The Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 and the Sandalwood Act 1929 are outdated. The Wildlife Act has been in place for 66 years and does not have the features of modern biodiversity conservation legislation. Rather, it has a regulatory-based approach, reflecting its origins in the Game Act 1892 and Game Act 1912. The Fauna Protection Act 1950 was amended to become the Wildlife Conservation Act in 1980 when provisions for the protection and conservation of flora (native plants) were incorporated.
The Wildlife Act provides no promotion or encouragement for biodiversity conservation, no provisions for consultation and fully overlaps with fisheries legislation.
Likewise, the Sandalwood Act does not sufficiently regulate the harvest of Western Australia’s precious wild sandalwood resource. The Sandalwood Act only provides limited control on the process of wild harvesting, with a maximum penalty of $200, and no significant control over transport, storage, processing or sale of wild harvested sandalwood product.
Many governments have recognised the inadequacy of the Wildlife Act. A draft replacement Wildlife Conservation Bill was released in November 1992 and various subsequent Governments promised to produce a Biodiversity Conservation Bill. In 2013, introducing the Bill to Parliament became an election commitment of the Barnett government.
The Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2015 was introduced to State Parliament on 25 November 2015, and passed on 13 September 2016. The Bill became the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 upon receiving Assent on 21 September 2016.
The Biodiversity Conservation Act will eventually fully replace both the Wildlife Act and the Sandalwood Act. On 2 December 2016, several parts of the new Act were proclaimed by the State Governor in the Government Gazette. These parts came into effect on 3 December 2016, and cover (amongst other things):
While the Act provides new arrangements for Biodiversity Conservation Covenants, these arrangements do not replace or invalidate existing registered Nature Conservation Covenants which will continue unaffected by the Biodiversity Conservation Act.
Provisions that replace those existing under the Wildlife Act and Sandalwood Act (including threatened species listings and controls over the taking and keeping of native species) and their associated Regulations cannot be brought into effect until the necessary Biodiversity Conservation Regulations have been made. It is hoped the new Regulations will be completed and ready to commence by late 2017.
A new day is dawning for biodiversity protection in WA – sunrise over the Perth Hills
Photo © Parks and Wildlife
The new Act addresses the failings of the current Acts in a number of ways, including:
It is also noteworthy that all authorisations for traditional taking of protected native plants and animals by Aboriginal people that are in place under the Wildlife Act are continuing under the Biodiversity Conservation Act.
More information on the differences between the Biodiversity Act and the Wildlife Act and Sandalwood Act is summarised in the following document:
The Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 is available from the State Law Publisher’s website: