Warning threatened species list will grow

·2-min read

Australia's threatened species list is set to grow significantly following devastating bushfires and other environmental catastrophes.

Threatened Species Commissioner Helene Marsh made the admission to a Senate estimates hearing on Monday, while questioning the government's entire approach to the issue.

Professor Marsh and her team are undertaking a review of hundreds of recovery plans for threatened species, which are designed to help protect them but are not enforceable.

More than 914 species need a recovery plan, including 273 animals.

"As a result of the bushfires and many other environmental catastrophes that are happening now, we are going to have a lot more species on the list unfortunately," Prof Marsh told senators.

"By using more tools in the toolbox we will be able to put the structures in place for more appropriate species recovery in this time of rapid change."

Prof Marsh says recovery plans do not guarantee action.

Instead, she says conservation advice can be just as effective and can be linked to funding.

"They are much more an instrument for the 21st century than a recovery plan," Prof Marsh said.

"Particularly as many of the states are now refusing to participate in the preparation of recovery plans as they did in the past."

Wildlife conservation group WWF found nearly three billion animals - including mammals, birds, reptiles and frogs - were killed or injured in the so-called Black Summer fires.

Since then, a review of Australia's environmental protection laws has found they are not fit for purpose and need to be stronger to prevent catastrophe.

The nearly $4 million independent review conducted by former competition watchdog Graeme Samuel also recommended an independent environmental cop.

Independent Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie on Monday introduced a bill to parliament to establish a commonwealth environment protection authority.

"I call on both major parties to support this bill. It's practical, has community support and will deliver real outcomes for our environment," he said.

Labor's environment spokeswoman Terri Butler said the opposition supported an independent cop, noting the bill would not pass parliament without the government's support.

The government wants to set up an environment assurance commissioner, to look at how effectively decisions are made rather than having power to challenge approvals.

Environmental groups have rejoiced at Mr Wilkie's bill, urging him to ensure it progresses by being looked at by a parliamentary inquiry.

Among the 38 recommendations made by Prof Samuel was a proposal to increase the level of environmental protection in regional forest agreements.

That recommendation rattled Nationals backbencher Bridget McKenzie, who has introduced a private member's bill to ensure regional forest agreements are exempt from environmental protections.