Department of Environment and Conservation (Western Australia)

The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) was a department of the Government of Western Australia that was responsible for implementing the state's conservation and environment legislation and regulations. It was formed on 1 July 2006 by the amalgamation of the Department of Environment and the Department of Conservation and Land Management.

Department of Environment and Conservation
Generic (Western Australia) shoulder patch for Western Australia Department of Environment and Conservation staff uniform
Agency overview
Formed1 July 2006
Preceding agencies
Dissolved30 June 2013
Superseding agency
JurisdictionGovernment of Western Australia
Agency executives
  • Keiran McNamara, Director general
  • Jim Sharp, Acting director general
Parent agencyDepartment of Conservation and Land Management
Child agency
Websitewww.dec.wa.gov.au

The DEC was separated on 30 June 2013 forming the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) and the Department of Environment Regulation (DER), which both commenced operations on 1 July 2013.

DPaW focuses on nature conservation and the community’s enjoyment and appreciation of Western Australia’s world-class network of national and marine parks. DER focuses on environmental regulation, approvals and appeals processes, and pollution prevention.

Status (at dissolution, 30 June 2013)

The department was managing more than 285,000 km², including more than nine per cent of WA's land area: its national parks, marine parks, conservation parks, regional parks, state forests and timber reserves, nature reserves, roadside reserves and marine nature reserves. It provided visitor and recreation facilities at a sustainable level for many of these.[1]

It also supported or worked closely with the following authorities:

The total reportable visitation to DEC-managed lands and waters during the 2012-13 financial year was 16.02 million, with visitor satisfaction levels of 88%.

4,717 people were registered volunteers with the Department in 2012-13 that helped in a range of projects across the state with 564,350 hours contributed.

DEC was responsible from 2007 to 2013 for protecting and conserving the state of Western Australia’s environment; this included managing:

At 30 June 2013, the total area under Department of Environment and Conservation’s care was 28,531,987 ha.

The department’s key responsibilities also included roles in managing, regulating and assessing aspects of the use of the State’s natural resources and biodiversity, including the regulation of native vegetation clearing and pollution control. The department initiated 14 environmental prosecutions during 2012–13, involving a broad range of charges including pollution, unauthorised clearing of native vegetation and illegal dumping. At 30 June 2013, eight environmental prosecutions remained before the courts. There were an additional 18 pending cases that, subject to the evidentiary standard being met, could result in prosecution or other sanction.

DEC was also responsible for the wildlife conservation project Western Shield.

The Department was also in charge of wildfire prevention and suppression on its land as well as fire prevention in unallocated Crown land.

The indicative burn target for 2012–13 in the south-west forest regions was 200,000 hectares. In 2012–13, DEC achieved 23,468 hectares in the south-west forest regions, including about 6,410 hectares that were burnt for pine plantation protection.

The combination of unsuitable weather conditions, fuels remaining dry due to summer conditions extending into autumn, and enhanced requirements in prescribed burn planning and risk management as a result of the 2011 Margaret River bushfire contributed to a significant reduction of the area able to be prescribed burnt this year.

The average area of burning achieved over the past 10 years has been about 163,019 hectares per annum.

A further 6,023,884 hectares was burnt in the Kimberley, Pilbara, Goldfields, Midwest, Wheatbelt and South Coast regions. The burns were carried out on DEC-managed lands as well as on unallocated Crown lands and unmanaged reserves within these regions.

DEC staff attended and monitored 676 bushfires throughout the state in 2012–13, which burnt about 5,477,394 hectares. The causes of these fires were:

  • lightning—28 per cent (above the 10-year average of about 24 per cent)
  • deliberately lit or arson-caused fires—37 per cent (below the 10-year average of about 43 per cent)
  • accidental fires—16 per cent
  • escapes from private burns—4 per cent
  • escapes from DEC burns—0 per cent
  • other causes—4 per cent
  • unknown—11 per cent.

Some of the most severe bushfires the Department had to suppress, in chronological order, included:

FireLocationArea burned
(1 ha ≈ 2.5 acres)
DateHuman fatalitiesLivestock death/Properties damaged
Dwellingup bushfireWestern Australia12,000 ha4 February 2007016
Boorabbin National Park bushfireWestern Australia40,000 ha30 December 20073Powerlines and Great Eastern Highway, forced to close for 2 weeks
Toodyay bushfireWestern Australia3,000+ ha29 December 2009038
Lake Clifton bushfireWestern Australia2,000+ ha11 January 2011010 homes destroyed
Roleystone Kelmscott bushfireWestern Australia1,500+ ha6–8 February 2011072 homes destroyed, 32 damaged, Buckingham Bridge on Brookton Highway collapsed and closed for 3 weeks whilst a temporary bridge was constructed and opened a month after the fires
Margaret River bushfireWestern Australia4,000 ha24 November 2011034 homes destroyed including the historic Wallcliffe House[2]
Carnarvon bushfire complexWestern Australia800,000+ ha27 December 2011 - 3 February 2012011 pastoral stations (fences, watering systems, water points, stock feed).
Black Cat Creek bushfire[3]Western Australia1,300 ha12 October 20121 (DEC firefighter Wendy Bearfoot)Private lands, pine plantations, Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve.

Preceding agencies

National parks (and the earlier forms) in Western Australia were under:[4]

  • Department of Lands and Surveys: 1 January 1890 – (partly split) 31 December 1895
  • Wood and Forests Department: 1 January 1896 – 31 December 1918
  • Forests Department: 1 January 1919 – 21 March 1985
  • State Gardens Board: 15 December 1920 – 30 April 1957 (Parks and Reserves Act 1895)
  • National Parks Board: 1 May 1957 – 30 July 1977
  • Department of Fisheries and Fauna: 1 October 1964 – 31 December 1973
  • National Parks Authority: 1 August 1977 – 15 April 1985 (National Parks Authority Act 1976)
  • Wildlife section of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife: 1 January 1974 – 21 March 1985
  • Department of Environment: 1 July 2004 - 30 June 2006
  • Department of Conservation and Land Management: 22 March 1985 – 30 June 2006 (Conservation and Land Management Act 1984)

Vehicles

The Department maintained and coordinated a range of specialist equipment and emergency response vehicles. This included pumpers, water bombers and tankers and other equipment relating to operations involving search and rescue and firefighting.

See also

Notes

  1. Department of Environment and Conservation, 2012-13 Yearbook (153 pages) and 2012-13 Annual report (149 pages).
  2. "Rain could help damp down WA bushfires". ABC News. 25 November 2011. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  3. Sarah Helen LINTON, Coroner: Inquest into the death of Wendy Elizabeth BEARFOOT (1225/2012), RECORD OF INVESTIGATION INTO DEATH, Ref: 40/16.
  4. Information from the Aeon database at State Records Office of Western Australia
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