Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action
1 Aug 2023

Foreword from the Chief Conservation Regulator, Kate Gavens

Kate Gavens, Chief Conservation Regulator

Protecting Victoria's state forests and native wildlife

We are very fortunate in Victoria to have access to beautiful and unique natural environments which are home to important native species and habitats. Our forests are also a great place to explore and experience nature.

The Conservation Regulator plays a critical role in protecting Victoria’s forests and native wildlife by educating the public, permitting activities and undertaking compliance functions across biodiversity, public land use, fire prevention, and timber harvesting.

Our ongoing commitment is to ensure safe and equitable access to public land that is consistent with the long-term health of the environmental values we are entrusted with. This includes partnering with Victorian Traditional Owners, co-regulators, community organisations, government partners and regulated individuals and organisations to deliver our goals.

The Conservation Regulator conducts a regular state-wide risk assessment process to determine the greatest threats to Victoria’s public land, biodiversity and wildlife and assesses where we, as a regulator, can make the most difference to mitigate these threats. These are our regulatory priorities.

The Victorian Government’s decision to cease native timber harvesting in State Forests by 1 January 2024 is critical context for our role. As the regulator of native timber harvesting, the Conservation Regulator will continue to regulate the timber industry and deliver the Forest Protection Survey Program in areas planned to be harvested through this transition process. We will continue to assess our priorities and our role in the regulation of this industry to ensure we are focusing on what matters through the transition.

Our refreshed regulatory priorities include a new focus on threatened species protection. This recognises the continued evidence of long-term biodiversity decline in state, federal and global analysis like the Victorian Government’s Biodiversity 2037 and Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

Wildlife protection has always been a key area of work for the Conservation Regulator. It continues this year with a sharpened focus on wildlife welfare.

This recognises the harm caused by illegal wildlife trafficking, poor management of wildlife (including those held as pets, for commercial gain and in human care) and from illegal disturbance and control of wildlife.

We are delighted to see the continued trend of more Victorians using public land for recreation. It motivates our work and validates our view that Victorian’s appreciate our shared environment. We continue to work with our regulatory partners and colleagues across the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA) so you can be sure your visitation supports our native species and habitats.

We appreciate the public’s interest and trust in our work and look forward to delivering on our commitments.

How we set our regulatory priorities

The Conservation Regulator is committed to meeting all our regulatory responsibilities. Our work is state-wide, including protecting ecosystems and managing activities across almost 34,000km2 of state forest.

We identify and implement a set of regulatory priorities to ensure this work is focused on the problems that are causing the greatest harms to the environment and the areas the regulator can make the most difference. We publish our regulatory priorities so the Victorian community and stakeholders have transparency about where we will focus our efforts and what they can expect from us.

Understanding risk allows us to identify priority areas and design effective solutions. As we review our regulatory priorities, we work to improve our ability to determine how we can be most effective in protecting Victoria’s environment.

We do this by continuing to:

  • Collect, collate and analyse data
  • Identify emerging environmental and behavioural trends
  • Undertake targeted research
  • Collaborate with our regulatory partners
  • Consult with key stakeholders and the Victorian community

Trends we are seeing

Cost of living

Victorians continue to experience cost of living pressures. Increased energy and home heating costs are driving demand for firewood resources, while housing shortages and regional migration rates are changing land use patterns. We expect these trends to continue as cost of living pressures and population growth remain.

Climate variability

Ecosystems across the state remain vulnerable as they recover from recent extreme weather events. Back-to-back La Niña events brought temporarily cooler and wetter conditions, resulting in increased fuel loads across the state and flooding impacts along the Ovens, Goulburn, Loddon and Murray River systems. These conditions are likely to change as Victoria is expected to experience reduced rainfall and warmer temperatures as atmospheric circulation shifts to an El Niño event in the second half of 2023.

Visitation rates

We continue to see year-on-year increases in visitation rates to public land across the state. Research shows that people who connect with nature are more likely to protect the natural environment, and spending time in nature increases health and wellbeing. This is a great opportunity for the Conservation Regulator to support visitors to enjoy their natural areas while ensuring the long-term health of Victoria’s forests, parks, and reserves.

Biodiversity decline

Consecutive state and federal ‘State of the Environment’ reports show our biodiversity is declining, and the number of threatened species is increasing. Climate change, habitat loss and degradation, and invasive species are the key threats to Victoria’s biodiversity. Australia’s commitment to the ‘COP15: Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework’ includes taking urgent action to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2023 and reducing extinction risk by 2050.

Wildlife welfare

The number of reports of illegal destruction or injuring of wild native animals is increasing, and the Conservation Regulator is concerned with the number of breaches of wildlife licences and authorities. Instances constituting cruelty, neglect or mistreatment are particularly concerning. Long-term declines in the populations of threatened species underpin the need for proactive action to protect Victoria’s most vulnerable native species.

Regulatory priorities

The Conservation Regulator’s state-wide regulatory priorities for 2023 – 2024 are:

  • Illegal campfires
  • Illegal take of firewood
  • Cruelty to wildlife
  • Protection of threatened species
  • Illegal commercial timber harvesting
  • Illegal vehicle use

Regulatory priorities

Talk to the Conservation Regulator

If you see something, let us know.