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Overall Summary

A total of 69 submissions were received. 50 of these were responses to the survey provided on the Engage Victoria portal, and 19 were written submissions. Some written submissions responded to the survey questions, and some provided general feedback about wildlife regulation only.

The survey was open to all Victorians; however, we acknowledge that the responses we received may not be representative of the broader community.

Key themes of responses include a desire for greater enforcement of the law, especially around the welfare of individual wildlife under legally issued Authority to Control Wildlife (ATCW), and the protection of habitat.

Responses also noted threats to wildlife from activities allowed under current legislation, including timber harvesting, the legal control of native wildlife under the ATCW provisions within the Wildlife Act 1975, and the shooting of native ducks in accordance with the Wildlife (Game) Regulations 2012 during open season each year. Responses also questioned the merits of existing laws. Feedback about the merits of existing laws is outside the scope of the Wildlife Statement of Regulatory Intent which seeks to articulate the Conservation Regulator’s approach under current laws.

The Conservation Regulators’ role is to reduce harm to the environment by supporting compliance with existing laws and taking regulatory action. Comments provided on timber harvesting policy, game management policy, and suggestions on changes to the law were referred to existing relevant processes examining these issues, including the current independent Wildlife Act 1975 review.

The Conservation Regulator’s intent and actions regarding the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004, including regulation of timber harvesting, are detailed in the Regulating Timber Harvesting in State Forests under the Allocation Order – Statement of Regulatory Intent. These activities were specifically out of scope of the Wildlife Statement of Regulatory Intent.

Scope of the Statement of Regulatory Intent

Most respondents (82%) rated the scope of responsibility presented in the Statement of Regulatory Intent to be clear or neutral. 18% of respondents indicated a need for further clarity of scope in the Statement of Regulatory Intent.

What we asked

We asked the community if the scope of responsibility presented by the Statement of Regulatory Intent was clear.

What we heard

Some responses from the community called for further clarity of the scope. Most of this feedback related to topics outside of the scope of the Statement of Regulatory Intent, including timber harvesting, legislation reform and private land management by local governments under the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

Within scope, suggestions were made to clarify the role of the Conservation Regulator towards fish, insects, and crustaceans. Clarity was also sought regarding the protection of game species.

Finally, feedback noted that a review is currently underway for the Wildlife Act 1975, the Wildlife Regulations 2013, and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986.

What we will do

We have amended the scope of the Wildlife Statement of Regulatory Intent to clarify the definition of wildlife regarding fish, insects, and crustaceans for the purposes of the SRI. We have also clarified the scope of the SRI regarding game.

“This Statement of Regulatory Intent does not cover deer or game birds (including pheasants and non-indigenous quail) which are regulated by the Game Management Authority under the Wildlife Act 1975. The Statement of Regulatory Intent covers all indigenous waterfowl declared as game species outside the open season declared by the Wildlife (Game) Regulations 2012. During the open season, these specified indigenous waterfowl are managed by the Game Management Authority. It also does not apply to fish within the meaning of the Fisheries Act 1995 which are regulated by the Victorian Fisheries Authority; or crustaceans and invertebrates except where these animals are listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988” (page 6)

We have added the National Parks Act as relevant secondary legislation within the Wildlife Statement of Regulatory Intent.

The Wildlife Statement of Regulatory Intent provides our current approach to wildlife regulation under the current legislation; however, we are committed to the review of Wildlife Statement of Regulatory Intent following the finalisation of the Wildlife Act 1975 review and the commencement of updated animal welfare legislation.

Any feedback received regarding issues with legislation has been passed on to the relevant legislative reform processes or policy teams, including the Wildlife Act 1975 review.

The Conservation Regulator’s approach to regulating wildlife

What we asked

We asked the community which of the following regulatory approaches they considered most critical to achieving wildlife protection:

  1. Set standards that protect environmental, social and cultural values and provide clarity on regulatory obligations.
  2. Inform and educate regulated entities and the community about the law and the rules that must be obeyed to comply with the law.
  3. Support compliance by assisting regulated entities and the community to understand how to comply with their obligations under the regulatory framework.
  4. Monitor compliance with the law including using community information and inspections and audits of licences, permits and authorities we have granted.
  5. Enforce the law by objectively and assertively requiring remedy for non-compliance with the regulatory framework, and where appropriate applying sanctions to deter future non-compliance.
  6. Collaborate by working with regulated entities and the community to improve practices and influence future standards of practice.

What we heard

Respondents had differing views on which of the presented approaches were most critical to achieving wildlife protection. Monitoring compliance and enforcing the law were clear priorities (receiving 23% and 29% of selections respectively) however all approaches were recognised as having a role in achieving the goals of the Conservation Regulator in protecting wildlife.

In discussing Conservation Regulator Collaboration with Community (receiving 14% of selections), respondents requested increased disclosure on investigation progress and outcomes.

Comments from submissions regarding the regulatory approaches:

“Monitoring Compliance is … crucial for wildlife protection. Without adequate monitoring, compliance regulators are completely in the dark about what offences are being committed, where they occur, and the details of how frequently; this leads to potential offences against wildlife continuing unabated.”

“Enforcing the law requires considerable uplift and visibility of prosecutions at escalating scales as real deterrents”

“Community provides “one way” information to the OCR on alleged wildlife cruelty, and … appreciate greater transparency provided … in exchange for its efforts – moving to a more proactive “two-way”

What we will do

Responses to this question recognise that the Conservation Regulator needs to use the full range of regulatory approaches in order to achieve regulatory outcomes. All of these approaches are included in the final SRI, and the Conservation Regulator will continue to use them in accordance with our Compliance and Enforcement Policy and Regulatory Framework.

Regarding disclosure of investigation progress and outcomes, since the Conservation Regulator was established, we have increased public transparency into our activities through the publication of our Regulatory Framework, annual Regulatory Priorities, and our Compliance and Enforcement Policy. We annually report on the outcomes of investigations through the Conservation Regulator “Year in Review”. The publication of prosecutions data is included as a reporting measure within the Wildlife Statement of Regulatory Intent.

Where applicable, information on outcomes is provided back to groups and individuals reporting alleged wildlife offences. However, procedural justice and privacy principles prohibit keeping community informed of specific enforcement efforts during investigations until a prosecution or other enforcement action is finalised.

Conservation Regulator performance on regulatory approaches

What we asked

We asked community opinion on how the Conservation Regulator was performing across the six regulatory approaches in regard to the protection of Wildlife.

  1. Set standards
  2. Inform and educate
  3. Support compliance
  4. Monitor compliance
  5. Enforce the law
  6. Collaborate with Community

What we heard

The feedback received from respondents is summarised below:

Regulatory approach Performance: Very well - neutral Performance: Poor - very poor
Set standards 44% 56%
Inform and educate 49% 51%
Support compliance 44% 56%
Monitor compliance 40% 60%
Enforce the law 22% 78%
Collaborate with community 33% 67%

Many responses that selected poor or very poor across monitoring compliance and enforcing the law indicated this rating was specifically related to timber harvesting activity; was due to limitations in legislation; or due to a perceived lack of resources.

“I feel Enforcement of the Law has been an area where there have been significant short comings within the department. Whether it's capacity and power to patrol, investigate and prosecute, or the influence in outcomes (e.g., fines, jail time) in the past, I feel this area is where our wildlife will get the most protection.”

“I feel that the OCR should concentrate on enforcing the law, using the full force of the law (which hopefully will be strengthened and provide greater penalties in the reviewed Wildlife Act), which will hopefully work as a deterrent.”

Respondents indicated the Conservation Regulator was doing relatively well at informing and educating regulated entities, specifically permission holders; but that more work needed to be done to educate and inform the wider community.

What we will do

The Conservation Regulator takes a risk-based approach when enforcing the law and focuses effort on areas of greatest environmental harm with an identified high risk of non-compliance. This includes the areas of priority harm listed within the Wildlife Statement of Regulatory Intent. More information on our risk-based approach can be found in the DELWP Regulatory Framework and the Conservation Regulator Compliance and Enforcement Policy.

In 2020-21, the Conservation Regulator laid 903, issued 38 Infringement Notice, and issued 20 Official Warnings in relation to wildlife crime. The Conservation Regulator is publicly communicating the outcome to these court cases as they are finalised, which may improve community and stakeholder understanding of the extent of our compliance and enforcement action.

Throughout our operations, the Conservation Regulator remains committed to continuous improvement in our regulatory activities and approach. Our regulatory mission is to be an effective, trusted, and best-practice regulator, aiming to be as transparent and accountable as possible about our regulatory policies, priorities, actions and outcomes. We appreciate community feedback to support us in achieving this mission.

Concerns and critique concerning timber harvesting will be considered in the context of Regulating Timber Harvesting in State Forests under the Allocation Order – Statement of Regulatory Intent, which has been subject to previous community consultation.

Feedback regarding regulatory tools and penalties have been directed to the current independent review into the Wildlife Act 1975.

The Wildlife Statement of Regulatory Intent provides our current approach to wildlife regulation under current legislation; however, we will review the Wildlife Statement of Regulatory Intent following the finalisation of the Wildlife Act 1975 review and the commencement of updated animal welfare legislation.

Priority harms

What we asked

We asked which of the following priority harms identified by the Conservation Regulator concerns the community the most:

  • The unauthorised destruction of wildlife, with a particular focus on the destruction of wildlife threatened by extinction
  • Illegal destruction of wildlife habitat as included in the Wildlife Regulations 2013
  • Illegal possession and trade of wildlife, both local and international
  • Non-compliance with licence, permit or authority conditions leading to poor wildlife welfare outcomes

We also asked respondents to describe any other priority harms they were aware of, in addition to those captured here.

What we heard

All the listed priority harms were represented in community responses. Many of the priority harms already identified were reiterated by comments received from the community. Respondent focus centred around the unauthorised destruction of wildlife and of wildlife habitat; however, in many cases respondents indicated that their focus in this area related to timber harvesting activity, which was stated as out of scope for this Statement of Regulatory Intent.

Priority harm Respondent selection
Non-compliance with licence, permit or authority conditions leading to poor wildlife welfare outcome 14%
The unauthorised destruction of wildlife, with a particular focus on the destruction of wildlife threatened by extinction 38%
Illegal destruction of wildlife habitat as included in the Wildlife Regulations 2013 44%
Illegal possession and trade of wildlife, both local and international 4%

A gap in the listed harms was identified by respondents.

“… would like to see wildlife cruelty and wildlife crime as a specific priority harm for the OCR. Wildlife cruelty and wildlife crime are not listed as a priority harm. … many reports from members of the public are received reporting wildlife being harmed and maimed, but not necessarily destroyed or killed, albeit that is often the end outcome.”

Wildlife cruelty towards non-captive individuals, not governed by any licence conditions, and not resulting in death is a gap in harmful activity not captured in the SRI.

What we will do

The priority harms within the final Wildlife Statement of Regulatory Intent have been updated to reflect the prioritisation of cruelty to wildlife and other wildlife interference.

All of the Conservation Regulator’s activities relating to its 2021-2022 regulatory priorities seek to protect natural values, including wildlife and wildlife habitat. For example, illegal vehicle use is a regulatory priority because it has the potential to damage wildlife habitat. Illegal campfires are a priority because they can turn into bushfires with potentially catastrophic impacts on life, property, wildlife and wildlife habitat. The Conservation Regulator has also identified illegal possession of wildlife as a regulatory priority in 2021-22 because it is an area of significant risk of harm to wildlife, and an area where the Conservation Regulator can have a lot of impact.

Drivers of non-compliance

What we asked

We asked the community whether the key drivers of non-compliance with legislation and the conditions of licences, permits and authorities were captured within the Statement of Regulatory Intent, being:

  • Lack of awareness of regulations
  • Economic gain
  • Conflicts between wildlife and human activities such as agriculture and amenity
  • A lack of awareness, or disregard for, the harm non-compliance can cause to wildlife and to the environment.

We also asked if any drivers were missing.

What we heard

52% of respondents indicated the key drivers of non-compliance and harm were captured within the Wildlife Statement of Regulatory Intent. 48% of respondents believed there were drivers missing. Respondents named a number of issues that are important to Victoria’s environment, but not necessarily drivers of non-compliant activity under the Wildlife Act 1975. For example:

“Loss of habitat from weed invasion”

“The removal of wildlife habitat (i.e., sanctioned by planning or building permits or fire regulation exemptions) resulting in the injury/death or loss of wildlife”

“Deforestation for unnecessary meat and dairy production.”

“Roadkill”

What we will do

Responses to this question signal a wide awareness of the many factors influencing wildlife welfare and persistence, and the detail provided by the community is appreciated. The drivers presented in the Wildlife SRI summarise the community feedback into overarching themes and reflect our current knowledge of why offenders commit crime against and affecting wildlife. These drivers will be used to identify and deliver interventions to reduce harm to wildlife and future offending.

The Regulatory Priorities 2021-2021 for the Conservation Regulator identify activities used to address some of these drivers, particularly around informing and educating both the public and regulated entities to stop wildlife non-compliance resulting from ignorance or lack of awareness.

The Conservation Regulator uses intelligence-led regulation, so future evidence of additional drivers will be incorporated as appropriate at review of the Wildlife SRI and in future Regulatory Priorities documents.

What does success look like?

What we asked

We asked the community what success looked like in relation to the following goals:

  • Significant reductions in the illegal keeping of, and trade in, Victorian wildlife
  • Support the perpetuation of vulnerable and endangered species by prioritising regulatory effort to protect them and their habitat
  • Ensure the Authority to Control Wildlife system is timely, consistent, and transparent, providing for the humane management of over-abundant species or wildlife presenting risks to human health and infrastructure
  • Regulatory effort is focussed on areas of highest risk to sustainable and healthy wildlife populations.

We also asked what other goals or success measures within this scope would facilitate wildlife protection.

What we heard

Respondents expressed broad support of the stated measures of success, and indicated success looked like the community living with wildlife, with healthy ecosystems and biodiversity, and the prevention of wildlife species becoming extinct. Respondents noted that goals and success measures should include an indication of community satisfaction with Conservation Regulator performance:

“…to see the OCR measured and monitored via an engagement score – both a community engagement score and a stakeholder engagement score – that are transparently reported and acted on. It is also critically important that the OCR is measured on the extent to which it meets broader community expectations versus discrete stakeholder groups additionally, that includes the level of satisfaction.”

What we will do

The Conservation Regulator will continue the activities listed in the Wildlife SRI, working towards achieving the outcomes and measures of success defined in the final Wildlife SRI and the Regulatory Priorities 2021-2022. Proposed measures of success will be listed in the final Wildlife SRI, and these will be reported on annually by the Conservation Regulator.

The Conservation Regulator regularly engages with the community about the laws governing conservation and environment protection in Victoria through various mediums, including formal surveys, our Stakeholder Reference Group, and social media. Community engagement activities undertaken by the Conservation Regulator occur throughout the year and are reported on annually through our Conservation Regulator ‘Year in Review’ reporting. A survey of stakeholder perceptions and expectations of the Conservation Regulator will be undertaken in 2021-2022, and the survey findings will help shape the way we communicate and engage with stakeholders in the future.

Public reporting

What we asked

The Conservation Regulator is committed to reporting on its performance and to be transparent in operations and outcomes. We asked the community what information should be released annually to indicate the performance of the Conservation Regulator and the realisation of the success measures.

What we heard

Respondents indicated an interest in the Conservation Regulator publicly reporting on licences that enable the care and possession of wildlife.

Additionally, there was a focus on reporting on prosecutions and regulatory efforts:

“Performance reporting should include number of successful prosecutions, fines issued, etc. as outcome measures”

“The number and types of education and information sessions held by the Conservation Regulator, as this is important in determining how the regulator is performing in the ‘inform and educate’ and ‘collaborate with community’ approaches. Release data on the number and type of educational activities conducted by the Conservation Regulator. Include the number of participants, the expected outcomes and a matrix for measuring the success of the session.”

Finally, respondents indicated that the Conservation Regulator should be working towards regulatory reform and that these efforts should be reflected in public reporting:

“The role of the regulator in pushing for these reforms needs to be articulated. What is the regulator’s role in advocating for legislative/regulatory reforms?”

What we will do

The Conservation Regulator will report annually through our ‘Year in Review’ on:

  • Enforcement activities including prosecutions and other enforcement activities.
  • Data on licences, permits and authorities issued within the year
  • Education efforts.

From this year, the annual reporting will also include the measures set out in the SRI, with the addition of qualitative reporting on regulatory improvement activities.

The Conservation Regulator commits to reviewing the Wildlife Statement of Regulatory Intent on a five-year cycle, to maintain currency of information and accuracy of activities.

Next steps

What we asked

We asked what opportunities for community engagement within the scope of this Statement of Regulatory Intent should be provided in the future.

What we heard

Most respondents expressed interest in continuously providing feedback to the Conservation Regulator, not just on specific projects.

“Regular widely advertised opportunities (internet and A4 flyers) for the community to provide feedback via questionnaires and submissions.”

“While consultation papers are a beneficial tool. Workshops and forums involving all stakeholders, including communities, would be beneficial to allow all Victorians (not just government, business, and land management) to actively participate in decisions that serve to conserve, protect, and enhance our biodiversity for the future. “

What we will do

The Wildlife Statement of Regulatory Intent has been reviewed and updated following the outcomes of this community consultation process and will be published on the Conservation Regulator website, along with this engagement report.

The Conservation Regulator is committed to engaging with the community about the laws governing conservation and environment protection in Victoria and providing guidance and support to encourage compliance. We recognise that being a successful regulator requires strong relationships, and that collaborating with our community leads to better outcomes.

Presently we are collaborating with a diverse range of stakeholders including through the Conservation Regulator Stakeholder Reference Group which provides advice to the Chief Conservation Regulator on the policies, strategies and processes that frame the Conservation Regulator’s regulatory work.

Community forums are a useful way to seek feedback on the effectiveness of the regulator and identify opportunities for improved regulation of timber harvesting, fire prevention, use of public land, wildlife, and biodiversity. In June 2021, the regulator held an inaugural Forum on Compliance and Enforcement in Timber Harvesting. Further community forums are also planned for 2022, including a recreational users of public land forum.

We are always interested to hear from our community about engagement ideas or collaborations. You can send your ideas by email to conservationregulator@delwp.vic.gov.au. To stay in touch on the day-to-day operations of the Conservation Regulator, you can follow us on Twitter @ConservationRegExternal Link .

Respondents who indicated they would like to be updated on this project will be sent project updates through Engage Victoria, or via email if feedback was submitted directly.

The Wildlife Statement of Regulatory Intent will be kept current as additional intelligence, regulatory reform, and innovative regulatory approaches emerge.

Reviewed 16 February 2022

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