5 reasons why we need strong nature laws

Thursday, 29 February 2024

  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes

5 reasons for strong nature laws

The momentum is building for strong nature laws in Australia. But why do we need them? 

Australian nature is in a crisis – with around 1 in 6 Australian birds now at risk of extinction.

Our national environment law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (or EPBC), is supposed to halt and prevent the decline and disappearance of our precious plants and animals. Instead, it’s failing the threatened species it’s supposed to protect.

But there is hope.

The momentum is building for strong nature laws in Australia – and for the first time in decades, our laws are being rewritten. In the coming months, Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek will introduce these nature law reforms in Parliament. If we’re going to stop Australia’s extinction crisis and recover nature, we have to get it right.

Here are 5 reasons why we need strong nature laws in Australia – and why you should join us in calling for the protection of the birds and places we love.

1. The Swift Parrot

Crowned your 2023 Australian Bird of the Year, the Critically Endangered Swift Parrot is the fastest parrot species in the world, and one of only a handful of migratory parrots. But sadly, Swift Parrots are being pushed towards extinction.

Today, the biggest threat to Swifties is the destruction of their forest homes – and yet the native forests that Swift Parrots depend on continue to be logged on both sides of Bass Strait.

If this relentless habitat destruction and their current rate of decline continues, experts predict that fewer than 100 birds will remain by 2031.

It’s now or never for saving our Swifties. We urgently need strong nature laws that will protect, not destroy, Australia’s native forests and other critical threatened species’ habitat.


In the centre of the frame, a brightly-coloured Swift Parrot is perched on the branch of a flowering eucalypt, surrounded by gum leaves and blossoms and facing towards the camera.
A Critically Endangered Swift Parrot feeding on blossom. Photo by Michael Todd

2. The Eastern Curlew

The Critically Endangered Eastern Curlew is the world’s largest shorebird species. Every year, they leave their breeding grounds in Russia and China to make the epic 12,000km long migration to the coasts of Australia.

Migratory shorebirds like the Eastern Curlew need safe refuges to feed, rest and prepare for their long journeys across the globe – like the Ramsar-listed wetlands of Queensland’s Moreton Bay.

But hectares of this internationally significant wetland could soon be destroyed – if Walker Corporation’s controversial real estate project proposal is approved under our current nature laws. If Australia’s largest private developer succeeds in destroying this internationally important site, then no wetland is safe – and our nature laws have failed.

Businesses and Government projects are taking advantage of legal loopholes and our weak nature laws to trash nature for profit – and it’s time for a major overhaul to hold them accountable.

In the centre of the frame, a pale brown and streaked Eastern Curlew takes off from the surface of the water, with wings and legs outstretched and droplets of water falling from its bill and feet.
A Critically Endangered Eastern Curlew takes flight. Photo by Simon Blanchflower

3. The Hooded Plover

Hooded Plovers are one of Australia’s few resident shorebirds, spending their entire lives on our coasts.

Like other beach-nesting shorebirds, Hooded Plovers lay their eggs directly onto the exposed sand of southern Australia’s ocean shores – making them vulnerable to human disturbance, especially on crowded beaches.

The odds are stacked against them – but thanks to the efforts of a dedicated community of scientists, researchers, volunteers and locals, their population is slowly recovering.

We know that conservation efforts work when we follow the science and we resource it properly – and we need new laws that adequately fund and resource threatened species recovery.

To the right of the frame, an adult Hooded Plover with a black head and neck, white front and red eyes and beak is perched behind some seaweed in the foreground among the sand of the beach. In the background, out of focus, is the blurry shape of a human walking along the shore and the blue water of the ocean.
Hooded Plovers nest in a shallow scrape of sand on ocean beaches. Photo by Larissa Hill

4. The Carpentarian Grasswren

Grasswrens are like the goth cousins of Australia’s fairy-wrens: they’re bigger, darker and much shyer. They’re only found in the more remote regions of Australia – like the Carpentarian Grasswren, which is confined to small populations among the rocky spinifex country of the southern Gulf of Carpentaria.

There’s a lot we don’t know about these striking and elusive birds – but we do know that their population has declined dramatically. Like other grasswrens, they’re restricted to specialised habitat and are poor fliers, making them especially vulnerable to habitat loss and destruction caused by more intense and frequent fires. While Carpentarian Grasswrens are Endangered, they’re one of many species without a Recovery Plan to help their population recover.

Instead of choosing winners and losers, the Government must increase their funding of habitat restoration and threatened species conservation so that we can save them all.

To the right of the frame, a Carpentarian Grasswren with black, brown and white plumage is perched on a log and calling with tail cocked, against a splotched brown background.
A male Carpentarian Grasswren. Photo by Luke Paterson

5. The Gang-gang Cockatoo

Known for their distinctive creaky-doorlike call and fluffy crests, Gang-gang Cockatoos are one of Australia’s most beloved and charismatic birds. Once a common sight across south-eastern Australia, their population has declined by 70% in less than 30 years. Then, after the devastating Black Summer Bushfires burnt 30% of their habitat, Gang-gang Cockatoos were uplisted to nationally Endangered in 2022.

These cold-climate loving cockies are just one of many species facing threats like climate change and habitat destruction. That’s why we need strong legislation that reflects and addresses the many threats facing nature in Australia – and rises to the challenge of protecting nature and our most threatened species from these threats.

A pair of Gang-gang Cockatoos calling with beaks open and crests extended. They are perched in a tree against a grey and white dappled background, and the male (right) has a red head and crest.
A pair of Gang-gang Cockatoos. Photo by Ben Harvey 

Join the movement

It’s our time to act.

These five birds are just some of the 163 species listed as threatened and at risk of extinction – and they need us to act now.

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make sure the Government delivers strong nature laws that will protect the birds and places we love and put nature on the path to recovery.

Sign our petition for strong nature laws today.