Welcome spotlight on Enviro Budget as SA Parliament declares a climate emergency 

The state’s peak environment body has strongly welcomed the long-overdue focus on funding for the Environment Department in the lead up to tomorrow’s state budget.


MEDIA RELEASE 

1 June 2022

Welcome spotlight on Enviro Budget as SA Parliament declares a climate emergency 

The state’s peak environment body has strongly welcomed the long-overdue focus on funding for the Environment Department in the lead up to tomorrow’s state budget.

It comes as SA joins the ACT Parliament and a very large number of local councils to formally declare a climate emergency, with the support of all sides of politics.

“After tens of millions of dollars and huge numbers of staff have been ripped out of the Environment Department’s operating budget over the last few years, we are definitely hoping this year’s budget will be the start of a rebuild,” said Conservation SA Chief Executive Craig Wilkins.

“This Department is often seen as an easy target for Treasury savings.

“Over the past 10 years, we estimate that over 500 staff have been let go.  That’s a shocking hit to one of the smaller branches of Government.

“Over the last four years alone the Environment Department has had to find around $34 million in savings.  That’s equivalent to about 100 staff.

“Yet in the midst of an extinction crisis, and with storms on the horizon in climate and water we desperately need the relevant arm of Government to have the capacity to forecast and plan ahead, not be scrambling to play catch up.

“Due to previous cutbacks, there is precious little capacity anymore for baseline science in the Department. That’s a massive risk to our state.

“As we’ve seen with COVID, we need good science to inform good decision making.

“And decisions around water, climate and healthy landscapes will drive our state’s productivity and our ability to attract investment and people and grown our own food.

“While the last State Government invested in National Park visitor infrastructure and facilities, the underlying operational budget to manage the Park system continued to freefall. 

“The creation of the Glenthorne National Park is a good example.  All the funding was allocated to setting the place up.  But there was no new money for staffing and maintaining this new Park.  

“As a result, the Environment Department is forced to stop funding other vital work in order to operate basic facilities across the state. 

“Previous Labor Governments have also been guilty of stripping money out of the Environment Department, so we are definitely looking for a fresh approach from the Malinauskas Government.

“The good news is that it looks like all the new Government’s biodiversity and nature protection election commitments will be funded by new money, so the Department will not be forced to find the money internally by cutting other programs,” he said.

Yesterday’s formal declaration of a Climate Emergency by both houses of the SA Parliament follows a concerted community push, including a petition which attracted more than 10,000 signatures. 

“We warmly congratulate Deputy Premier Susan Close for moving the Climate Emergency Motion, and the SA Parliament in both chambers for supporting it.  It is a welcome and long overdue recognition of the dire situation we face,” Mr Wilkins said.

“Now with the formal declaration of a climate emergency the focus from the State Government must be on building our state’s capacity to tackle the emergency ahead of us.

“And to recognise that we need to stop doing the things that make the climate worse.

“That includes stopping all exploration for new gas, coal and oil and shifting funding for transport away from big road projects towards electric vehicles, public transport, walking and cycling,” he said.  

Release Ends

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Contact Conservation SA on (08) 8223 5155, [email protected], or at our offices at the Joinery at 111 Franklin Street, Adelaide.

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