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1.1 - The environment and iconic places are in decline and under increasing threat

The evidence provided to this Review about the state of Australia’s environment is compelling. Overall, Australia’s environment is in a state of decline and under increasing pressure. There are localised examples of good outcomes but the national outlook is one of decline and increasing threat to the quality of the environment. At best, the operation of the EPBC Act has contributed to slowing the overall rate of decline (Box 3).

In contrast to the outcomes for biodiversity, contributions to the Review present a mixed view about heritage. The EPBC Act has strengthened Commonwealth obligations and enabled resources to be targeted towards protecting Australia’s significant and outstanding heritage places. However the World Heritage and National Heritage values of some iconic places have diminished, and the recognition of and funding for community and historic heritage has reduced.

The Australian environment faces significant future pressures, including land-use change, pollution, habitat fragmentation and degradation, and invasive species. Climate change will continue to exacerbate these impacts and contribute to ongoing decline.

The current state of the environment means that it is unlikely to be sufficiently resilient to increasing future threats. The lack of long-term monitoring data limits the ability to understand the pace and extent of environmental decline, which actions to prioritise and whether previous interventions have been successful.