Conservation SA 2023 State Budget Response
- New bio data investment welcome, but no other new nature spending
- A 40% increase in visitor numbers to public nature spaces, showing that public interest to connect with nature is strong
- Huge North-South motorway spend continuing to crowd out public transport, walking or cycling investment
- No mention of climate in Treasurer’s speech, despite this issue increasingly shaping world events
- SA is behind other states in shifting to 7-star house rating – which means the new housing proposed for the next 12 months will continue to underdeliver on energy performance
Quotes attributed to Craig Wilkins, Conservation SA Chief Executive:
Biodiversity & Nature
There is an $8 million (over four years) investment to build a new biodiversity data and information system (BioData SA). This is important foundational work to ensure we capture and better utilise essential information on species and landscapes. We also welcome the commencement of funding for the Biodiversity Science Unit.
The budget papers reveal that visitor numbers for key nature visitor sites have increased 40% from 245,240 to 346,000.
“We welcome the creation of BioData SA and the investment in bedrock science and data systems, as they are essential for making good environment decisions.
“But the lack of other new nature investment is disappointing, particularly as visitor numbers to key nature sites such as Seal Bay and the Cleland National Park have increased a whopping 40% over the last 12 months.
“This clearly shows the appetite for people to connect with nature. But if we don’t invest properly in managing this visitor boom, we risk loving these places to death”
Overall, there is a small net increase in DEW operational funding over the next four years – a big reduction from the $27m increase in last year’s budget. While there were no new savings hits, the Environment Department continues to wear operational savings built into previous budgets. This total ‘efficiency’ savings reduction sits around $160m over the last decade, with a loss of over 500 FTE over the last 12 years and a fall in size of about 40%.
“Last year’s election commitment-related operational initiatives boost has well and truly gone. In the midst of an extinction and climate crisis, and with the Murray Darling Basin Plan on a knife edge, we need the Malinauskas Government to do far more to invest properly in our Environment Department.
“This year’s budget is not the step backwards for nature we have seen too often in previous years, but neither is it the leap forward we desperately need. We are fast running out of time, with many species and ecosystems on the brink.”
Throughout the budget, there are a range of significant costs that are a direct response to our worsening climate. These include:
- $26.7 million for an additional nine firefighting aircraft to tackle greater wildfires over longer fire seasons
- An additional $7.5 million for sand replenishment activities on our metro beaches
While other states are implementing a new national minimum 7 star energy rating for new housing this year, SA is delaying the shift until 2024. So, while the announcement of new social, public and private housing in this year’s budget is welcome, they will not be built to the national minimum standard.
“Climate Change is increasingly a major influence on global activity and will decimate this and future budgets through natural disasters, hits to agriculture and supply chains, health care costs and the heightening of inequality and other social disadvantage. It is remarkable and disturbing that in 2023 a Treasurer can deliver a budget speech and not mention the word ‘climate’ once.
“While new housing is welcome, the disappointing decision to delay the upgrade to new energy efficiency standards will mention a whole generation of homeowners and renters will be hit with higher running costs and worse thermal comfort. Delaying the introduction of new minimum standards – which other states have been quite happy to start in 2023 – is a massive missed opportunity for homeowners.”
The North-South Motorway project continues to dominate transport spending, at the expense of cleaner, safer and more efficient options.
“Transport remains the largest and fastest-growing share of our carbon emissions.
“The eye-wateringly massive spend on this single bit of road is dwarfing all other transport spending, whether it be regional roads, cycling, walking or public transport.
“There simply isn’t any capacity to consider the necessary shift to smarter and cleaner forms of transport.
“It’s not too late to scrap this runaway project and re-use the funds to transform our city for the better by shifting our dirty truck and car dominated transport system to cleaner, faster and healthier options.”