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"Sharing the Vision": A Report from the Third National Conference of the ANPC

Volume 2 Number 9 - December 1997

Jeanette Mill & Lyn Meredith

The 3rd National Conference of the Australian Network for Plant Conservation (ANPC) was held at Coffs Harbour, New South Wales (NSW), Australia from June 23 - 27, 1997.

The title of the conference was "Sharing the Vision". The opening address was given on behalf of the Hon. Pam Allan, New South Wales Minister for Environment, and emphasised the achievements of the NSW Government in threatened species conservation. A new recovery plan for Zieria prostrata, an endangered plant which occurs in the Coffs Harbour area, was also launched at the opening of the conference. Media interest in the event was strong. The conference and the recovery plan launch attracted at least eleven separate coverages by all types of media, including local and state-wide. The combination of a local and a national event were complementary in achieving this.

The major conference sponsors were Environment Australia and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. Thanks also go to the many organisations who provided resources to assist in the running of the conference. These include equipment, field trip guides, poster presenters, workshop facilitators and the technical support team.

Jeanette Mill, National Coordinator of the ANPC, outlined the work of the network since the 2nd Conference in Perth in September 1995. The review and three year strategic plan for the ANPC is well underway, and was due for completion in late August, 1997. The conference provided a forum for members to decide the ANPC's future goals, which form the basis of the strategic plan.

An international flavour was supplied by New Zealand's Dr David Given, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission's Plant Conservation sub-committee. This was followed by A National View, from a Global Perspective, by Dr Peter Bridgewater (Chief Science Adviser with Environment Australia). Lyn Meredith gave a paper on the Endangered Species Program (ESP) related to the ANPC co-written with Katrina Jensz. The conference sessions on Germplasm, Information Collection and Dissemination, Translocation and Sharing It were followed by workshops on these topics.

The Guidelines for the Translocation of Threatened Plants in Australia and the Germplasm Conservation Guidelines for Australia have now been published and were launched at the conference by Dr Peter Bridgewater. They have been supported by the Australia and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council's Standing Committee on Conservation and have only been possible through the dedication of the members of the two working groups, with special acknowledgment to the staff of Kings Park research laboratory for the work put in to finalise production.

An emerging theme was the need for a third in the series of integrated plant conservation guidelines, examining in situ techniques such as assessment of threats, and considering the range of management options to address them.

Some of the papers of particular interest to the Threatened Species and Communities Section were:

  • Germplasm Storage and Community Involvement by Darren Touchell of Kings Park and Botanic Garden, Perth. This paper discussed recovery actions in the central wheatbelt, an area which contains 67 endangered and many vulnerable plant species. The recovery work has involved the cooperation of Kings Park and the local community.
  • The session Information Collection and Dissemination, was chaired by Katrina Jensz and included a paper by Sandra and Gwyn Griffiths of the Queensland Biodiversity Network, a community organisation on Queensland's Vanishing Species Database: Bringing Biodiversity to the Community. The paper outlined this innovative programme which makes threatened species information available to users on a local scale.
  • David Keith's paper, Design of Rare Plant Surveys: Asking the Right Questions to Fill Information Gaps, reported on an ESP funded project to survey rare Epacris species in Tasmania.
  • The 3rd session comprised three papers all reporting on projects which are ESP funded. In particular, Rod Peakall's paper, Defining Research Priorities for Achieving Practical Conservation Outcomes: Lessons from the Case of Zieria prostrata, received overwhelming critical acclaim.
  • The 4th session comprised 8 papers on a range of topics including the dangers of modern agricultural practices, various examples of community participation, and cooperative conservation work between industry and government.

At the conference dinner, Dr Mary White, author of The Greening of Gondwana gave an interesting talk in which she illustrated that all of today's environmental problems are inevitable given the Australian palaeobotanical record and human activity since 1770.

Field trips were held on the fourth day to Dorrigo National Park (rainforest) or Bongil Bongil Garden, which contains an interesting collection of native plant species in cultivation (a private garden of John Wrigley, who was instrumental in the formation of the Australian National Botanic Garden in Canberra), and to Bruxner Park Flora Reserve which supplied an interesting overview of cool-tropical rainforest flora.

Overall, once again the ANPC conference was a useful networking exercise, with excellent informative papers.