A prominent green group has implored the major political parties to prioritise the environment in the run up to the State election, warning uncontrolled growth was imperilling WA’s way of life.

Barely three weeks before voters cast their ballot at the March 9 poll, the World Wildlife Fund said WA’s current native animal conservation laws were weak and needed to be strengthened.

The group’s WA spokesman, Paul Gamblin, said he had written to the leaders of the major parties urging them to make commitments to five key areas affecting the State’s environment.

Among them was the need for a complete network or national and marine parks in the Kimberley, the promotion of “low impact development” and nature-based tourism in the South West and more renewable energy.

However, WWF said all parties should be focused on improving wildlife protection and biodiversity by overhauling the Wildlife Conservation Act, which was originally designed in the 1950s.

According to Mr Gamblin, the changes were imperative because WA’s run-away economic growth was putting unprecedented pressure on many areas of the environment, including vulnerable animals.

“The foot is firmly on the accelerator in WA at the moment. And while rising rents, traffic congestion and $5 cups of coffee are some of the obvious casualties of the State’s unprecedented growth, WA’s natural way of life is also becoming collateral damage,” Mr Gamblin said today.

“All parties contesting this election need to commit to policies that not only protect the State’s rich natural heritage, but also safeguard the way of life valued by Western Australians.

“Western Australia has the best performing State economy in one of the best performing national economies in the world so there is no excuse for not investing in the actions that are required over the next four years to save our most vulnerable wildlife and special natural places.”

Acknowledging plans by the Barnett Government to stiffen fines applicable under the Wildlife Conservation Act for harming or smuggling animals, Mr Gamblin said he had seen some “positive signs”.

“We’ve seen some positive intentions around a new Biodiversity Act announced in the lead up to the election, but it’s now time for WA’s leaders to spell out exactly how they will protect our unique wildlife from threats of land clearing and other impacts of rapid development,” he said.

“The penalties for killing native animals are paltry and there’s often little regard for habitat protection.

The West Australian

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