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The Precautionary Principle is incorporated in law and policy via Ecologically Sustainable Development provisions but it is widely misunderstood and frequently ignored. Threatened species typically satisfy key elements of the Precautionary Principle in that serious or irreversible damage would be caused by inappropriate development or management, and scientific uncertainty usually surrounds an understanding of their ecology and prediction of impacts. Where could the New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 be precautionary? The listing process could be, but a significant amount of information is needed before a population, species or community can be listed, so nominations of taxa for which little information is available are likely to be unsuccessful. A precautionary approach to listing would be to use the IUCN classification “Data Deficient” as a category, especially if was designed to trigger a process of ecological study to gather relevant data, and a Species Impact Statement in cases where a data deficient taxon was likely to be affected by a specific development proposal. The assessment of likelihood that significant impacts will result from a development could be precautionary if determining authorities assumed a significant impact wherever scientific uncertainty existed. Currently, the application of precaution here is variable. The ‘Eight-part-test’ is effectively a checklist that is applied to determine whether there is ‘likely to be a significant impact’, thus triggering a Species Impact Statement, under the NSW threatened species legislation. Eight-part-tests that conclude no significant impact, perhaps with mitigation works, are often accepted despite questions about their validity. A conclusion that there is likely to be a significant impact will not necessarily halt a development proposal, because compromises with socio-economic benefits can be made. We urge a more thorough application of the Precautionary Principle, to force decision-makers to acknowledge this compromise, rather than hiding behind the pretence that lack of knowledge implies no detrimental impact.

Akcakaya, H., Ferson, S., Burgman, M., Keith, D., Mace, G. and Todd, C. 2000. Making consistent IUCN classifications under uncertainty. Conservation Biology. 14: 1001-1013.
Beier, P. and Noss, R. F. 1998. Do habitat corridors provide connectivity? Conservation Biology 12: 1241-1252.
Bonham, A. J. 1999 Angolypta crawls off the list. Invertebrata 14: 5. http://www.qvmag.tased.edu.au/zoology/invertebrata/printarchive/printpdf/inv14.pdf Accessed January 20th 2004.
Brown, C. L. 2003 Can Legislation Deliver Conservation? An Assessment of the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (NSW) Using Two Threatened Plant Species as Case Studies. PhD Thesis, Faculty of Law and Department of Biological Sciences, University of Wollongong.
Buttermore, R. E. 1997. Observations of successful Bombus terrestris (L.) (Hymenoptera: Apidae) colonies in southern Tasmania. Australian Journal of Entomology 36: 251-254.
Calver, M. C., Bradley, J. S., and Wright, I. W. 1999a. Towards scientific contributions in applying the precautionary principle: an example from southwestern Australia. Pacific Conservation Biology 5: 63-72.
Calver, M. C., Bradley, J. S., and Wright, I. W. 1999b. Environmental management: the precautionary principle and null hypothesis. Pacific Conservation Biology 5: 78-82.
Deville, A. and Harding, R. 1997 Applying the Precautionary Principle. Federation Press, Sydney.
Farrier, D. 1999. Factoring biodiversity conservation into decision-making processes: the role of the Precautionary Principle. Pp 99-121 in Perspectives on the Precautionary Principle, edited by R. Harding and L. Fisher. Federation Press, Sydney.
Farrier, D., Whelan, R. J. and Brown, C. L. 2002. Addressing scientific uncertainty in local government decision-making processes. Environmental and Planning Law Journal 19: 1-15.
Fisher, E. and Harding, R. 2001. The Precautionary Principle in Australia. Chapter 9 in Reinterpreting the Precautionary Principle. O'Riordan, T. et al. (editors). Cameron May, London.
Fisher, E. 2004. Precaution, uncertainty and principles of good administration. International Symposium: Uncertainty and Precaution in Environmental Management. Copenhagen, Denmark. pem.er.dtu.dk/files/L%Fisher.pdf Accessed July 20th 2004.
Goklany, I. M. 2001 The Precautionary Principle: A Critical Appraisal of Environmental Risk Assessment. Cato Institute, Washington D. C.
Haddad, N. M. 1999. Corridor and distance effects on interpatch movements: a landscape experiment with butterflies. Ecological Applications 9: 612-622.
Haddad, N. M. and Baum, K. A. 1999. An experimental test of corridor effects on butterfly densities. Ecological Applications 9: 623-633.
Harding, R. and Fisher, E. (eds) 1999 Perspectives on the Precautionary Principle. Federation Press, Sydney.
Harremoes, P., Gee, D., MacGarvin, M., Stirling, A., Keys, J., Wynne, B. and Guedes Vas, S. (eds) 2002 The Precautionary Principle in the 20th Century: Late Lessons from Early Warnings. Earthscan, London.
Hingston, A. B. and McQuillan, P. B. 1998. Does the recently introduced bumblebee Bombus terrestris (Apidae) threaten Australian ecosystems? Australian Journal of Ecology 23: 539-549.
Hingston, A. B., Marsden-Smedley, J., Driscoll, D. A., Corbett, S., Fenton, J., Anderson, R., Plowman, C., Mowling, F., Jenkin, M., Matsui, K., Bonham, K. J., Ilowski, M., McQuillan, P. B., Yaxley, B., Reid, T., Storey, D., Poole, L., Mallick, S. A., Fitzgerald, N., Kirkpatrick, J. B., Febey, J., Harwood, A. G., Michaels, K. F., Russell, M. J., Black, P. S., Emmerson, L., Visoiu, M., Morgan, J., Breen, S., Gates, S., Bantich, M. N., Desmarchelier, J. M. 2001. Extent of invasion of Tasmanian native vegetation by the exotic bumblebee Bombus terrestris (Apoidea: Apidae). Austral Ecology 27: 162-172.
Low, T. 1999 Feral Future. Viking, Melbourne.
Lunney, D., Curtin, A., Ayers, D., Cogger, H. G. and Dickman, C. R. 1996. An ecological approach to identifying the endangered fauna of New South Wales. Pacific Conservation Biology 2: 212-231.
Nagorcka, F. 2003. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say: precaution, science and the importance of language. Environmental and Planning Law Journal 20: 211-222.
NPWS 2003. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Corporate Plan 2000-2003. NPWS, Hurstville. www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/npws.nsf/Content/Corporate+Plan+20002003 Accessed December 15th 2003.
O'Riordan, T., Cameron, J. and Jordan, A. (eds) 2001 Reinterpreting the Precautionary Principle. Cameron May, London.
Paton, D. C. 1996 Overview of Feral and Managed Honeybees in Australia. Australian Nature Conservation Agency, Canberra.
Productivity Commission 1999 Implementation of Ecologically Sustainable Development by Commonwealth Departments and Agencies, Report No. 5, AusInfo, Canberra.
Quinn, G., and Keough, M. 2002 Experimental Design and Data Analysis for Ecologists. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
RTA 1997. The NSW Roads and Traffic Authority - Environment Policy. www.rta.nsw.gov.au/environment/downloads/rtaenviropolicy.pdf Accessed January 20th 2004.
Semmens, T. D. 1996. Flower visitation by the bumble bee Bombus terrestris (L.) (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in Tasmania. Australian Entomologist. 23: 33-35.
Simberloff, D. and Cox, J. 1987. Consequences and costs of conservation corridors. Conservation Biology 1:63-71.
Smith, J. 1997. Skinning cats, putting tigers in tanks and bringing up baby: a critique of the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (NSW). Environmental and Planning Law Journal 14: 17-37.
Spry, M. 1997. Hinchinbrook Island and the Precautionary Principle in Australian environmental law. Research Note 4, 1997-98. Department of the Parliamentary Library, Parliament of Australia. www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/rn/1997-98/98rn04.htm Accessed December 15th 2003.
Stein, P. L. 2000. Are decision-makers too cautious with the precautionary principle? Environmental and Planning Law Journal 17: 3-23.
Sydney Water 2003. Ecologically Sustainable Management Policy. www.sydneywater.com.au/html/about_us/esd1.cfm Accessed December 15th 2003.
UPEM 2004. International Symposium: Uncertainty and Precaution in Environmental Management. Copenhagen, Denmark, June 7-9 2004. upem.er.dtu.dk/programme.htm Accessed June 12th 2004.
WTO 1998. Understanding the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. www.wto.org/englans/tratop_e/sps_e/spsund_e.htm Accessed January 10th 2004.
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References

Akcakaya, H., Ferson, S., Burgman, M., Keith, D., Mace, G. and Todd, C. 2000. Making consistent IUCN classifications under uncertainty. Conservation Biology. 14: 1001-1013.
Beier, P. and Noss, R. F. 1998. Do habitat corridors provide connectivity? Conservation Biology 12: 1241-1252.
Bonham, A. J. 1999 Angolypta crawls off the list. Invertebrata 14: 5. http://www.qvmag.tased.edu.au/zoology/invertebrata/printarchive/printpdf/inv14.pdf Accessed January 20th 2004.
Brown, C. L. 2003 Can Legislation Deliver Conservation? An Assessment of the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (NSW) Using Two Threatened Plant Species as Case Studies. PhD Thesis, Faculty of Law and Department of Biological Sciences, University of Wollongong.
Buttermore, R. E. 1997. Observations of successful Bombus terrestris (L.) (Hymenoptera: Apidae) colonies in southern Tasmania. Australian Journal of Entomology 36: 251-254.
Calver, M. C., Bradley, J. S., and Wright, I. W. 1999a. Towards scientific contributions in applying the precautionary principle: an example from southwestern Australia. Pacific Conservation Biology 5: 63-72.
Calver, M. C., Bradley, J. S., and Wright, I. W. 1999b. Environmental management: the precautionary principle and null hypothesis. Pacific Conservation Biology 5: 78-82.
Deville, A. and Harding, R. 1997 Applying the Precautionary Principle. Federation Press, Sydney.
Farrier, D. 1999. Factoring biodiversity conservation into decision-making processes: the role of the Precautionary Principle. Pp 99-121 in Perspectives on the Precautionary Principle, edited by R. Harding and L. Fisher. Federation Press, Sydney.
Farrier, D., Whelan, R. J. and Brown, C. L. 2002. Addressing scientific uncertainty in local government decision-making processes. Environmental and Planning Law Journal 19: 1-15.
Fisher, E. and Harding, R. 2001. The Precautionary Principle in Australia. Chapter 9 in Reinterpreting the Precautionary Principle. O'Riordan, T. et al. (editors). Cameron May, London.
Fisher, E. 2004. Precaution, uncertainty and principles of good administration. International Symposium: Uncertainty and Precaution in Environmental Management. Copenhagen, Denmark. pem.er.dtu.dk/files/L%Fisher.pdf Accessed July 20th 2004.
Goklany, I. M. 2001 The Precautionary Principle: A Critical Appraisal of Environmental Risk Assessment. Cato Institute, Washington D. C.
Haddad, N. M. 1999. Corridor and distance effects on interpatch movements: a landscape experiment with butterflies. Ecological Applications 9: 612-622.
Haddad, N. M. and Baum, K. A. 1999. An experimental test of corridor effects on butterfly densities. Ecological Applications 9: 623-633.
Harding, R. and Fisher, E. (eds) 1999 Perspectives on the Precautionary Principle. Federation Press, Sydney.
Harremoes, P., Gee, D., MacGarvin, M., Stirling, A., Keys, J., Wynne, B. and Guedes Vas, S. (eds) 2002 The Precautionary Principle in the 20th Century: Late Lessons from Early Warnings. Earthscan, London.
Hingston, A. B. and McQuillan, P. B. 1998. Does the recently introduced bumblebee Bombus terrestris (Apidae) threaten Australian ecosystems? Australian Journal of Ecology 23: 539-549.
Hingston, A. B., Marsden-Smedley, J., Driscoll, D. A., Corbett, S., Fenton, J., Anderson, R., Plowman, C., Mowling, F., Jenkin, M., Matsui, K., Bonham, K. J., Ilowski, M., McQuillan, P. B., Yaxley, B., Reid, T., Storey, D., Poole, L., Mallick, S. A., Fitzgerald, N., Kirkpatrick, J. B., Febey, J., Harwood, A. G., Michaels, K. F., Russell, M. J., Black, P. S., Emmerson, L., Visoiu, M., Morgan, J., Breen, S., Gates, S., Bantich, M. N., Desmarchelier, J. M. 2001. Extent of invasion of Tasmanian native vegetation by the exotic bumblebee Bombus terrestris (Apoidea: Apidae). Austral Ecology 27: 162-172.
Low, T. 1999 Feral Future. Viking, Melbourne.
Lunney, D., Curtin, A., Ayers, D., Cogger, H. G. and Dickman, C. R. 1996. An ecological approach to identifying the endangered fauna of New South Wales. Pacific Conservation Biology 2: 212-231.
Nagorcka, F. 2003. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say: precaution, science and the importance of language. Environmental and Planning Law Journal 20: 211-222.
NPWS 2003. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Corporate Plan 2000-2003. NPWS, Hurstville. www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/npws.nsf/Content/Corporate+Plan+20002003 Accessed December 15th 2003.
O'Riordan, T., Cameron, J. and Jordan, A. (eds) 2001 Reinterpreting the Precautionary Principle. Cameron May, London.
Paton, D. C. 1996 Overview of Feral and Managed Honeybees in Australia. Australian Nature Conservation Agency, Canberra.
Productivity Commission 1999 Implementation of Ecologically Sustainable Development by Commonwealth Departments and Agencies, Report No. 5, AusInfo, Canberra.
Quinn, G., and Keough, M. 2002 Experimental Design and Data Analysis for Ecologists. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
RTA 1997. The NSW Roads and Traffic Authority - Environment Policy. www.rta.nsw.gov.au/environment/downloads/rtaenviropolicy.pdf Accessed January 20th 2004.
Semmens, T. D. 1996. Flower visitation by the bumble bee Bombus terrestris (L.) (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in Tasmania. Australian Entomologist. 23: 33-35.
Simberloff, D. and Cox, J. 1987. Consequences and costs of conservation corridors. Conservation Biology 1:63-71.
Smith, J. 1997. Skinning cats, putting tigers in tanks and bringing up baby: a critique of the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (NSW). Environmental and Planning Law Journal 14: 17-37.
Spry, M. 1997. Hinchinbrook Island and the Precautionary Principle in Australian environmental law. Research Note 4, 1997-98. Department of the Parliamentary Library, Parliament of Australia. www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/rn/1997-98/98rn04.htm Accessed December 15th 2003.
Stein, P. L. 2000. Are decision-makers too cautious with the precautionary principle? Environmental and Planning Law Journal 17: 3-23.
Sydney Water 2003. Ecologically Sustainable Management Policy. www.sydneywater.com.au/html/about_us/esd1.cfm Accessed December 15th 2003.
UPEM 2004. International Symposium: Uncertainty and Precaution in Environmental Management. Copenhagen, Denmark, June 7-9 2004. upem.er.dtu.dk/programme.htm Accessed June 12th 2004.
WTO 1998. Understanding the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. www.wto.org/englans/tratop_e/sps_e/spsund_e.htm Accessed January 10th 2004.
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