Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2010
Operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (continued)
1. Protecting the environment
This section reports on the operation of the EPBC Act in protecting matters of national environmental significance and the work of statutory committees that advise on EPBC Act matters.
Two statutory committees currently operate under the EPBC Act, the Threatened Species Scientific Committee and the Indigenous Advisory Committee. The work of the Threatened Species Scientific Committee is reported under relevant sections of this report. However, the Indigenous Advisory Committee (IAC), in particular, has a broad role advising the minister on the wider operation of the EPBC Act, taking into account Indigenous peoples' knowledge of land management and the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
The committee met in September 2009 on country and March 2010 in Canberra. During the IAC's 2009 meeting, committee members visited two Working on Country projects at Raukkan and Camp Coorong. There they met with Indigenous Rangers and Elders of the Ngarrindjeri community and discussed the environmental and cultural benefits that Working on Country funding has enabled.
During 2009-10 the IAC provided input and advice to:
- the establishment and operation of the First Peoples' Water Engagement Council
- the Convention on Biological Diversity Article 8(j) Traditional Knowledge and Access and Benefit Sharing Workshop (Montreal, Canada, in November 2009; and Cali, Colombia, in March 2010)
- the review of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act
- the review of the EPBC Act and the Threatened Species Scientific Committee.
World and national heritage
The Australian Government provides protection under the EPBC Act for World Heritage sites and national heritage places. The EPBC Act contains provisions for listing and protecting Commonwealth owned or controlled heritage places. Under the Act the minister's approval must be obtained before any action takes place that may have a significant impact on the heritage values of a listed place.
The Australian Heritage Council was established under the Australian Heritage Council Act 2003 as the government's principal advisory body on heritage matters. It has responsibility under the EPBC Act for assessing heritage values for places nominated for possible inclusion on the National and Commonwealth Heritage lists and advising the minister.
Listing and managing World Heritage properties
In 2009-10 there were 17 Australian properties inscribed on the World Heritage List that are protected under the EPBC Act and have associated management requirements. Some properties have multiple sites.
No new properties were included on the World Heritage List under the EPBC Act in 2009-10 but a nomination to include the Ningaloo Coast (Western Australia) was lodged with the World Heritage Centre on 28 January 2010, for consideration by the World Heritage Committee.
Under the EPBC Act the government must make a written plan for managing a property lying entirely within one or more Commonwealth areas. Where a property is in a state or self-governing territory, the Commonwealth must use its best endeavours to ensure a plan is prepared and implemented cooperatively with the relevant state or territory. The plan must not be inconsistent with Australia's obligations under the World Heritage Convention and the Australian World Heritage management principles for managing a World Heritage property.
All Australian properties on the World Heritage List have management plans. In 2009-10 there was an interim review of the 1999 Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area Management Plan, and a review of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Plan, which is considering revisions to the zoning regime.
Listing and managing national heritage places
Seven places were added to the National Heritage List in 2009-10:
- Great Artesian Basin Springs, Witjira-Dalhousie (South Australia)
- Great Artesian Basin Springs, Elizabeth (Queensland)
- Porongurup National Park (Western Australia)
- Cheetup Rock Shelter (Western Australia)
- Ningaloo Coast (Western Australia)
- Cascades Female Factory Yard 4 North (Tasmania)
- Tarkine (Tasmania) which was included in the National Heritage List following an emergency listing request made under the EPBC Act.
As at 30 June 2010, there were 89 places on the National Heritage List. The Australian Heritage Council provided three completed assessments to the minister for consideration on whether to list as a National Heritage place. It continued assessing the national heritage values of 27 other places.
To ensure the protection of a national heritage place, the EPBC Act provides for the preparation of management plans. A management plan for Richmond Bridge in Tasmania was completed in January 2010. In 2009-10 the department reviewed and provided comment on the national heritage management plans for the former ICI building, the former High Court of Australia and Bonegilla Migrant Camp.
Listing and managing Commonwealth heritage places
The Commonwealth Heritage List includes natural, Indigenous and historic places in Commonwealth areas (land and waters owned or leased by the Commonwealth) identified by the minister as having Commonwealth heritage values. In 2009-10 four places were added to the list:
- Officers Mess, RAAF Williams Laverton Base (Victoria)
- Victoria Barracks, Brisbane (Queensland)
- ABC Radio Studios, Rockhampton (Queensland)
- Canberra School of Art (Australian Capital Territory).
Three places no longer owned by the Commonwealth were removed from the Commonwealth Heritage List:
- Point Nepean 2006 Commonwealth Area (Victoria)
- Point Nepean Quarantine Station (former) (Victoria)
- Kissing Point Fort (Queensland).
As at 30 June 2010, there were 337 places on the Commonwealth Heritage List. There were no emergency listing requests for places to go on the Commonwealth Heritage List this year.
The department worked with Australian Government agencies preparing management plans for Commonwealth Heritage places under their ownership or control. In 2009-10 the minister advised the National Capital Authority that a management plan satisfying Commonwealth heritage management principles was made for the Parliament House Vista in the Australian Capital Territory. The department also consulted with the Department of Defence on management plans for its Commonwealth heritage properties.
Australian Government agencies that own or control places with Commonwealth heritage values must prepare a written heritage strategy addressing matters set out in the Regulations under the EPBC Act. In 2009-10 Parks Australia (Director of National Parks) completed its heritage strategy and the Australian Heritage Council provided advice on the heritage strategy of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. Sixteen agency heritage strategies are now complete. Other agencies have commenced preparation of a heritage strategy. The Australian Heritage Council has considered six draft strategies.
Wetlands of international importance
The EPBC Act protects wetlands of international importance by enhancing the management and protection of Australia's Ramsar wetlands. A 'declared Ramsar wetland' is an area that has been designated under Article 2 of the Ramsar Convention or declared by the minister to be a declared Ramsar wetland under the EPBC Act.
The Ramsar Convention encourages the designation of sites containing representative, rare or unique wetlands, or wetlands that are important for conserving biological diversity. In designating a wetland as a Ramsar site, countries agree to manage it to ensure that its ecological character is maintained.
As at 30 June 2010, Australia had 65 Ramsar wetlands that cover around 7.5 million hectares. No new places were added in 2009-10.
The department provided funding to start development of an additional seven Ramsar site ecological character descriptions. Thirty-one ecological character descriptions and one management plan funded by the Australian Government in previous years were completed during 2009-10, or are in the last stages of completion.
Ecological character descriptions will assist in implementation of the EPBC Act by:
- providing the baseline description of the ecological character of Ramsar wetlands
- making it easier to assess the likely impacts of proposed actions on the ecological character of Ramsar wetlands
- guiding the development of management plans
- providing a basis for evaluating the results of monitoring.
The EPBC Act establishes a framework for managing Ramsar wetlands, which is in accordance with the Ramsar Convention, through the Australian Ramsar management principles. These principles have been set out in Regulations and cover matters relevant to the preparation of management plans, environmental assessment of actions that may affect the site, and the community consultation process.
The EPBC Act requires management plans for all Ramsar sites. A management plan for a Ramsar wetland cannot be accredited unless it is in accordance with the Australian Ramsar management principles. The principles may also be used for the management of any wetland throughout Australia. In 2009-10, the department continued to assist in the development and review of management plans for Ramsar sites across Australia. The department provided funding to develop management plans for two Ramsar wetlands: Riverland (South Australia) and Ginini Flats Wetland Complex (Australian Capital Territory).
The Wetlands and Waterbirds Taskforce, consisting of wetland experts from various Australian and New Zealand government agencies, continued to advise the Natural Resource Management Standing Committee (a standing committee of the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council) on the implementation of the Ramsar Convention and migratory bird agreements. The Wetlands and Waterbirds Taskforce is continuing its work in improving the development of 'Ecological Character Descriptions for Ramsar sites in Australia' particularly how "Limits of Acceptable Change" are defined.
Threatened species, ecological communities and migratory species
The EPBC Act protects Australia's native species and ecological communities by providing for:
- identification and listing of threatened species and ecological communities
- development of conservation advice and recovery plans for listed species and ecological communities
- recognition of key threatening processes and, where appropriate, reducing the impacts of these processes through threat abatement plans
- permits to be issued for certain actions involving protected species.
Threatened fauna and flora may be listed in categories defined by the EPBC Act. Species listed as extinct in the wild, critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable are matters of national environmental significance.
Ecological communities are unique and naturally occurring groups of plants, animals and other organisms that interact in a unique habitat. Their structure, composition and distribution are determined by factors such as soil type, position in the landscape, climate and water availability. Threatened ecological communities are listed as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable.
Listed threatened species and ecological communities
The Threatened Species Scientific Committee under the EPBC Act advised the minister on amending and updating lists of threatened species, threatened ecological communities and key threatening processes. It also advised on the development or adoption of threat abatement plans.
The committee met four times in 2009-10. It undertook a number of assessments of the conservation status of priority species, ecological communities and key threatening processes during the assessment period. The committee also continued its work on reviewing the status of listed species and aligning lists of threatened species and ecological communities at national, state and territory levels.
Assessment period commencing 1 October 2009
For the assessment period commencing 1 October 2009, there were two conservation themes to focus public nominations on key areas for attention: 'terrestrial, estuarine and near-shore environments of Australia's coast', and 'rivers, wetlands and groundwater dependent species and ecosystems of inland Australia'.
For this assessment period, nominations were received for 40 species, one key threatening process and 10 ecological communities. A number of nominations from the previous year were also eligible for reconsideration. The Finalised Priority Assessment List for this period consisted of 17 species and five ecological communities. The Finalised Priority Assessment List is available at www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/nominations-fpal.html
Assessment period commencing 1 October 2010
For the assessment period commencing 1 October 2010, the minister decided to continue one theme from the previous year 'terrestrial, estuarine and near-shore environments of Australia's coasts' and added one new theme 'heathlands and mallee woodlands'.
For this assessment period, new nominations were received for 18 species, two key threatening processes and 10 ecological communities. A number of nominations from the previous year were also eligible for reconsideration. In June 2010 the Threatened Species Scientific Committee prioritised the public nominations received and determined its proposed priority assessment list for consideration by the minister. The finalised list will be made public in the first quarter of 2010-11.
Listing assessment outcomes
The minister made listing decisions on the assessments for 33 species. Thirteen species were from the Finalised Priority Assessment Lists and 20 were under the Species Information Partnerships to align state and national lists. There were 23 new listings, three transfers to a different threat category, five de-listings and two proposed listings deemed as ineligible as set out in the following table.
|Scientific Name||Common Name||Status|
|Pristis clavata||Dwarf Sawfish||Vulnerable|
|Hybanthus cymulosus||Ninghan Violet||Critically endangered|
|Banksia fuscobractea||Dark-bract Banksia||Critically endangered|
|Gastrolobium luteifolium||Yellow-leafed Gastrolobium||Critically endangered|
|Guichenotia seorsiflora||Critically endangered|
|Eremophila rostrata||Beaked Eremophila||Critically endangered|
|Eremophila sp. Koobabbie (R.J.Chinnock 9540)||Koobabbie Poverty Bush||Critically endangered|
|Prasophyllum atratum||Three Hummock Leek-orchid||Critically endangered|
|Prasophyllum limnetes||Marsh Leek-orchid||Critically endangered|
|Prasophyllum sp. Wybong (C. Phelps ORG 5269)||Critically endangered|
|Keraudrenia exastia||Fringed Keraudrenia||Critically endangered|
|Synaphea sp. Fairbridge Farm (D. Papenfus 696)||Selena's Synaphea||Critically endangered|
|Synaphea sp. Pinjarra (R. Davis 6578)||Club-leafed Synaphea||Critically endangered|
|Synaphea stenoloba||Dwellingup Synaphea||Endangered|
|Veronica derwentiana subsp. homalodonta||Mount Lofty Speedwell||Critically endangered|
|Acacia spilleriana||Spiller's Wattle||Endangered|
|Acacia praemorsa||Senna Wattle||Vulnerable|
|Cyclodomorphus praealtus||Alpine She-oak Skink||Endangered|
|Litoria myola||Kuranda Tree Frog||Endangered|
|Caladenia cremna||Don's Spider Orchid||Critically endangered|
|Lasiopetalum sp. Proston (J.A.Baker 17)||Proston Lasiopetalum||Critically endangered|
|Nematoceras dienemum||Windswept Helmet-orchid||Critically endangered|
|Pterostylis sp. Flat Rock Creek (D.L.Jones 15873 & K.J.Fitzgerald)||Spring Tiny Greenhood||Critically endangered|
|Thalassarche chrysostoma||Grey-headed Albatross||Uplisted from vulnerable to endangered|
|Caladenia barbarella||Small Dragon Orchid||Uplisted from vulnerable to endangered|
|Pultenaea trichophylla||Tufted Bush-Pea||Uplisted from vulnerable to endangered|
|Amytornis textilis myall||Thick-billed Grasswren (Gawler Ranges)||Deleted from the vulnerable category|
|Acacia imbricate||Imbricate Wattle||Deleted from the vulnerable category|
|Basedowia tenerrima||Deleted from the vulnerable category|
|Nephrurus deleani||Pernatty Knob-tail||Deleted from the vulnerable category|
|Petrogale lateralis pearsoni||Black-footed Rock-wallaby (Pearson Island subspecies)||Deleted from the vulnerable category|
|Ineligible for listing|
|Urolophus orarius||Coastal Stingaree||Ineligible|
|Elseya irwini||Irwin's Turtle||Ineligible|
The 90-day deadline for all ministerial decisions on the listing of species, key threatening processes and ecological communities was met, except for one listing which was late due to an administrative error.
Following the completion of assessments for five ecological communities, the minister decided to list three ecological communities as threatened under the EPBC Act. Extensive information on their distribution, key diagnostic characteristics, condition, relationship to state vegetation classifications, threats and priority conservation actions were published in listing and conservation advices for each. The ecological communities listed were:
- Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa) Grassy Woodlands and Derived Native Grasslands of South-eastern Australia
- Cumberland Plain Shale Woodlands and Shale-Gravel Transition Forest (part of this ecological community was previously listed as Cumberland Plain Woodlands)
- Thrombolite (microbialite) Community of a Coastal Brackish Lake (Lake Clifton).
Listings under the EPBC Act are legislative instruments that the Australian parliament may disallow, and in this context, the Lowland Native Grasslands of Tasmania, listed as a threatened ecological community in June 2009, was debated by parliament later in 2009. Although a motion to disallow the listing was put forward, the parliament overturned this and the listing proceeded. The parliament noted that the decision to list had followed due process, with independent advice from the Threatened Species Scientific Committee and extensive consultation undertaken, both with experts and the general public.
The outcomes of a Tasmanian Government review of the grasslands was also taken into consideration, as was the latest vegetation mapping data provided by the Tasmanian government. The Australian Government undertook a number of actions to assist landholders who may have the grasslands on their property understand the listing implications:
- a hotline number (1800 704 520) was available for people to talk with a departmental liaison officer working with the National Farmers' Federation. This officer was also available to provide on-farm advice
- two information guides were produced and widely distributed to supplement the listing and conservation advices published at the time of listing: an EPBC Act question and answer guide specifically for farmers and a detailed guide on identifying the community and priority conservation actions
- departmental officers gave talks in Tasmania to clarify that most farming activities were unaffected by the listing, although some changes in farm use may be subject to the EPBC Act if they are likely to have a significant impact on the grasslands or associated threatened species
- a strategic assessment process was initiated with the Tasmanian government to determine how farmers may be involved in the proposed Tasmanian Midlands Irrigation Scheme, while still protecting native grasslands.
Grey Box Grassy Woodlands.
In April 2010 the minister listed the Grey Box Grassy Woodlands and Derived Native Grasslands of South-eastern Australia as a nationally endangered ecological community.
The Grey Box Grassy Woodlands are among the most widely distributed broad-scale of the 48 listed ecological communities (as at June 2010). They extend from central New South Wales through northern and western Victoria into eastern South Australia. Small remnants also occur near Adelaide and west of Melbourne.
The Grey Box Grassy Woodlands have a tree canopy dominated by Grey Box and a native understorey that is typically grassy. Only remnants in relatively good condition are protected by the listing. A full description of the woodlands, including criteria for recognising good quality remnants, is given in the listing advice at www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/communities/pubs/86-listing-advice.pdf
The listing of the Grey Box Grassy Woodlands complements the listing of other threatened woodlands in South-eastern Australia, such as the White Box-Yellow Box-Blakely's Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland (also known as Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands). The Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands were listed as a nationally threatened ecological community in 2006. This listing gave protection to a large part of the grassy eucalypt woodland belt of South-eastern Australia but the drier eucalypt woodlands dominated by Grey Box have not been given the same protection until now.
Grassy woodlands were formerly the most common vegetation type in South-eastern Australia, on slopes inland from the Great Dividing Range. They formed an almost continuous belt from southern Queensland, through New South Wales and Victoria, into eastern South Australia. A number of related and intergrading woodland communities were present with the type of woodland being influenced, in part, by rainfall gradients.
The woodlands of the wetter slopes tended to be dominated by Yellow Box and/or Blakely's Red Gum over a grassy ground layer usually dominated by Kangaroo Grass and Tussock Grass. With decreasing rainfall, these tree species graded into White Box woodlands. On the drier sites, the woodlands become dominated by Grey Box and chenopods become more common in the understorey. Further inland, the Grey Box Woodlands give way to woodlands dominated by other species, such as Buloke and Weeping Myall, both of which are also listed as nationally threatened ecological communities.
All these woodlands occur within an area of intensive agricultural activity. They coincide with prime agricultural lands for grazing and cropping. Consequently, much of the original grassy woodlands have been cleared and lost. Woodland remnants now exist as mostly small and scattered fragments that are often degraded by weed invasion. However, remnants that remain in good condition do so because of sustainable grazing and other supportive farming practices.
At a landscape level, the listing of the Grey Box Grassy Woodlands links with other types of listed woodland that, taken together, protect a substantial part of what remains of the belt of inland grassy woodlands of South-eastern Australia. These woodlands provide vital habitat for many native species, including more than 30 threatened species. Woodlands also provide vital ecosystem services such as shelter and food for stock, carbon storage and natural management of water and soils.
Managing threatened species and ecological communities
The listing of species and ecological communities triggers the protection mechanisms of the EPBC Act and makes them a priority for funding and management to assist with their recovery and conservation, such as through the Caring for our Country initiative. For example, several listed woodlands are key targets under the Environment Stewardship program, which provides funds and information to support landholders in protecting threatened native vegetation on their properties.
For all new listings of species and ecological communities, conservation advices were prepared and published on the department's website. Conservation advices provide guidance on immediate recovery and threat abatement activities that can be undertaken to ensure the conservation of a newly listed species or ecological community.
The Threatened Species Scientific Committee considered a number of conservation advices for species and ecological communities already listed as threatened under the EPBC Act and examined a number of recovery plans and threat abatement plans. This included recommending conservation advices for 44 listed species, 23 newly listed species, and 50 species undergoing a status review.
The EPBC Act provides for the making or adopting of recovery plans and conservation advices when a species is listed. Recovery plans set out the research and management actions necessary to stop the decline and support the recovery of listed threatened species or threatened ecological communities.
The department, with the relevant state and territory environment agencies, made substantial investment in the recovery of threatened species and ecological communities through developing and implementing recovery plans. Sixty-three recovery plans were approved by the minister or his delegate. The Threatened Species Scientific Committee continues to work with the department on national monitoring and reporting on significant species and ecological communities.
The 2005-10 National Recovery Plans for Australia's five threatened whale species (humpback, southern right, blue, fin and sei whales) were reviewed in June 2010. The review examined the effectiveness of measures to assist the recovery of the Australian populations of the whale species against the objectives in each recovery plan. A decision on whether to vary the current plans has not yet been made.
Following a ministerial decision on 21 May 2008, a new recovery plan for albatrosses and giant petrels was developed during 2009-10, in consultation with relevant states and territories, and other interested parties. The draft plan is undergoing a final review. The draft Australian sea lion (Neophoca cinerea) recovery plan and the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) recovery plan were released for public comment in April 2010. The 90-day public consultation period ended on 29 July 2010.
Key threatening processes
The EPBC Act provides for listing of key threatening processes. The Threatened Species Scientific Committee advises the minister on key threatening processes and whether a threat other actions needed to abate key threatening processes.
Two key threatening processes were listed this year:
- Invasion of Northern Australia by introduced Gamba Grass (Andropogon gayanus), Para Grass (Urochloa mutica), Olive Hymenachne (Hymenachne amplexicaulis), Mission Grass (Pennisetum polystachion) and Annual Mission Grass (Pennisetum pedicellatum)
- Loss and degradation of native plant and animal habitat by invasion of escaped garden plants, including aquatic plants.
A threat abatement plan to reduce the impacts of exotic rodents on biodiversity on Australian offshore islands less than 100,000 hectares in size came into effect in July 2009. A draft threat abatement plan for the cane toad (Bufo marinus) was open for public comment, which closed on 16 June 2010. The Threatened Species Scientific Committee recommended development of a threat abatement to reduce the impacts on biodiversity as a result of the invasion of northern Australia by gamba grass and other introduced grasses.
A threat abatement plan for dieback caused by the root-rot fungus Phytophthora cinnamomi, intended to replace one originally made in 2001, was disallowed in the Senate on 17 November 2009. Until such time as a new or revised plan is made, the 2001 threat abatement plan for this key threatening process will remain in place.
The key threatening processes and threat abatement plans listed under the EPBC Act are at Appendix D.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
On 25 November 2009 the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park became the eighth matter of national environmental significance protected by the EPBC Act. This means that actions causing a significant impact on the environment of the marine park will trigger the Act and must be referred for environmental impact assessment under the Act.
These changes mean that, as well as existing permit requirements under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 (GBRMP Act), which are usually approved by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, activities inside the marine park that are likely to have a significant impact on the environment, and activities outside the marine park that are likely to have a significant impact on either the environment of the marine park or any other nationally protected matters, will need approval from the minister.
Where approvals are required under both pieces of legislation, a simplified process has been put in place whereby referrals under the EPBC Act and permit applications under the GBRMP Act can be processed together when required. The legislative changes also mean that the more comprehensive investigation powers of the EPBC Act will now also be available for the purposes of the GBRMP Act, providing a range of more flexible compliance and enforcement tools and new rules to reduce the risk of environmental harm to the marine park.
In December 2008 the porbeagle, shortfin mako and longfin mako shark were listed in Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), which covers migratory species conserved through agreements. Under the EPBC Act it is a legal requirement, with no flexibility, that CMS Appendix I (which covers endangered migratory species) and Appendix II species must be listed as protected species. Accordingly, these species were listed under the EPBC Act on 29 January 2010.
Listing these species under the EPBC Act means that, unless an exemption applies, it is an offence to kill, injure, take, trade, keep or move these shark species within a Commonwealth area, or trade, keep or move species that have been taken in a Commonwealth area.
Mako sharks are a highly prized sportfish and are targeted by some recreational fishers. Porbeagles, while not targeted, are difficult to distinguish from makos and are occasionally taken by recreational fishers and, in many cases, are misidentified as makos. The listing of these species has significant implications for recreational fishing, particularly the applicable offence provisions of Part 13, Division 2 of the EPBC Act.
In response the government introduced the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Recreational Fishing for Mako and Porbeagle Sharks) Act 2010 (the amendment) into parliament. The amendment provides an exception to the offence provisions in Part 13, Division 2 of the EPBC Act for recreational fishing of mako and porbeagle sharks. The amendment is to ensure that international changes to the status of mako and porbeagle sharks will not unfairly impact on recreational fishing activities in Australia, while ensuring that Australia complies with international obligations for the conservation of migratory species.
The amendment was introduced on 25 February 2010, passed the House of Representatives on 15 March 2010, and the Senate on 21 June 2010. The legislation came into effect on 15 July 2010.
This section reports on the operation of the EPBC Act in regulating the import and export of Australia's native flora and fauna and of species restricted through international trade controls, and the making of wildlife and fisheries conservation and management plans.
The import of live animals into Australia is controlled by the EPBC Act and the Quarantine Act 1908, administered by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service. These laws apply to all imports of live exotic animals.
All species that can be legally imported into Australia are included in the live import list; other species cannot legally be imported. Members of the public, a public institution or a commercial enterprise, are all eligible to apply to the minister to amend the live import list to include a new species. Each species proposed for inclusion on the live import list is the subject of a detailed assessment, including public consultation.
In 2009-10 nine applications to amend the live import list were received. The minister decided to make one addition to the list, the Brown-nosed coati (Nasua nasua), and to remove one species, the Sika deer (Cervus nippon). A number of taxonomic changes were also made to the live import list.
Sustainable wildlife industries
The international movement of wildlife and wildlife products for commercial purposes is regulated under the EPBC Act. Commercial trade in specimens derived from regulated native species, species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), or the import of regulated live plants and animals for commercial purposes, may be allowed.
Approval can be given provided the specimens have been derived from an approved captive breeding program, artificial propagation program, aquaculture program, wildlife trade operation or a wildlife trade management plan.
The following wildlife programs were approved in 2009-10:
- four cooperative conservation programs
- six individual wildlife trade operations (non-fisheries)
- two new and eight revised artificial propagation programs
- one aquaculture program
- one commercial import program.
The EPBC Act also provides for approval of wildlife trade management plans. On 1 October 2009 the 'Management program for Cycads in the Northern Territory of Australia 2009-2014' was approved as a Wildlife Trade Management Plan. The plan outlines a system to facilitate and regulate the sustainable harvesting of cycads in the Northern Territory.
On 29 September 2009 the 'Crocodile Management Plan for Western Australia 2009-2013' was approved for the commercial harvesting of crocodiles in Western Australia. The management plan as proposed included provision for safari hunting, but the minister in approving the plan decided not to approve the safari hunting component.
The department completed 26 assessments involving transfers of live animals for exhibition in zoos. It ensures that live animals only go to appropriate zoological institutions through an accreditation scheme. The department issued 216 non-commercial wildlife trade permits to zoological institutions and scientific researchers including 28 multiple consignment permits.
Fauna species listed in Appendix I of CITES are further assessed by ensuring that international transfers of live specimens of these species are contributing to global conservation efforts. This is achieved by the approval of Cooperative Conservation Programs. The department approved four Cooperative Conservation Programs this year for CITES Appendix I listed species. The programs aim to conserve a species and apply best practice to the management of its husbandry, genetics, biology and behavioural needs.
Fisheries assessment and approvals
Under the EPBC Act, the department assesses the environmental performance of management arrangements for fisheries, to ensure that fisheries are managed in an ecologically sustainable way and to identify areas for improvement. All Commonwealth-managed fisheries and all state and territory fisheries with an export component are required to undergo assessment.
A total of 109 fisheries have been declared as either exempt from the export provisions of the EPBC Act for five years, or as approved wildlife trade operations for periods of up to three years.
In 2009-10, 21 fisheries were comprehensively assessed being three Commonwealth-managed fisheries, 17 state-managed fisheries and one aquaculture operation. All were assessed within statutory timeframes. Eight fisheries were approved as wildlife trade operations and 13 (including the aquaculture operation) were exempted from the export provisions of the Act.
As a result of this assessment process, conditions and recommendations were agreed between the department and the management agencies for these fisheries. The agencies are required to demonstrate improved environmental performance, and to actively enhance the ecologically sustainable management of fisheries in the short to medium term. The outcomes are published in detailed reports on the department's website at www.environment.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/index.html
The department anticipates assessing 35 fisheries under the EPBC Act in 2010-11.
Wildlife trade permits
To protect endangered species from uncontrolled trade, which can lead to population decline and extinction, Australia regulates the import and export of animals protected under CITES.
In 2009-10 the department issued 1,688 permits authorising international wildlife trade, and 18,893 personal accompanied baggage permits.
Following consultation with the scientific community, the department developed a new labelling system for use in the transfer of Australian native and CITES scientific specimens between registered scientific institutions. The new labels are specific to each registered institution and minimise the potential for unauthorised users to forge labels.To comply fully with the EPBC Act and Australia's international obligations under CITES it has been necessary to change the way the department assesses and issues Multiple-Use CITES Import and Re-export permits. In future, before a Multiple-Use Import CITES permit can be issued, all the CITES export documentation from the overseas country of export must be sighted for each proposed shipment and attached to the application for import. For Multiple-Use CITES Re-export permits, all documentation issued to allow the goods to be imported into Australia must be sighted and attached to the application for re-export.
Information packs outlining the new changes were sent to all stakeholders who have previously imported or re-exported CITES listed species. The information packs included sample letters to freight forwarders and overseas suppliers to help with compliance and a smooth transition to the new process. To facilitate the adoption of the new process, the department invited stakeholders to attend information sessions held in Sydney, Cairns, Darwin and Melbourne. Further sessions are planned for Brisbane, Adelaide and possibly Perth in the coming months. All information sessions were extremely well received by the stakeholders in attendance.
Mandatory conditions are attached to permits issued by the department authorising international wildlife trade under the EPBC Act. These conditions aim to protect the environment and ensure that international wildlife trade is conducted in accordance with legal requirements and at a level that is not detrimental to the survival of species in the wild.
During 2009-10 no reviews of wildlife permit holder compliance were conducted.
The EPBC Act provides for the establishment and protection of Commonwealth reserves, including marine and terrestrial areas, through the issuing of permits for a range of activities and development of bioregional plans.
Commonwealth national parks
The Australian Government manages an estate of marine and terrestrial protected areas that are Commonwealth Reserves under the EPBC Act. The Director of National Parks manages terrestrial reserves, while marine reserves are managed by the department under a delegation from the Director of National Parks. The Director of National Parks prepares a separate annual report on the management of these reserves.
Commonwealth terrestrial reserves
In January 2010 the minister approved a new management plan for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park that will guide the management of the park for the next 10 years. The plan supports increased participation of traditional owners, creation of Indigenous enterprises and the development of a range of new visitor opportunities. Uluru-Kata Tjuta is world renowned for its stunning natural environment alongside living Aboriginal culture. Work is underway to reach out to a new generation of visitors and to promote the region as part of the Red Centre National Landscape. Management plans are also in preparation for the Australian National Botanic Gardens, Christmas Island National Park and Booderee National Park.
Permits in Commonwealth terrestrial reserves were issued for a range of activities including scientific research. Studies undertaken included:
- an ecological study of seabirds on Christmas Island involving the genetic analysis of blood and feather samples from seabird species
- a survey of Masked Owl and Northern Shrike Tit populations in Kakadu National Park
- examination of the reproductive ecology and evolution of Acacia (wattles) using material from the Australian National Botanic Gardens.
Access to biological resources and benefit-sharing
Part 8A of the EPBC Regulations 2000 regulates access to biological resources in Commonwealth areas for the purposes of research and development based on their genetic and biochemical properties.
The department issued 54 permits for access to biological resources. The permits covered a range of research topics including the following studies:
- a genetic study of fish and invertebrate populations to predict the impact of climate change on connections among reef populations
- analysis of tissue samples from sea snake and coral species from Ashmore Reef and Cartier Island to determine population dynamics of the species
- a study of the molecular, chemical and evolutionary relationships of the deep sea biota in the Coral Sea.
The Part 8A Regulations also require the development of benefit-sharing arrangements where commercial or potentially commercial research is undertaken on biological resources from Commonwealth areas. The department entered into one benefit-sharing agreement with a major Australian university during the year.
Marine bioregional planning
Work is underway on developing a South-east Marine Bioregional Plan that will build upon existing information in the South-east Regional Marine Plan released in 2004. The bioregional plan will include statutory obligations under the EPBC Act, policy objectives and regional conservation priorities, regional administrative guidance for marine resource users and decisionmakers, and monitoring and evaluation provisions. A draft South-east Marine Bioregional Plan will be released for consultation in early 2011.
The Management Plan for the Lord Howe Island Marine Park (Commonwealth Waters) expired on 24 September 2009 and is currently under review. The reserve is being managed under interim arrangements. A new management framework will be developed following the declaration of a network of new Commonwealth marine reserves in the region. Community consultation on the management of Lord Howe Island Marine Park (both state and Commonwealth waters) is underway as part of a joint management review process with New South Wales.
The first management plan for the Cod Grounds Commonwealth Marine Reserve is in preparation. The statutory community consultation process for the plan has been initiated, starting with Commonwealth and state government agencies. The plan is expected to be released in 2010-11.
A scientific assessment of the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Conservation Zone has been undertaken by the Australian Antarctic Division. This assessment is expected to be finalised in 2010-11 following public consultation.
Commonwealth marine reserves management
The department continued to implement a comprehensive day to day management program for the Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network in the South-east Marine Region. Management activities include stakeholder engagement (liaison with the Commonwealth Fisheries Association), partnerships with state and Commonwealth agencies, species monitoring, community education (including the dissemination of educational material), compliance monitoring through annual business agreements with state and Commonwealth for compliance activities, and the development of a statutory management plan for the marine reserves network.
In relation to the South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network, five approvals under section 359B of the EPBC Act were issued for commercial fishing activities under interim management arrangements.
The Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve and Cartier Island Marine Reserve management plans expired on 25 June 2009, and the management plan for the Ningaloo Marine Park (Commonwealth Waters) plan expired on 2 July 2009. The reserves will be managed under interim arrangements until the development of a new management plan at the conclusion of the marine bioregional planning process for the North-west Marine Region.
Seventy-three permits were issued for activities in marine reserves in the East Marine Region (of the Commonwealth marine estate) in 2009-10. In addition 17 approvals, including extensions of existing approvals, were issued for activities in marine reserves managed under interim management arrangements in accordance with section 359B of the EPBC Act. Of these, a number of permits and approvals were issued to allow scientific research in Commonwealth reserves, including:
- a seabird survey at Coringa-Herald National Nature Reserve
- swath mapping in the Coral Sea Conservation Zone
- population ecology research on shark species at Osprey and Shark reefs in the Coral Sea
- collecting coral cores to detect long-term shifts in seawater acidity and determine rates of coral calcification, to identify the relationship between seawater acidity and coral calcification at Mermaid Reef
- collecting coral samples to determine coral reef connectivity through genetic analysis and oceanography analysis; and collecting sea snake tissue samples to investigate species boundaries, conduct population genetic analyses, and estimate current and previous effective population sizes at Ashmore Reef.
One permit provided for a two-dimensional marine seismic survey in the Benthic Protection Zone of the Great Australian Bight Marine Park from 30 July-31 August 2009.
Antarctic Treaty Environment Protection
The EPBC Act exempts certain actions from requiring permits if a permit for that action has been issued under the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980 (ATEP Act). The EPBC Act states that where an action is taken in accordance with a permit issued under the ATEP Act, and the permit is in force, certain actions involving listed threatened species and ecological communities, migratory species and listed marine species, are not offences. The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) issued six permits and one variation under the ATEP Act in 2009-10.
The AAD manages access to biological resources through its system of permit approvals, in an approved arrangement declared on 9 January 2007 under Part 8A of the EPBC regulations.
In the Australian Whale Sanctuary, and for Australian citizens in waters beyond the sanctuary (international or foreign waters), a permit from the minister is required to injure, take, keep, move, and/or interfere with a cetacean. All applications are posted on the web and public comments are sought as required under the EPBC Act.
The department received one cetacean research permit application in 2009-10. The permit is to investigate the distribution and habitat preferences for coastal bottlenose dolphins in Jervis Bay (New South Wales).
In this section
- Letter of transmittal
- Executive summary
- Outcome 1 - Conserving our natural assets
- Outcome 2 - Living and working sustainably
- Operation of the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989
- Operation of the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989
- Operation of the product stewardship arrangements for oil including the Product Stewardship (Oil) Act 2000
- Operation of the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000
- Outcome 3 - Protecting Antarctica
- Outcome 4 - Adapting to a future with less water
- Outcome 5 - Protecting and enhancing Australia's culture and heritage
- Corporate Outcome - Improving organisational effectiveness
- Financial statements
- List of requirements