Common Assessment Method for listing threatened species

The Australian Government, working with state and territory jurisdictions, established a nationally consistent and harmonised assessment method for listing the conservation status of species across Australia. This work was undertaken to address the misalignment of threatened species lists between state and territory jurisdictions due to the use of different threat categories and approaches to assessing the risk of species extinction. In 2015, environment ministers agreed to the Intergovernmental memorandum of understanding – Agreement on a common assessment method for listing of threatened species and ecological communities (‘the Memorandum of Understanding’).

The Memorandum of Understanding supported the adoption of the Common Assessment Method (CAM) for listing threatened species, in order to reduce duplication of effort and achieve greater consistency in the classification of species across Australia.

Implementation of the CAM will lead to the creation of a single classification for species across Australia, reducing regulatory complexity for both the community and industry.

The CAM is based on the categories and criteria prescribed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). More detail about the CAM can be found on the Australian Government Department of Environment and Energy website and further information about the IUCN can be found on the IUCN website.

The implementation process for the CAM is as follows:

Step 1 – Amendments to primary legislation

Amend the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (NC Act) to:

  • introduce new classes of wildlife and align current classes to those used by the IUCN e.g. extinct in the wild, endangered, vulnerable, near threatened, and least concern;
  • make amendments to the criteria for extinct in the wild, endangered and vulnerable classes of wildlife to ensure consistency with the common assessment method; and
  • establish offences for unlawful take, keep and use of wildlife that will be listed under the new classes of wildlife.

Amendments to legislation will also be required to establish a conservation dependent class for fish species. However, options to give effect to this remain under consideration.

Progress update

On 27 February 2019, amendments to give effect to the Common Assessment Method wildlife classes of ‘extinct’ and ‘critically endangered’ were introduced in the Legislative Assembly. They were included in the Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019. The Bill has been referred to the Innovation, Tourism Development, and Environment Committee, which will review the Bill and report back to Parliament.

Step 2 – Amendments to subordinate legislation

Whilst the NC Act establishes the classes of wildlife in Queensland, the Nature Conservation Regulations establish what species of wildlife sit within each class, and establish the permit and licencing requirements for the take, keep, and use of each class of species.

Amendments to the suite of subordinate legislation related to wildlife management under the NC Act, collectively known as the Nature Conservation Regulations will be required. These will ensure that the permit and licencing, and administrative framework, can enable the take, keep and use of the new classes wildlife. Amendments to the classes of wildlife under the NC Act (STEP 1) will not have any practical effect until these amendments are made.

Step 3 – Species reclassification

Each existing listed species will progressively be considered against the principles and standards of the CAM and transitioned to a consistent threat category in each jurisdiction. An inter-jurisdictional working group is developing principles for this transition work to ensure that it is a robust and consistent but not onerous process. The group is also establishing a process to prioritise this transition work. Matters being considered by the group include standards of evidence, consultation between jurisdictions, public consultation during assessment, and dispute resolution between jurisdictions.

Queensland’s representatives on the inter-jurisdictional working group include officers of the Department of Environment and Science, and also the chair of the State’s independent Species Technical Committee.

Consultation process

The Department of Environment and Science carried out initial consultation with targeted stakeholders on the initial proposal to adopt the CAM process. This included representatives from the resource, industry, property, and conservation sectors. The department will consult during each of the three implementation steps to ensure regulatory best practice is met through an informed and transparent decision making process.