environment report card

Summary: Today the Environmental Protection Authority, the States independent environmental authority, released the State of the Environment (SoE) Report: Western Australia 2007.
Release Date: 2 July 2007

Today the Environmental Protection Authority, the State's independent environmental authority, released the State of the Environment (SoE) Report: Western Australia 2007.

Dr Andrea Hinwood, Deputy EPA Chairman formally released the report to the West Australian community on behalf of the EPA and retired Chairman Dr Wally Cox whose chairmanship oversaw the production of the report.

Dr Hinwood said the environmental report card represents a stocktake of our environmental assets. It summarises the condition of WA's environment, assesses the major environmental issues or problems, and makes recommendations for addressing these.

"The report's findings show that the biggest environmental challenges for WA are preventing the loss of biodiversity, halting the degradation of inland waters (such as wetlands and waterways), and addressing global pressures such as climate change and the growing consumption of natural resources."

The SoE Report identifies 34 environmental issues of importance to Western Australia. These issues have been prioritised by the EPA ranging from 'top priority' to 'low priority' issues.

'Top priority' environmental issues for Western Australia include (in no particular order):

  • Climate change;
  • Consumption of natural resources;
  • Greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Phytophthora dieback;
  • Introduced animals;
  • Weeds;
  • Land salinisation; and
  • Salinisation of inland waters.

"Most of these 'top priority' environmental issues are serious and appear to have worsened over the past decade", she said. "In most instances, there are no quick fixes for these issues".

There have been some success stories however.

"Levels of air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, lead and photochemical smog are declining in Perth. This can be attributed to improved fuel and emission technology in vehicles and tighter controls on industry emissions", Dr Hinwood said.

"There is also evidence of reduced sulphur dioxide levels in historical problem areas such as Kalgoorlie and Kwinana."

"Rising salinity levels in the Collie and Denmark rivers have been halted due to intensive catchment management and revegetation. There is even emerging evidence of a declining salinity trend in the Denmark River which represents a first in Australia".

"Biodiversity recovery programs such as Western Shield have helped to save 13 native species on the brink of extinction. In fact, WA is the only place in the world where three endangered mammals - the tammar wallaby, the quenda and the woylie - have been taken off the endangered fauna list due to specific management actions."

The SoE Report also examines the progress of some key economic sectors towards environmental sustainability.

"While the current economic boom is good for our economy, it is putting an unprecedented demand on our natural resources and on our environment," Dr Hinwood said.

"At these times we must ensure that we remain equally committed to the environment, just as we are to the economy. The long term health of WA's environment and its people shouldn't be sacrificed at the expense of making a short-term economic gain.

Dr Hinwood said that while it was important for the State Government to take the lead in responding to the State of the Environment Report, it was equally important for local government, industry, business and the community to also respond.

"Collectively, our actions can ensure a greater benefit for the environment if everyone works together.

"There's no doubt that we face a substantial challenge in addressing all the environmental problems facing WA. But, given our current economic prosperity, high level of community concern for the environment and improved knowledge base, we have never been in a better position to seriously tackle the State's major environmental issues," Dr Hinwood said.

The EPA has taken over three and a half years to develop the State of the Environment Report: Western Australia 2007 due to extensive community consultation, major stakeholder involvement and widespread collation of information. A draft version of the report was released in June last year for public comment and much of the feedback received has been incorporated into the final report.

Nearly 300 individuals from over 60 organisations have been involved in the compilation of the report, with many participating on working groups providing technical advice to the EPA.

This included representatives from many government agencies, environmental groups, peak business and industry groups, community groups, research and academic institutions.

The State of the Environment Report: Western Australia 2007 can be viewed at www.soe.wa.gov.au or copies are available from the Department of Environment and Conservation.

The EPA will be holding a public seminar on the findings of the State of the Environment report at the Alexander Library Theatre, Wednesday 25th July 2007, 4:30 to 5:30pm. Speakers include EPA members and other prominent community members involved in the development of the report.

Media contact: Charlie Maling 6467 5415 or 0400 866 450

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