Debate: Members of WA environmental organisations during the Landcare Forum in Fairbridge. Photo: Cam Findlay.The future of environmental protection in politics was hotly debated by Landcare members at a state-wide forum held at Fairbridge today.

The forum saw members from more than 30 environmental organisations meet and discuss strategies to increase their say in governmental policy making.

Issues such as the state government’s Green Growth Plan, fracking, resource management and development were debated, with a consensus on the need for a unified voice being the driving theme.

“It’s very unusual for the government to fund a group that lobbies them,” Landcare National CEO Jim Adamssaid.

“Landcare is one, and we need to understand that.”

The forum covered issues over how areas such as the Peel-Harvey Estuary will be protected for generations to come, partly in the context of political lobbying.

“When you talk to a politician, they not only want to know how many supporters you’ve got, but how many members you’ve got,” Mr Adamssaid.

Landcare member Colma Keating said social media had opened up new opportunities for the group, and reaching out to as many people as possible through social media was an effective way of spreading their message.

“Communication –with communities, with public stakeholders, with local government –is critical for change to happen,” she said.

Ms Keating said social media programs like Facebook had already increased the reach of many organisations, moreso than they would traditionally.

One of the most prominent topics was the Green Growth Plan, which is now being drafted by government following a public submission period.

Issues over the Plan’s clarity and reputability were once again raised, with attendees arguing environmental concerns were left at the wayside of development.

“We support the concept, but unfortunately it’s just too big, repetitive and misinformed,” Urban Bushland Council president Mary Gray said.

“There’s a lot of mistaken facts. There’s issues with groundwater decline, clearing, dieback disease, and particularly on the Swan Coastal Plain, weed issues and fires.

“These are issues affecting the entire range covered in the Plan, but they are not mentioned.”

Ms Gray said the Plan was being presented as an environmental document, but really prioritized development, mining and resources above environmental concerns.

“The summary and objectives are spot on,” she said.

“But then you turn the page and the plan completely switches to development.

“And this is a document listed under the Federal Environment Act. The environmental aim has not been adequately addressed.”

Ms Gray said there were multiple issues with the Plan that would need to be altered before it is tabled in parliament, including groundwater sourcing and protection of native animals.

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