New environmental standards are destined to fail unless data on threatened species becomes more accessible, the architect of the reforms has warned.
Professor Graeme Samuel appeared before a Senate inquiry examining the alarming rate of animal extinctions in Australia on Thursday.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley last week promised the government would move swiftly to set up new interim environmental standards, off the back of a recommendation from Professor Samuel's review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
Professor Samuel concluded the 20-year-old laws were not "fit to manage current or future environmental challenges" and called for the new legally enforceable standards to be the foundation of a new environmental protection act.
On Thursday, he told the committee the new standards should be "quite granular" - for example, specifying no net loss of a population in a designated area.
However for such a standard to actually work, we needed to know how many of a species were in a certain area. That was not easy to determine, Professor Samuel said.
"We can put in place the standard but the data itself needs to be developed,"Professor Samuel said.
"The right data is not readily accessible at the moment, it's available from hundreds of different sources.
"If you have a look at the CSIRO's Atlas of Living Australia, they say yhey have about 700 different sources of data but they readily acknowledge it is not as current as they would like it nor as granular as they would like it. That's the big work."
Professor Samuel said for the environment laws to function, this data was critical.
"If you have a standard that there should be no net loss of koalas population in a particular habitat then you can't actually apply that easily or efficiently unless you know what the current koala population is and what might be the impact if certain actions take place," he said.
"So what that's says is you can put in place the standards - that would get effectiveness in place - but to get efficiency in place, you'll need the data."
Ecologists have expressed concerns about the lack of long-term monitoring of threatened species, especially after the bushfires ripped through south-eastern Australia.
Problems with consistent data have also been regularly aired at the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements.
The story Environment reforms destined to fail without data: Samuel first appeared on The Canberra Times.