Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2010
Outcome 1 - Conserving our natural assets
The conservation and protection of Australia's terrestrial and marine biodiversity and ecosystems through research, developing information, supporting natural resource management, regulating matters of national environmental significance, and establishing and managing Commonwealth protected areas.
||Land and Coasts Division|
||Parks Australia Division|
||Approvals and Wildlife Division|
||Supervising Scientist Division|
- Under the Caring for our Country Reef Rescue program, over 1,480 land managers have received funding since 2008 to deliver water quality improvements for the Great Barrier Reef Lagoon.
- The Environmental Stewardship Box Gum Grassy Woodland Project contracted 69 additional land managers, increasing the conservation effort to now include over 26,400 hectares of nationally endangered woodlands on private land.
- The Working on Country Indigenous ranger program contracted about 590 rangers to manage the natural and cultural values of the Indigenous estate. The department supported the Australian Government's commitment to the Closing the Gap initiative through the Working on Country program.
- A proposal in the International Whaling Commission, which would have legitimised whaling in the Southern Ocean, was defeated at the IWC annual meeting in June 2010.
- The Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Council held its first meeting under the new Intergovernmental Agreement on 3 July 2009.
- In September 2009 the updated Reef Water Quality Protection Plan was signed on behalf of the Queensland and Australian Governments by the Hon Anna Bligh MP, Premier of Queensland and the Hon Peter Garrett AM MP, the Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts.
- Bush Blitz, which aims to provide a national snapshot of the biodiversity of the National Reserve System, was launched in February. The launch was the official start to Australia's celebration of the International Year of Biodiversity.
- Twenty-seven new parks and reserves were purchased for the National Reserve System, with help from $35.8 million through Caring for our Country. This investment will help to protect a diverse range of habitat covering up to 1.14 million hectares.
- The Djelk and Warddeken Indigenous Protected Areas in Arnhem Land were declared creating a conservation corridor stretching from Kakadu's stone country to the Arafura Sea and covering 2.633 million hectares.
- The department dealt with a wide range of large, complex and economically significant projects under the environmental impact assessment regime of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Four hundred and 22 referrals were received for a decision on whether an approval is required under the EPBC Act. Of these, 10 of the 15 Nation Building Infrastructure projects, which are very important projects for the economy, concluded EPBC Act consideration within 12 months of announcement.
- New listings under the EPBC Act included: 23 new species, three ecological communities and two key threatening processes. Three species were transferred to a different threat category and five pecies were de-listed.
- The minister approved 63 recovery plans under the EPBC Act covering 98 species and two ecological communities.
- In February 2010 the minister endorsed the Victorian Government's program for the expansion of Melbourne's urban growth boundary; the first endorsement under the strategic assessment provisions of the EPBC Act. A further six strategic assessments are underway.
- The National Koala Conservation and Management Strategy 2009-2014 was published. It provides a national coordinating framework for plans and actions to conserve and manage koalas across all relevant jurisdictions.
- Caring for our Country is an Australian Government environmental initiative that seeks
to achieve an environment that is healthy, better protected, well-managed, and resilient, and provides essential ecosystem services in a changing climate. It aims to achieve this goal through strategic five-year outcomes across six national priority areas:
- accelerating the establishment of a comprehensive, adequate and representative National Reserve System
- protecting biodiversity and natural icons
- protecting and rehabilitating coastal environments and critical aquatic habitats
- encouraging sustainable farm practices
- natural resource management in northern and remote Australia, and
- enhancing the skills, knowledge and engagement of communities to help protect our environment and productive land base.
- Develop and implement a sound policy framework for the Great Barrier Reef, including through the operation of the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Council and measures such as the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan.
- Management of Marine Protected Areas in accordance with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) management principles.
- Implement the Australian Government's anti-whaling policy and advance our pro-conservation agenda in the International Whaling Commission.
- Manage invasive species (pest animals, weeds and pathogens) by developing and delivering effective policies.
- Develop the underlying taxonomic knowledge and capacity, and the improved understanding of Australian species and environmental processes, necessary for the conservation and sustainable use of Australia's biodiversity through strategic partnerships and investments.
- Establish and manage a regulatory framework that maximises social, economic and environmental returns from investment in biodiscovery in Australia.
- Support the Threatened Species Scientific Committee in providing advice to the minister on listing species, ecological communities and key threatening processes under the EPBC Act.
- Develop recovery plans and conservation advices for listed species and ecological communities.
- Maintain up-to-date information and disseminate information guides (policy statements) on listed species and ecological communities to support quality decision making.
- Ensure the protection of the environment, especially matters of national environmental significance, through efficient and effective assessment of environmental impacts of projects.
- Streamline environmental impact assessment processes for developers, through strategic approaches under the EPBC Act and bilateral agreements.
- Protect the marine environment through management of sea dumping in accordance with the London Convention and London Protocol through the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981.
- Protect matters of national environmental significance through compliance, investigation and enforcement activities, and apply a risk-based approach to these activities.
- Protect the environment of the Alligator Rivers Region from the impacts of uranium mining.
Caring for our Country
- In 2009-10 Caring for our Country investment resulted in:
- increasing the National Reserve System by 3.77 million hectares, including financial assistance to purchase land for 27 National Reserve System properties covering up to 1.14 million hectares and declaration of eight new Indigenous Protected Areas covering 2.633 million hectares
- increasing the area of nationally endangered woodlands conserved to over 26,400 hectares, involving contracts with 69 private land managers through the Environmental Stewardship Box Gum Grassy Woodland Project
- assistance to over 1,480 land managers since 2008 to improve the quality of water entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. This was achieved through funding to regional natural resource management organisations and peak agricultural industry organisations under the Caring for our Country Reef Rescue program
- support for coastal environment restoration and protection through the establishment of 26 Community Coastcare projects ($15.268 million over four years), and improved management and protection of coastal hotspots through a further 41 community projects ($16.338 million over two years through the regional base-level funding for natural resource management organisations)
- progress being made in addressing threats to the water quality of the Gippsland Lakes and Tuggerah Lakes Estuary
- the environmental values of priority sites in the Ramsar estate being sustained through many projects including those in: Bowling Green Bay and the Shoalwater and Corio Bays Area, Queensland; Lake Warden and Lake Gore, Western Australia; Hindmarsh Island, South Australia; Hunter Estuary Wetlands, New South Wales; Pitt Water Orielton Lagoon, Tasmania; various Port Phillip Bay and Western Port Ramsar sites, Victoria; and Pulu Keeling National Park
- the provision of $7.2 million in small Community Action Grants for 427 projects across Australia, which included $740,000 to Indigenous organisations to fund 40 projects
- assistance to landholders and community, local government and non-government organisations, to undertake targeted natural resource management bushfire recovery works in six fire-affected Victorian catchments, with funding of $10.8 million over two years.
Marine policy and planning
- The preliminary results from the six-week joint Australia-New Zealand Antarctic Whale Expedition to the Southern Ocean earlier this year were released at the 62nd annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Agadir, Morocco, in June 2010.
- Funding of $228,000 for four three-year projects under the new Indo-Pacific Cetacean Research and Conservation Fund was announced. The fund is part of the $32 million International Whaling and Marine Mammal Conservation Initiatives announced by the minister on 5 December 2008.
- Australia participated in Sharks III, a meeting convened by the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) in Manila that saw the finalisation of a Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks. The Memorandum of Understanding commenced on 1 March 2010 and covers seven species of sharks; it was signed by 10 countries.
- A list of Areas for Further Assessment, the precursor to a draft network of marine reserves for the Commonwealth marine area, was released for consultation in the South-west, North, North-west and East marine regions. Progress was made in drafting the marine bioregional plans for the four regions.
- Assessments of the environmental performance of fisheries under the EPBC Act were completed for five Commonwealth-managed fisheries and 22 fisheries managed by the states and territories.
- Development of an agreement between the Australian Government and state and territory governments for cost-sharing of responses to nationally significant biosecurity incursions continued. This agreement will bring a consistent approach to the funding of biosecurity incursions and it is anticipated that it will come into effect in the financial year 2010-11.
- Continued participation in nationally significant biosecurity responses for electric ants and imported red fire ants in Queensland, and yellow crazy ants on Christmas Island. The department contributed $706,500 to the cost-shared electric ant eradication program, which made good headway towards its goal of eradication. A successful aerial baiting program conducted in September on Christmas Island reduced yellow crazy ant densities by 99 per cent.
- Development of the Curiosity® feral cat bait continued, with $320,000 being provided for ongoing bait development work: bait stability testing; determination of risks to non-target species; and field efficacy trials.
- Joint development of the first Existing Pest Animal National Strategy under the Australian Pest Animal Strategy, for management of feral camels. The draft National Feral Camel Action Plan was developed by representatives of the Australian Government and the Northern Territory, Western Australian, South Australian and Queensland Governments.
- Participation in a biosecurity response to an incursion of Myrtle Rust (Uredo rangelii), a newly described plant pathogen, in New South Wales that commenced in April 2010.
- Reduction in the impact of invasive species is a priority for Caring for our Country. Funding for invasive species projects commenced in 2008-09 and continued in 2009-10. Over the two years Caring for our Country invested over $14 million directly in projects addressing better weed management and in excess of $31 million for pest animal management. In 2009-10 multi-year projects from Caring for our Country funding included:
- $19 million to mitigate the impacts of feral camels in Australia
- $1.5 million to find a new biological control for rabbits that will reduce their population growth just over $1.4 million to reduce the impacts of cane toads
- over $2 million for community implementation of biological control of Weeds of National Significance across South-eastern Australia.
In 2009-10 Caring for our Country also invested over $1.6 million to implement the Australian Weeds Strategy, through the Weeds of National Significance network of 13 coordinators and the National Weed Management Facilitator
Caring for our Country also invested over $50 million over the two years in projects where addressing weed and pest animal management form part of achieving successful outcomes.
National Reserve System and Indigenous Protected Areas
- With the support of the Caring for our Country program, 27 new parks and reserves were purchased for Australia's National Reserve System, protecting up to 1.14 million hectares of native habitat. Caring for our Country also contributed just over $2.7 million to strategic projects for the establishment of protected areas on private lands through perpetual covenants.
- The Indigenous Protected Areas program supported 39 declared Indigenous Protected Areas. There were an additional 36 consultation projects, exploring the potential for Indigenous Protected Area declarations over additional areas of Indigenous-owned land. A total of $7.787 million was expended in grants and support to expand environmental and cultural outcomes in Indigenous Protected Areas.
Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS)
- The ABRS published four reports on Australia's biodiversity, a book on marine algae and an educational resource booklet for Bush Blitz. Online species databases on Australia's flora, fauna and lichens were also expanded to facilitate use by biodiversity researchers. The National Taxonomy Research Grant Program received funding of $2.03 million and supported 56 research grants and taxonomic training positions (PhD, Masters and Honours scholarships).
- The ABRS Eureka Prize for Early Career Species Discovery was awarded to herpetologist Dr Conrad Hoskin from the Australian National University. The award was presented to Dr Hoskin in 2009 by Chris Darwin, the great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin, marking the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, Darwin's seminal work on evolutionary biology.
- The ABRS was awarded a Certificate of Commendation at the Whitley Awards for best book in the category 'Systematic Zoology' for Tenebrionid Beetles of Australia.
Access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing
- Over 130 people attended Australia's first National Forum on Biodiversity, Biodiscovery and Traditional Knowledge held in Canberra, including the international co-chairs for the Ad Hoc Working Group on Access and Benefit-Sharing Regime, under the Convention on Biological Diversity. In the last year the department, and agencies accredited under the access and benefit-sharing legislation, provided 54 access permits. The department also participated in three international meetings related to negotiations on the international regime for access and benefit-sharing.
Environmental Regulation and Compliance
- The minister approved the 2009 Finalised Priority Assessment List, for the assessment period commencing 1 October 2009, for assessment under the EPBC Act of the threatened status of 17 species and five ecological communities.
- In November 2009 a call was made for new nominations for the assessment period commencing 1 October 2010 and nominations were received for 18 species and 10 ecological communities.
- The Species Profile and Threats database collates information about listed species and ecological communities. Data added or reviewed during the reporting period includes: updated profiles for 201 species, profiles added for 89 new species, profiles for 166 species publicly released, and profiles linked to state profiles for 1,691 species (74 per cent of total listed species).
- One strategic assessment under the EPBC Act was approved on Melbourne's urban growth boundary and six strategic assessments are underway, being: Browse Basin liquefied natural gas Precinct, Western Australia; Molonglo and North Weston, Australian Capital Territory; Western Sydney growth centres, New South Wales; Fire management policy, South Australia; Midlands Water Scheme, Tasmania; and Mount Peter Master Planned Area, Queensland.
- The department continued to assess large, complex and economically significant projects under the EPBC Act. Four hundred and 22 referrals were received with 140 requiring formal assessment and approval under the EPBC Act. This year 66 proposals were approved under the Act including high profile projects like the Gorgon gas development off the North-west coast of Western Australia and the Northern Victoria Irrigation Renewal project, that will have important economic benefits. Three projects were rejected by the minister during 2009-10 including the proposed construction of the Traveston Crossing Dam on the Mary River in South-east Queensland.
- Nine applications were received to amend the live import list under the EPBC Act and the minister decided to make one addition to the list.
- Approval was given for: two new wildlife trade management plans; six wildlife trade operations (non-fisheries); two new and eight revised artificial propagation programs; four cooperative conservation programs; and one aquaculture program, as regulated under the EPBC Act.
- The department issued 216 permits to export or import wildlife specimens (both native and non-native), including 28 multiple consignment permits.
- There were 532 new incidents reported to the department and assessed for compliance with the EPBC Act. The department undertook 11 audits and nine post approval inspections, with summaries of available findings published on the department's website.
- A number of significant investigation-related activities were completed, including two civil penalties and six enforceable undertakings. These undertakings provided $1.405 million directed to the protection of the matters of national environmental significance impacted by identified breaches of national environmental law.
Supervision of uranium mining
- During the 2009-10 wet season the maximum uranium concentration measured downstream from the Ranger mine was 0.32 micrograms per litre, a value consistent with the results from previous years. This value is less than six per cent of the local ecotoxicologically-derived limit of six micrograms per litre, and less than two per cent of the 20 micrograms per litre guideline for potable water.
Working on Country
The Working on Country Indigenous ranger program contracted about 590 rangers to manage the natural and cultural values of the Indigenous estate. The program more than doubled from the original $90 million commitment under Caring for our Country to a $246 million investment to 2012-13 to provide employment for 680 Indigenous rangers. Environmental outcomes for control of weeds and feral animals, fire management, protection of cultural sites, management of sea country and transmission of traditional ecological knowledge, have been notable. The majority of Indigenous rangers are also undertaking accredited and other forms of training to further develop their skills in this area.
Closing the Gap
Mabuygiw Rangers, funded under the Working on Country program, undertaking seagrass monitoring on the South-west side of Mabuiag Island, Torres Strait.
Photo: Rebecca Clear, Torres Strait Regional Authority
The Working on Country program addressed the government's Closing the Gap targets by directly employing Indigenous people in remote communities and provided ongoing training of rangers to develop transferable skills. Working on Country also supported governance and leadership structures through Traditional Owner steering committees, who guide the work priorities for the land being managed by the rangers. This empowers communities to reconnect with their lands through the work of the rangers. The employment of Indigenous rangers also has broader economic and social benefits for the communities. In 2009-10 the Working on Country program provided employment for 624 indigenous rangers.
Caring for our Country
Caring for our Country aims to ensure progress is achieved towards safeguarding and improving the resilience of Australia's environment and that our natural resources are managed more sustainably. Caring for our Country commenced on 1 July 2008 and is providing over $2 billion in funding over its first five years. It is being delivered in partnership with regional natural resource management organisations, local, state and territory governments, Indigenous groups, industry bodies, land managers, farmers, Landcare groups and communities. This initiative is jointly administered by the department and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
National Reserve System
During 2009-10 Caring for our Country contributed over $35.8 million to the National Reserve System towards the purchase of 27 properties, covering up to 1.14 million hectares, and over $2.7 million to strategic projects for the establishment of protected areas on private lands. Caring for our Country also assisted Indigenous landowners to develop and declare Indigenous Protected Areas on their lands as part of Australia's National Reserve System. In 2009-10 the program supported 39 declared Indigenous Protected Areas, with an additional 36 consultation projects exploring the potential for Indigenous Protected Area declaration over additional areas of Indigenous owned land.
The Environmental Stewardship program engaged land managers to reduce critical threats to biodiversity on their land by increasing the area of native habitat being managed. It targeted specific matters of national environmental significance where an improvement in their quality and extent can be effectively achieved through the actions of private land managers. By 30 June 2010, 201 land managers were engaged under the Box Gum Grassy Woodland project, resulting in the conservation management of over 26,400 hectares of nationally endangered woodlands on private land in New South Wales and Queensland.
Forest Conservation Fund
The Forest Conservation Fund was closed and, with the commitment of more than 150 landowners, protects over 28,000 hectares of forest, including approximately 11,000 hectares of old growth forest. Over $43 million was invested in conservation covenants and land purchases. A revolving fund was established to assist with the purchase of properties that meet the fund's objectives, including the Mole Creek Karst Forest program. The revolving fund allows properties to be bought, covenanted for conservation purposes and then onsold to willing landowners on the open market. A further five-year term for the Forest Conservation Revolving Fund was approved and the fund will continue to work towards meeting its objectives to protect old growth and under-reserved forest communities.
National Biodiversity Strategy
Australia's Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2010-2030
This is currently being finalised through the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council. The strategy, expected to be released in 2010-11, will guide how governments, the community, industry and scientists manage and protect Australia's biodiversity over the coming decades. The revised strategy was developed through the Council's second five-yearly review of the 1996 National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity.
Australia's Native Vegetation Framework
The Australia's Native Vegetation Framework consultation draft (2010) was developed by a task group reporting to the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council. The consultation draft was the product of a review of the National Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Australia's Native Vegetation (1999) and was released for public comment between 18 February and 7 April 2010. The draft is available at www.environment.gov.au/land/vegetation/review/index.html
The review is being undertaken by an intergovernmental task group with representatives from all state and territory jurisdictions, the Australian Government and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).
Caring for our Country funding addresses a range of environmental challenges in World Heritage places; they range from eradicating rabbit and rodent populations on Macquarie Island in the Southern Ocean to protecting the biodiversity of Shark Bay in Western Australia. A nomination seeking World Heritage status for Western Australia's Ningaloo Reef was submitted to the World Heritage Centre for assessment in January 2010. The International Union for Conservation of Nature will commence the assessment in 2010-11.
Integrated management arrangements are being secured for the Wet Tropics and the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Areas, to assist in reducing threats to the universal values of the properties. Work has commenced on securing management arrangements for 894,000 hectares with the Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people, the general community and other organisations. Management arrangements in place for the extended Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area are tackling threats to the property's outstanding universal values through a vegetation management plan, a revised fire management plan, and improved monitoring and management of values.
Land managers engaged in Caring for our Country's Reef Rescue program with enthusiasm. Through Reef Rescue $200 million will be invested in the five years to 2013, to address the impacts of declining water quality in the Great Barrier Reef. This investment is helping land managers adopt improved management practices that reduce the amount of nutrients, chemicals and sediments leaving their properties and entering the reef lagoon.
Since 2008 over 1,480 land managers in priority areas received Reef Rescue funds to deliver water quality improvements through on-ground works, property planning and training. In 2009-10 regional natural resource management organisations and peak agricultural industry organisations were allocated $52.369 million to undertake water quality improvement projects over three years. This investment will help farmers and graziers in reef catchments implement sustainable land management practices that build upon the achievements of the first year of Reef Rescue.
Since 2008, $41.7 million was committed for investment towards Community Coastcare through 2008-09 transitional year funding and the Caring for our Country 2009-10 business plan. In 2009-10, 26 competitive projects in coastal environment restoration and protection, totalling $15.268 million over four years, were announced towards the Community Coastcare election commitment. A further 41 projects totalling $16.338 million over two years, addressing the coastal community engagement and coastal hotspot targets, were funded through regional base-level funding of the Caring for our Country 2009-10 business plan.
Northern and remote Australia
The unique environmental, social and economic challenges faced by northern and remote Australia require a tailored approach to sustainable natural resource use and environmental protection. Land managers, Indigenous groups and farmers in these areas were assisted in 2009-10 to secure better environmental and natural resource management outcomes. This included funding 44 new projects across 11 natural resource management regions in northern and remote Australia. The projects involve activities to: protect and manage native habitat and vegetation; sustain the environmental values of Ramsar wetlands and high conservation value aquatic environments; restore and rehabilitate coastal environments; and undertake sustainable grazing and land management practices.
The $19 million cross-jurisdictional feral camel management project is designed to reduce camel densities and adverse impacts in and around priority environmental assets. The project met its contracted removal target of 9,000 feral camels for 2009-10 through a combination of harvesting for meat and culling on Indigenous, pastoral and Crown lands.
Indigenous emissions trading program
Under the $10 million Indigenous emissions trading commitment, $9.089 million across four years was committed to the Northern Australia Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance, to support Indigenous fire management across northern Australia's savannas. Strengthening traditional fire management across more than 100,000 square kilometres will help reduce the incidence of unmanaged high-intensity fires that regularly cause damage to biodiversity values across the region. Work continued on the science and the accounting methodology to measure carbon emissions from the early season burning regime, to help facilitate Indigenous entry into any future carbon markets.
During 2009-10 a threat abatement plan, addressing the impacts of cane toads and methods to reduce these impacts, was drafted and made available for public comment. Three new Caring for our Country projects worth $1.025 million were announced in August 2009, providing $404,000 for community control activities, six research components and a cane toad forum in 2010, and $621,000 to undertake research projects on the potential use of pheromones to control cane toads and reduce the impact of cane toads on the northern quoll. In 2009-10 just under $400,000 in regional funding was directed to community control activities in New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory in addition to some continuing projects, which had commenced in 2008-09. Total funding approved over the life of the cane toad commitment is almost $2.3 million, more than meeting the $2 million original commitment and exceeding the target of 1,500 community volunteer days of cane toad control.
Community Action Grants
The Community Action Grants program was established to help support community groups and enable them to contribute to the outcomes of the Caring for our Country initiative. The program targets community based organisations, offering grants of between $5,000 and $20,000 to encourage their participation and engagement in natural resource management around the country. These grants provide grass-roots level assistance to enable organisations to deliver better environmental outcomes across Australia. Under the inaugural round of Community Action Grants in 2009-10, $7.2 million was provided to 427 projects, including more than $0.7 million for 46 projects located in or adjacent to World Heritage sites or the National Reserve System. Successful Indigenous groups are using $0.74 million in funding to conduct natural resource management work and record cultural heritage and traditional knowledge.
Indigenous communities play an important role in delivering Caring for our Country investment. Significant funding was invested with the aim of identifying, enhancing and protecting the cultural values of natural assets in regions. Projects are implemented through on-country work with Indigenous elders and other members of the Indigenous community. The outcomes of these investments will have a major impact on the continued use, support and reinvigoration of traditional ecological knowledge to underpin biodiversity conservation. Of the $138 million available for regional natural resource management organisations in 2009-10, $13.97 million or 10 per cent of the total approved funding was for Indigenous-based activities and employment. Around 64 Indigenous people were directly employed to deliver Caring for our Country outcomes within the regions. Through the 2009-10 business plan open call, 11 Indigenous based projects were successful, receiving $9.04 million in total.
Caring for our Country operates an integrated network of facilitators, including three National Coordinators (business and industry, local government and Indigenous) who broker partnerships with key stakeholders to maximise the effectiveness of investments. Australian Government Facilitators (Environment and Sustainable Farm Practices) and Indigenous Land Management Facilitators, based in each state and the Northern Territory, manage relationships with stakeholders and assist them to form partnerships to jointly deliver projects to achieve Caring for our Country targets and outcomes.
Policy and governance framework for the Great Barrier Reef
The first meeting of the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Council under the new Intergovernmental Agreement, held on 3 July 2009, agreed to take action to: build and maintain the resilience of the reef to the impacts of climate change; improve the quality of water entering the reef; continue to manage fishing activities in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area to ensure ecological sustainability; protect World Heritage values; and to maintain a complementary and joint program of field management for the marine and island national parks in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The department and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority are carrying out these actions in collaboration with the Queensland Government.
The Reef Water Quality Protection Plan contains priority work areas and supporting actions, which contribute to the plan's goal and objectives. It builds on existing government policies, and government, industry and community initiatives that aim to assist in halting and then reversing the decline in the quality of water entering the reef lagoon.
Progressing the government's anti-whaling agenda
The government continued its unprecedented diplomatic efforts to try to bring an end to commercial whaling, including Japan's so-called 'scientific' whaling. Australian officials actively engaged in International Whaling Commission discussions on the future of the commission.
In advancing the department's pro-conservation cetacean policy, Australia submitted a number of papers to the discussions on the future of the International Whaling Commission, including a nine-point proposal aimed at building on the conservation gains already being considered as part of negotiations on the future of the commission. The nine elements of Australia's proposal are:
- All whaling should be under the control of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Unilateral so-called 'scientific' whaling purportedly conducted under Article VIII and whaling under objection or reservation, should be brought to an immediate end. An agreed mechanism and timetable to address the reform of Article VIII and the use of objections and reservations should be established.
- Whaling (other than current aboriginal subsistence whaling) should be phased down within a reasonable timeframe, including the phasing down and out of whaling in the Southern Ocean within five years.
- No new whaling should be allowed on cetacean species or populations not currently hunted.
- Recognising the threats to recovery of whale species and populations, including new and emerging threats associated with climate change, the take for vulnerable species and populations should be reduced immediately to zero.
- Paragraph 10(e) (moratorium on commercial whaling) of the schedule to the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling will remain in place.
- All whaling should be prohibited in all IWC-recognised whale sanctuaries - including the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and the Indian Ocean Whale Sanctuary and the proposed South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary.
- An agreed mechanism and a strategy for implementation to ensure a robust and properly funded monitoring, compliance and enforcement framework for whaling during the phase-out period should be established.
- An agreed mechanism should be established to address new and emerging threats to cetaceans, including climate change, marine pollution, fishing activities, poorly regulated whale watching industries, ship strikes and habitat disturbance; as well as an agreed framework to broaden the management tools available to the commission to address nonconsumptive uses of whales.
- An agreed consensual and principle-based approach, as previously outlined by Australia to the International Whaling Commission (document IWC/61/9: Addressing Special Permit Whaling and the Future of the IWC) should be followed for all scientific research conducted under the authority of the commission. Decisions should be based on IWC-approved scientific procedures.
Australia's proposal was supported by a number of other countries.
On 31 May 2010 Australia initiated legal action in the International Court of Justice in The Hague against Japanese 'scientific' whaling in the Southern Ocean, to bring a permanent end to this practice.
Australia will continue to seek a diplomatic agreement to end whaling in the Southern Ocean through the International Whaling Commission.
Marine bioregional planning
The department is developing marine bioregional plans under section 176 of the EPBC Act. The plans will strengthen and streamline the operation of the EPBC Act in the Commonwealth marine area, through the provision of better information about key biodiversity values and the identification of conservation priorities for each region. This will lead to improved referral and assessment of development proposals and underpin the sustainable use of marine resources, while ensuring key biodiversity assets are protected. Plans will include detailed proposals for the establishment of new networks of marine protected areas in Commonwealth waters, as part of the Commonwealth's contribution to the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas.
Marine and migratory species protection
The department administered provisions of the EPBC Act aimed at the protection of migratory and threatened marine species. This included implementation of species recovery plans for great white sharks, Australian sea lions, grey nurse sharks and whale sharks.
Threat abatement plans
Under the EPBC Act the department develops and supports the implementation of threat abatement plans. These plans set out the actions needed to reduce the effects of listed key threats, such as pests and diseases, on affected native species or ecological communities.
The department collaborated with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and other stakeholders, including state and territory governments, private landholders and expert reference groups, such as the Invasive Animals Co-operative Research Centre, to develop and implement threat abatement plans and projects. Threat abatement plans are reviewed every five years. Ten threat abatement plans were operating for key terrestrial threatening processes listed under the EPBC Act. One new plan was made (to reduce the impacts of exotic rodents on biodiversity on Australian offshore islands of less than 100,000 hectares) and one revised but not remade (for disease in natural ecosystems caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi).
Two new threat abatement plans are under development: a plan for the biological effects, including lethal toxic ingestion, caused by cane toads and a plan to reduce the impacts on biodiversity as a result of the invasion of northern Australia by gamba grass and other introduced grasses.
|Threat abatement plan for the biological effects, including lethal toxic ingestion, caused by cane toads||Draft|
|Competition and land degradation by unmanaged goats||2008||Current|
|Competition and land degradation by rabbits||2008||Current|
|Predation by the European red fox||2008||Current|
|Predation by feral cats||2008||Current|
|Beak and feather disease affecting endangered psittacine species||2005||Current|
|Predation, habitat degradation, competition and disease transmission by feral pigs||2005||Current|
|Infection of amphibians with chytrid fungus, resulting in chytridiomycosis||2006||Current|
|Reduction in impacts of tramp ants on biodiversity in Australia and its territories||2006||Current|
|To reduce the impacts of exotic rodents on the biodiversity of Australian offshore islands of less than 100 000 hectares||2009||Current|
|Threat abatement plan for dieback caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi*||2001||Current|
* The revised threat abatement plan for disease in natural ecosystems caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi (2009) 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 remains in place.
International marine conservation initiatives
The department has been involved in a range of international marine conservation initiatives. These activities support domestic marine conservation measures and contribute to Australia playing an active and constructive role in the international community. Some key areas of engagement are as follows:
- The department leads Australian Government engagement in and support for the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI). Australia is one of six official 'development partners' to the CTI, and supported its development as a strong and effective regional forum for addressing marine conservation issues and helping to deliver food security, sustainable livelihoods and economic development.
- The department was involved in negotiations that resulted in agreement to a Memorandum of Understanding under the Convention on Migratory Species covering seven species of migratory sharks.
- The department played an active role in the development of recommendations to the UN General Assembly on measures to conserve the biodiversity of the high seas, through participation in the third meeting of the "Ad Hoc Open-Ended Informal Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction".
- Through the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Marine Resource Conservation Working Group, the department oversaw a project directed at reducing marine debris in the Asia-Pacific region, and initiated a new project on transboundary marine spatial management.
Integrated coastal zone management
The department participated in inquiry by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts into climate change and environmental impacts on coastal communities. The department is working with other relevant agencies to develop a government response to the committee's recommendations.
The department worked closely on coastal issues with the states and the Northern Territory, through the Marine and Coastal Committee of the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council (NRMMC). The NRMMC agreed in April 2010 to develop a coordinated national approach to addressing the impacts of climate change on natural resources in marine and coastal areas. It also agreed to refine the role and governance of the integrated coastal zone management framework.
Parks and reserves
The Director of National Parks is a statutory corporation established under the EPBC Act to administer and manage Commonwealth reserves (national parks, botanic gardens, marine and terrestrial reserves) established under the Act. The reserves include Kakadu, Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Booderee national parks, which are jointly managed with their Indigenous traditional owners, and marine reserves such as Ashmore, Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs. The director is supported by departmental staff. Detailed information about 2009-10 management outcomes for Commonwealth reserves appears in the annual report of the Director of National Parks available at www.environment.gov.au/parks/publications
In addition to statutory functions, the director has been delegated management functions and powers by the minister and the secretary of the department. These include:
- Building the National Reserve System
- Indigenous Protected Areas
- the Australian Biological Resources Study
- Australia's policy on access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing and administration of associated legislation
- coordination and leadership of Australia's commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity.
International Year of Biodiversity
Australian celebrations for the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity (IYOB) commenced in February with the launch of Bush Blitz - a pioneering three-year multi-million dollar partnership to identify the plants and animals in the National Reserve System.
As part of IYOB, the department was a partner in a global workshop 'Regional Action to Combat Invasive Species on Islands to Preserve Biodiversity and Aid Climate Change Adaptation' hosted by the New Zealand Government. The objective of the workshop was to strengthen and mobilise capacity on islands across the globe to address the threats posed by invasive species in a climate change context. The workshop was held in conjunction with the Secretariat for the Convention on Biological Diversity and The Nature Conservancy. The workshop's outcomes for the Pacific and Coral Triangle regions were particularly well received.
National Reserve System
Under the Australian Government's Caring for our Country initiative, the National Reserve System program provides financial assistance to buy land for new reserves and supports the covenanting of properties to establish protected areas. The properties are managed for nature conservation as part of the National Reserve System. The National Reserve System is Australia's network of protected areas, conserving examples of our natural landscapes and native plants and animals for future generations. It is made up of Commonwealth, state, territory and local council reserves, Indigenous lands and protected areas run by non-profit conservation organisations, and ecosystems protected by farmers on their private working properties.
Australia's National Reserve System protects over 102 million hectares, comprising more than 9,400 protected areas. This is over 13 per cent of Australia's land area.
During 2009-10 the Australian Government contributed over $35.8 million towards the purchase of 27 properties, covering up to 1.14 million hectares. It also contributed just over $2.7 million to strategic projects for the establishment of protected areas on private lands (through perpetual covenants).
Land acquisition and protected areas on private land projects supported this year, included:
- Witchelina, South Australia (over 420,000 hectares). Witchelina is more than twice the size of urban Adelaide and the largest property ever purchased for the National Reserve System under Caring for our Country. Witchelina is owned and managed as a conservation reserve by the Nature Foundation SA. The property helps to build an important habitat link extending from South Australia's Lake Torrens into the Northern Territory. It is part of the world's first transcontinental wildlife corridor being created through the heart of Australia's outback.
- Fish River Station is a 180,000 hectare property located 150 kilometres south of Darwin. The Daly River runs along the property's northern boundary providing unique freshwater habitat for eight turtle species and several species of rare and threatened fish, including sawfish and whipray. The property also contains an impressive array of largely unaltered habitats, including rainforest pockets, vine thickets, extensive savannas and wetlands of high conservation value. The property adjoins other protected areas, enhancing the resilience of ecosystems across this landscape. The purchase of this property is due to a successful partnership between the Indigenous Land Corporation, the Pew Environment Group, The Nature Conservancy and the Australian Government. The property holds important natural and cultural values and will eventually be handed back to Traditional Owners to manage.
- South-east Queensland Councils National Reserve System Partnership. This partnership was established by the department and 11 local government councils in South-eastern Queensland in recognition of the region's high biodiversity values and the increasing threats to these values from urban development. The partnership is now in its third year and aims to increase connectivity and consolidate the National Reserve System across council boundaries. In 2009-10 the partnership continued to identify council owned and managed reserves suitable for inclusion in the National Reserve System. These reserves protect habitat for nationally and locally threatened species such as the koala.
- Tasmanian Protected Areas on Private Land program. This is a partnership between the Tasmanian Government, the Tasmanian Land Conservancy and the Australian Government. In 2009-10 the program undertook a strategic, landscape-scale planning approach to private land conservation, identifying 14 focal landscape areas with high concentrations of significant biodiversity values. These focal landscapes will be directly targeted for the expansion of the reserve system on private land. This program also added 10 voluntary, in-perpetuity covenants, adding over 357 hectares of high conservation value private land to the National Reserve System.
Indigenous Protected Areas
Indigenous Protected Areas are non-statutory protected areas that form part of the National Reserve System. Funding for the establishment of Indigenous Protected Areas is provided from the Australian Government's Caring for our Country initiative. It assists Indigenous landowners to establish and manage Indigenous Protected Areas on their lands, through contractual arrangements with the Australian Government.
The program also promotes the integration of Indigenous ecological and cultural knowledge into the management of these areas:
- In 2009-10 the Indigenous Protected Areas program supported 39 declared Indigenous Protected Areas. There were an additional 36 consultation projects, exploring the potential for Indigenous Protected Area declaration over additional areas of Indigenous owned land.
- The government's Caring for our Country commitment to provide funding of $50 million over five years is contributing to a significant expansion of environmental and cultural outcomes on Indigenous Protected Areas. A total of $7.787 million was expended in grants and support of projects during 2009-10.
- The Indigenous Land Corporation provided an additional $2.5 million in 2008-09 under a three-year, $7 million agreement to expand the Indigenous Protected Area initiative. This arrangement enabled coordinated, streamlined funding support from government for Indigenous Protected Areas.
Eight new Indigenous Protected Areas covering 2,633,769 hectares were declared in 2009-10:
- Warddeken Indigenous Protected Area covers 1,370,379 hectares of stone and gorge country on the western Arnhem Land plateau in the Northern Territory. Adjoining Kakadu National Park, Warddeken is globally significant for its natural and cultural values.
- Djelk Indigenous Protected Area covers 671,592 hectares next to the Warddeken Indigenous Protected Area. Together they protect a stretch of habitat from the central Arnhem Land plateau to the Arafura Sea. The Djelk Indigenous Protected Area straddles coastal and sub-coastal landscapes and includes islands, estuaries, rivers and internationally renowned wetlands, monsoon rainforests and tropical savannas.
- Jamba Dhandan Duringala Indigenous Protected Area covers 38,243 hectares of land 100 kilometres east of Cunnamulla in Queensland. The property lies within the high priority Mulga Lands bioregion and has high species diversity, particularly among reptiles, frogs and birds. The traditional owners, the Kooma people, have declared the Indigenous Protected Area as part of their long term vision to manage their traditional lands for cultural and natural heritage protection.
- Kurtonitj Indigenous Protected Area covers 367 hectares on the Mt Eccles lava flow in the under-represented Victorian Volcanic Plains bioregion. Kurtonitj is owned by the Gunditji Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation and managed by the Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation. A large part of this region is classified under the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape Area. The property contains significant areas of threatened remnant vegetation.
- Framlingham Forest Indigenous Protected Area near Purnim in Victoria consists of 1,142 hectares of remnant brown stringy bark and manna gum savannah that once dominated the landscape across much of South-west Victoria. The Indigenous Protected Area is located in the under-represented Victorian Volcanic Plains bioregion and is the largest remnant native forest within a radius of 150 kilometres.
- Boorabee and the Willows Indigenous Protected Area covers 2,779 hectares of endangered white box, yellow box and Blakely's red gum woodlands providing a home for one of Australia's most iconic species, the koala. The traditional owners of Boorabee and the Willows, the Ngoorabul people, recognise the koala as a totemic species. The place name Boorabee itself is derived from the Ngoorabul word for koala, 'boor-bee'.
- Kalka Pipalyatjara Indigenous Protected Area is in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands and stretches for 578,594 hectares across the North-west corner of South Australia. The Tomkinson and Mann Ranges dominate the North-west landscape of the Indigenous Protected Area and continue to prove a safe haven for one of the few remaining colonies of the warru (black-footed rock wallaby) that is critically endangered in South Australia. In the southern portion of the Indigenous Protected Area sand dune country with rocky outcrops provides habitat for the nationally threatened nganamara (mallee fowl).
- Lake Condah Indigenous Protected Area covers 1,715 hectares of land within the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape area. The Indigenous Protected Area consists of several properties that contain significant wetlands and stony rise habitats providing protection for 12 nationally threatened fauna species. The properties also contain outstanding Indigenous cultural heritage including some of the world's most ancient aquaculture sites.
A further 36 Indigenous Protected Area consultation projects were supported to develop plans of management that incorporated Indigenous ecological and cultural knowledge with contemporary protected area management practices.
Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS)
The ABRS collects and disseminates information on the plants, animals and other organisms found in Australia and where they occur. Its range of taxonomic works and databases provides national references for the names of species. The program funds research and training in taxonomy - the science of naming, describing and classifying Australia's biodiversity. Accurate naming of species and understanding their relationships is required for conservation, biosecurity and a range of industry uses.
In 2009-10 the Atlas of Living Australia project provided support towards completing the national species lists. Two major partnerships also provided increased funding for taxonomic research:
- CReefs, a partnership between BHP Billiton, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, provided funding for tropical reef taxonomy. This supported the ABRS's work in completing the national biodiversity picture, strengthening taxonomy funding and capacity building.
- Bush Blitz, a partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton, Earthwatch Institute Australia, and the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network, provided funding for surveys in the National Reserve System. It also supported Tactical Taxonomy contracts, to facilitate the speedy description and publication of new species discovered on Bush Blitz surveys. Bush Blitz supported the ABRS's work in raising the profile of taxonomy and its importance.
As part of the Bush Blitz project the ABRS, in partnership with the Australian Science Teacher's Association (ASTA), developed the Bush Blitz: Teacher Resource Booklet. This contains activities for school children from primary school to year 12, centred on species discovery, identification and conservation. See Case study 3 for more on the Bush Blitz project.
The ABRS contracted taxonomists to complete information for national species lists for fauna, protoctista, lichens, marine algae and cyanophyta, supported by the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) project. The data will be delivered through the departmental databases Australian Faunal Directory and the Australian Plant Name Index. The ALA is funded by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy and Education Investment Fund. The funding is managed by CSIRO as the primary contractor. This funding supports the ABRS's work in completing the national biodiversity picture.
The National Taxonomy Research Grant Program received funding of $2.03 million and supported 56 research grants and taxonomic training positions (PhD, Masters and Honours scholarships).
Access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing
Australia's biodiversity offers vast potential for both fundamental and applied scientific research, generating applications with economic, social and environmental value - for example, in agriculture, bioremediation, alternative fuels and drug design.
The department manages a regulatory and policy framework for access to native genetic resources in Commonwealth areas and benefit sharing arising from their use. Its purpose is to provide legal certainty for researchers and innovators, to ensure sustainable use and to obtain tangible benefits for Australia and the conservation of Australia's biodiversity.
The department hosted a National Forum on Biodiversity, Biodiscovery and Traditional Knowledge, in September 2009, to inform Australia's position on the development of an international regime of access and benefit sharing. It also served to promote a nationally consistent and legally effective approach to facilitating access to, and research and development on, Australia's genetic resources. The important role that traditional knowledge plays in this research and development was also explored. More than 130 people attended the forum including leading international and Australian scientists. The co-chairs of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Access and Benefit sharing (ABSWG), under the Convention on Biological Diversity, also addressed the forum.
Following the forum, a joint meeting of the Biodiscovery Industry Panel, AusBiotech (Australia's biotechnology industry peak body), and state and territory officials was held to discuss issues related to the proposed international regime.
The department provided policy advice for Australia's participation in the ABSWG. This group met twice during 2009-10, in Montreal in Canada and Cali, Colombia, to continue negotiations on an international regime on access and benefit sharing. The department also attended, by special invitation, the Friends of the Co-chairs meeting in Montreal.
In the last year the department, and agencies accredited under the access and benefit sharing legislation, provided over 22 access permits. A focus on compliance measures led to an increase in the number of collection reports submitted. One benefit sharing agreement for commercial research was also finalised.
Approvals and Wildlife Division overview
The strategies used by the department to protect and conserve the environment are regulation and compliance, cooperative partnerships with state and territory governments, and provision of information to improve awareness of the EPBC Act. This section overviews the work administering the EPBC Act and the Sea Dumping Act against these strategies, where relevant to specific provisions administered by the department. Further detail is provided in the report on the operation of the EPBC Act.
Environmental Regulation and Compliance Activities
Species listings, recovery plans and information
The minister decides whether to list a species or ecological community for protection under the EPBC Act on advice from the Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), following a public call for nominations for species to be assessed, usually consistent with a theme.
The two conservation themes for the assessment period commencing 1 October 2009, were 'terrestrial, estuarine and near-shore environments of Australia's coast', and 'rivers, wetlands and groundwater dependent species and ecosystems of inland Australia'. There are 17 species and five ecological communities on the Finalised Priority Assessment List for assessment over the next two years. In 2009-10, based on assessments completed by the TSSC, the minister listed 23 species, three ecological communities and two key threatening processes. More detail on the listings is provided in the EPBC Act legislation report at Appendix A, Table 9.
For the assessment period commencing 1 October 2010 the theme 'terrestrial, estuarine and near-shore environments of Australia's coasts' will be continued and a new theme of 'heathlands and mallee woodlands' will be added. Under these themes, 18 species, two key threatening processes and 10 ecological community nominations were received. As at 30 June 2010 the TSSC had not advised the minister which of these should be placed on the Finalised Priority Assessment List.
In November 2009 the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council endorsed the National Koala Conservation and Management Strategy 2009-2014. The strategy was published in February 2010 and is available on the department's website at www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/publications/koala-strategy/index.html. The strategy provides a coordinating framework for plans and actions to conserve and manage koalas across all relevant jurisdictions. An implementation team comprised of representatives from the Australian Government and the states in the koala's habitat range met in March 2010 to progress implementation of the strategy. They provided their first activity report to the council on 23 April 2010.
Concurrent with the strategy's review and publication of the new strategy, the TSSC is again considering listing the koala as a threatened species under the EPBC Act and will provide advice to the minister during 2010-11.
To achieve consistency between Australian Government and state and territory threatened species lists, and to increase the exchange of information, the Australian Government has Species Information Partnerships in place with the governments of Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.
New partnerships, both formal and informal, are being developed with all states and territories, including Queensland and New South Wales for the first time. The partnerships allow for targeted expenditure of limited conservation resources and facilitate the best possible conservation outcomes for threatened species. Under these partnerships, assessment of species endemic to a state or territory will generally be undertaken first by that state or territory. The information used for the assessment will be provided to the Australian Government for a streamlined assessment under the EPBC Act.
Substantial progress was made on prioritising endemic state and territory ecological community listings for potential listing as matters of national environmental significance under the EPBC Act. This follows endorsement of the process by the TSSC to shortlist from approximately 1,650 (formally and informally listed) state and territory ecological communities or regional ecosystems. More than 165 were found to already be part of the 48 ecological communities listed under the EPBC Act or under assessment for listing. This is because many ecological communities listed at the national level either cross state boundaries or cover many smaller communities or regional ecosystems that receive varying levels of protection by the states and territories.
Consultation with all relevant states and territories was undertaken regarding the prioritisation rationale. The agreed prioritisation process focuses on those state endemic ecological communities, listed by states and territories in the endangered and critically endangered categories, which are likely to benefit the most from additional protection under the EPBC Act. The shortlist was refined and reduced to approximately 30. The TSSC agreed at its 42nd meeting in March 2010 to trial an assessment of two of the top 30 priorities (one from Western Australia and one from Queensland). These two ecological communities are likely to be assessed in 2010-11.
An audit of state and territory lists of ecological communities was progressed, in consultation with state and territory governments, to identify ecological communities of highest priority for future assessment under the EPBC Act. This resulted in a shortlist of approximately 30 state-endemic ecological communities for potential future assessment under the EPBC Act. Listing advices for ecological communities at the national level all contain clear links to state and territory vegetation systems and listed ecological communities (or regional ecosystems in Queensland).
Environmental assessment and approval
The EPBC Act provides a legal framework to protect and manage nationally and internationally important flora, fauna, ecological communities and heritage places - defined in the Act as matters of national environmental significance. A range of mechanisms under the Act are available to achieve protection of the environment.
Under section 146 of the EPBC Act, the minister may agree to assess the impacts of actions under a policy, plan or program, including but not limited to:
- regional-scale development plans and policies
- large-scale industrial development and associated infrastructure
- fire, vegetation/resource or pest management policies, plans or programs
- water extraction/use policies
- infrastructure plans and policies
- industry sector policies.
Within this context a strategic assessment normally applies to multi-faceted projects, which would otherwise need to have each individual project separately assessed under Part 8 of the EPBC Act.
Strategic assessments represent a groundbreaking new approach to Australian environmental impact assessment, which points the way to more collaborative, streamlined and certain methodologies in the future. The approach has the capacity to streamline Commonwealth and state processes while achieving ecological sustainability through proper consideration of environmental assets at the landscape level.
While strategic environmental assessment is an evolving field worldwide, Australia's strategic assessment under the EPBC Act is leading edge. Unlike almost all other forms of strategic assessment, it allows for individual future developments to proceed without further assessment if they are consistent with the approved strategic assessment. This provides considerable scope for dealing with environmental issues in a more holistic and proactive way, allowing for cumulative impacts to be considered early in the planning process.
In February 2010 the minister endorsed the Victorian Government's program for the expansion of Melbourne's urban growth boundary. This is the first endorsed strategic assessment under the EPBC Act.
The Commonwealth also entered into agreements to conduct strategic assessments of: the Browse Basin liquefied natural gas Precinct, Western Australia; Molonglo and North Weston, Australian Capital Territory; Western Sydney growth centres, New South Wales; the Fire management policy, South Australia; the Midlands Water Scheme, Tasmania; and Mount Peter Master Planned Area, Queensland.
Assessment bilateral agreements
EPBC Act assessment bilateral agreements allow the Commonwealth to delegate to the states and territories the responsibility for conducting environmental assessments under the EPBC Act.
Assessment bilateral agreements under Part 5 of the EPBC Act are in place with all states and territories following the signing of agreements with the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria in June 2009. The department reviewed the Queensland assessment bilateral agreement in 2009 to accredit processes in the new Queensland Sustainable Planning Act 2009. Further information can be found in the report on the operation of the EPBC Act.
Environmental impact assessments and projects
Many industry sectors undertake activities with the potential to impact matters of national environmental significance. The EPBC Act provides for consistent and transparent regulation for activities from all industry sectors that may have such effects. The Act has strict statutory timeframes and well established processes to deliver acceptable and timely environmental outcomes. This is done by proponents making a referral under the EPBC Act. There were 422 new referrals in 2009-10 with 92 projects currently under assessment.
The department works closely with proponents to ensure the requirements of the environmental assessment process under the EPBC Act are well understood. It strongly encourages proponents to discuss projects early in their development so issues can be highlighted for them in their decision making and planning.
The department supports the minister in his decision making under the EPBC Act to ensure decisions are founded on high quality, timely advice and recommendations. More information can be found in the report on the operation of the EPBC Act.
The Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 fulfils Australia's international obligations under the London Convention and Protocol, which aims to protect and preserve the marine environment from pollution, especially from dumping at sea. During 2009-10 nine sea dumping permits were issued by the department.
No Ship Action Group Inc v Minister for Environment, Water, Heritage & the Arts & the State of New South Wales (AAT 2010/1149)
On 23 March 2010 the No Ship Action Group Incorporated lodged an application with the AAT for an order of stay of the decision by a delegate of the minister on 22 March 2010 to grant a permit under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 for the scuttling of the former HMAS Adelaide for the purposes of placement as an artificial reef and dive site in waters near Avoca Beach in New South Wales. The AAT accepted a motion that the proponent for the proposal, the State of New South Wales, be joined as a second respondent in the proceedings. The AAT granted the stay and the hearing is to be held in July 2010. As at 30 June 2010 the application was still before the AAT.
The Sea Installations Act 1987 regulates construction and operation of human-made devices, equipment and other installations in the marine environment. It ensures they are operated safely and are environmentally sound. During 2009-10 no sea installation permits were granted by the department and seven sea installation exemption certificates were granted for existing structures.
Public awareness and information
The effectiveness of the EPBC Act is strongly dependent on how effectively the powers and obligations it creates are communicated to its stakeholders. To this end, the department continues to produce and publish a large suite of information resources tailored for a range of stakeholders, including state, territory and local governments, industry, farmers and the public. The department provides assistance and guidance to stakeholders who need to understand how EPBC Act provisions might apply to them. The department also provides information to the general public to raise understanding of the Act and its operations.
Permit approvals and wildlife management
The department protects native animal and plant species and ecosystems by regulating the import and export of wildlife and wildlife products listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The export of Australian native species, or products from them, are regulated through import and export permits issued under Part 13A of the EPBC Act. Details of wildlife permits issued under the EPBC Act are contained within the report on the operation of the Act.
The department led the Australian delegation to the 15th Conference of the Parties (CoP15) to CITES, held in Doha, Qatar, from 13 to 25 March 2010. The meeting was attended by around 1200 delegates from 158 of the current 175 Parties to the convention and many observer organisations. Outcomes included decisions to strengthen wildlife management for several reptiles, combat illegal trafficking in tigers and rhinos, and improve regulation for a wide range of plant and animal species.
Decisions were taken on sharks and stingrays, sea cucumbers, synergies with other biodiversity conventions, and other strategic and administrative matters, including the CITES Budget. Australia was instrumental in getting agreement to a broad definition of ranching (rearing in a controlled environment of specimens taken from the wild) to ensure recognition of the conservation benefits of this management tool for a range of species. This maintains the current trade reporting arrangements for Australia's crocodile product export trade. Australia also succeeded in securing agreement on a decision for a CITES capacity-building workshop for Oceania subject to availability of funding. Parties agreed on species that would be added to, deleted from, or changed in, the list of CITES species. These amendments to the CITES Appendixes entered into force on 23 June 2010. CITES documentation requirements for individuals or businesses seeking to import or export species affected by the amendments will be determined by whether there has been an addition, change or deletion.
The Secretary of DEWHA, Robyn Kruk AM and CITES Secretary General, John Scanlon, in May 2010.
Australia will continue as Oceania Regional Representative to the CITES Standing Committee. CoP16 will be held in Thailand in 2013.
Mr John Scanlon, an Australian, commenced as the new CITES Secretary-General in early May 2010. The department hosted a visit to Canberra by Mr Scanlon from 24-26 May 2010. Mr Scanlon met with the minister, the secretary, other departmental representatives and non-government organisations, in a series of meetings relating to biodiversity and the operation and implementation of CITES.
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.
The department protects the Australian environment through cooperative partnerships with industry groups involved in animal trades. The Ornamental Fish Management Implementation Group continued the implementation of a strategic approach to control the illegal import of noxious ornamental aquarium fish species. This group has representatives from all jurisdictions and from the department, as well as the industry and hobby sectors.
To increase wildlife protection awareness the department:
- delivered CITES awareness training to Australian Customs and Border Protection Service officers throughout Australia,
- conducted a review of international wildlife trade regulation information on the department's website and initiated a project to modify the website,
- conducted an Australia-wide mail-out of wildlife trade educational material to tour operators, hotels and auction houses to further increase awareness of CITES requirements,
- lent seized specimens to institutions such as zoos and aquariums, universities and museums for education or research purposes. It is a condition of display that these items are referenced as having been seized as illegal imports,
- advertised in bird-keeping magazines about the benefits of the Exotic Bird Record-Keeping Scheme and, on request, distributed information packs about the scheme,
- worked collaboratively with the New Zealand CITES Management Authority to produce a range of brochures containing information relating to wildlife trade and CITES that were translated into six Pacific languages and distributed to relevant countries.
Compliance and enforcement
The department has an active audit compliance and enforcement program. It also engages with other environmental regulators, particularly state and territory environmental agencies, through the Australasian Environmental Law Enforcement and Regulators Network, sharing information and undertaking joint enforcement operations. More information on EPBC Act compliance activities can be found in the report on the operation of the Act and in the cross-cutting activities section of the Corporate Outcome chapter.
The department's compliance audit program helps to ensure projects with the potential to impact on matters of national environmental significance are implemented as approved.
The audits also help the government to understand how approval conditions are being understood and applied by proponents, and contribute to improving the effectiveness of the department's role in setting suitable and environmentally sound conditions on projects.
In 2009-10 the compliance auditing program focused on auditing randomly selected projects that were approved with conditions or given a 'not controlled action - particular manner' decision and a strategic risk-based audit program focusing on specific areas such as industry sectors, geographical areas and protected matters.
The objectives of the compliance auditing program are to:
- measure compliance with conditions attached to approval decisions, and requirements outlined in particular manner decisions
- identify any non-compliances and ensure they are appropriately addressed through education, remediation or enforcement actions
- evaluate the effectiveness of approval conditions in protecting matters of national environmental significance
- improve internal departmental procedures, including condition setting.
Environmental compliance and enforcement under the EPBC Act is undertaken within the framework of the department's compliance and enforcement policy.
In December 2009 the department published an updated compliance and enforcement policy that provides regulated entities, stakeholders and the wider community with clear, transparent advice on how the department exercises its compliance and enforcement responsibilities. The policy reflects the department's role as a flexible and strategic regulator, with a focus on achieving environmental outcomes. The policy is available at www.environment.gov.au/about/publications/compliancepolicy.html
Joint search warrant actions were undertaken with other Commonwealth and state agencies including the: Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, Australian Quarantine Inspection Service, Australian Fisheries Management Authority and Therapeutic Goods Administration.
More information on specific EPBC Act compliance activities is provided in the report on the operation of the Act.
Australasian Environmental Law Enforcement and Regulators Network
The network promotes cross-jurisdictional dialogue and cooperation for environmental law enforcement and supports agencies working together through its subcommittees. The department participated in, and provided funding for, the network's secretariat. Refer to the Cross-cutting activities section of the Corporate Outcome chapter for further information about the network.
Improved education on wildlife trade and products
In combating illegal trade, the department worked closely with partner agencies, sharing intelligence and resources. It worked with state and territory wildlife authorities, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, the Australian Federal Police, CITES management authorities in other countries, Interpol, and some non-government organisations.
The department ran information booths at the:
- Brisbane Travel Xpo 2010, to raise wildlife trade awareness and CITES requirements amongst the general public and the travel industry
- Australasian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Annual Conference 2010, to inform traders and professionals of obligations under CITES relating to trade in international wildlife products. The department also coordinated mail-outs of letters and brochures to targeted stakeholders such as tour operators, hotels and auction houses to further increase awareness of CITES requirements.
Feedback from these activities was very positive and indicated an increased understanding of wildlife trade regulations.
The department gave a presentation as part of the Pacific Customs Management program, to inform Customs officers from Pacific countries of the interaction between the department and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service in meeting Australia's obligations under CITES and the EPBC Act. The department also continued to provide information sessions to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service to assist with their enforcement of CITES at Australian borders.
The department arranged for electronic displays of wildlife trade and CITES awareness, which were rolled out in all international airports in Australia in 2010.
As a capacity building initiative, the department worked collaboratively with the New Zealand CITES Management Authority to produce a range of brochures containing information relating to wildlife trade and CITES. These brochures have been translated into six Pacific languages and distributed to relevant countries for their use in raising awareness.
The department funded the design and printing of a customised poster for display at the Customs building on Saibai Island to promote CITES awareness in the Torres Strait.
Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking
The department's membership of the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT) complements its current work in CITES. The department draws on its ongoing CITES related activities and initiatives on illegal wildlife trade to implement CAWT objectives.
CAWT was initiated by the United States and includes a number of countries and nongovernment organisation members. CAWT partners have agreed to jointly and separately: reduce consumer demand for illegally traded wildlife, improve wildlife law enforcement, and catalyse high level political will to fight wildlife trafficking.
Supervision of uranium mining
The Supervising Scientist is a statutory office under the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978 and the occupant of the office is the head of the department's Supervising Scientist Division. The division supervises uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region (which includes Kakadu National Park) and works closely with the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism and the Northern Territory Department of Resources, in fulfilling this role.
The department has specific roles and responsibilities under the Act to protect the environment of the Alligator Rivers Region from the potential impacts of uranium mining. The roles and responsibilities include environmental monitoring, supervision, and research into the impact of uranium mining.
The Alligator Rivers Region, some 220 kilometres east of Darwin, contains a number of former, current and potential uranium mines, including:
- Ranger, which is currently in operation
- Nabarlek, where mining has ceased and rehabilitation is under way
- Jabiluka, which has been in long-term care and maintenance since December 2003, and
- Koongarra, a potential mine that remains the subject of discussions between the traditional Aboriginal owners and the mining company, Koongarra Pty Ltd.
These four sites are not part of Kakadu National Park. However, there are a number of small former uranium deposits that were mined during the 1950s and 1960s. These are located in what is now the southern portion of Kakadu National Park.
To achieve its objectives, the Supervising Scientist Division:
- plays a key role in supervising the environmental aspects of regulatory arrangements applying to uranium mining within the region
- works closely with the Northern Territory Government's regulatory body and other stakeholders, to ensure that regulatory decisions are based on the best available scientific knowledge. This also ensures that they accord with the environmental requirements attached to the Australian Government approvals for the mining activities
- undertakes a comprehensive regime of regular audits and inspections of existing and former uranium mine sites within the region
- undertakes detailed, independent, scientific investigations into incidents, breaches of approval conditions and environmental requirements of uranium mining operations
- oversees the regulation of uranium mining in the region, to ensure that the government and community can be confident that regulation is meeting expected standards
- undertakes an ongoing independent, comprehensive, chemical, biological and radiological monitoring program, designed to detect any potential effects of uranium mining in the region
- undertakes targeted scientific research to optimise the monitoring programs and to provide early warning of any potential effects of uranium mining on the environment of the region.
Caring for our Country
A Caring for our Country monitoring, evaluation, reporting and improvement strategy was released in July 2009 and provides a standard approach for monitoring and reporting on the performance of Caring for our Country.
The aims of this strategy are to:
- enable the achievement of the Caring for our Country five-year outcomes by monitoring implementation against key evaluation questions
- meet the Australian Government requirements for accountable and transparent expenditure of public funds through reporting by outcomes
- articulate clear requirements for funding recipients and the Australian Government regarding the implementation of a monitoring, evaluation, reporting and improvement strategy for Caring for our Country.
Monitoring, evaluation, reporting and improvement plans have been completed by all Caring for our Country grantees required to develop one for their project.
The Caring for our Country 2010-11 business plan was released in January 2010. The business plan included new targets reflecting changes to the government's investment focus, and a range of investment approaches to better engage community stakeholders and ensure that the program achieves its five-year outcomes. A new simplified and streamlined application process has been introduced, responding to community comments received during the 2009-10 business plan implementation review.
The 2009-10 Caring for our Country annual report card and the annual report of the Natural Heritage Trust, are being prepared for release in the 2010-11 financial year. Preparations are underway to undertake a midterm review of Caring for our Country.
The Project Control Board that was established to supervise funding through the Caring for our Country Victorian Bushfire Recovery program has assessed, evaluated and approved projects for the two rounds of funding.
Two key elements of measurement and evaluation of the Reef Rescue program were established. Firstly, progress towards the targets of the Reef Rescue program will be measured against the baseline survey of land management practices, which was conducted this year across 28 catchments draining to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. Secondly, an integrated water quality monitoring and reporting program will monitor water quality from the farm to the reef lagoon and measure progress towards accomplishment of the Reef Rescue water quality targets.
Progressing the government's anti-whaling agenda
The department played a central role in the implementation of Australia's policy to bring about the end of commercial whaling, including so-called 'scientific' programs. At the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission Australia argued that the primary objective of the Australian Government remains the reform of the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) 1946, to bring about an effective, permanent international ban on both commercial and unilateral 'scientific' whaling. Australia also advocated the nine-point proposal, The Future of the International Whaling Commission: An Australian Proposal.
Australia worked with other delegations at commission meetings to build opposition to a proposal that did not reflect Australia's key priorities.
Marine bioregional planning
The release of the Areas for Further Assessment (AFA) for the east, south-west, north-west and north marine regions during 2009-10, marked the successful achievement of an important milestone in the unprecedented effort to assess, better protect and support the ecologically sustainable use of the unique values and resources of the Australian marine environment. AFA are being used to narrow down the areas within which new Commonwealth marine reserves will be established. These reserves are being selected based on the 'Goals and Principles for the establishment of the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas in Commonwealth waters', as set out in the marine bioregional profile for each marine region. The information collected through stakeholder consultation on the AFA is being used to help ensure that the government's conservation objectives for the creation of a marine reserve network are achieved, while minimising the associated socio-economic costs.
EPBC Act review
On 31 October 2008 the minister commissioned an independent review of the operation of the EPBC Act, the first since the Act commenced on 16 July 2000. Under section 522A of the EPBC Act, a review is required every 10 years from the Act's commencement.
The review was undertaken by Dr Allan Hawke with support from a panel of experts.
In particular the review examined:
- the general operation of the EPBC Act
- the extent to which the objectives of the EPBC Act have been achieved
- the appropriateness of current matters of national environmental significance
- the effectiveness of the biodiversity and wildlife conservation arrangements.
Dr Hawke concluded that the EPBC Act has made a significant contribution to environmental regulation in Australia and is, in many respects, still regarded as leading the world. However, he also noted that the Act is a product of its time and he proposed a package of reforms to build on the current Act but would better place Australia to manage the environmental challenges of the future. The government released the report in December 2009 and is expected to formally respond to it during 2010-11. More information on the review is in the report on the operation of the EPBC Act.
Supervision of uranium mining
During 2009-10 the Supervising Scientist Division continued to conduct research, monitoring, supervision and audit activities. Following trials, further research and statistical testing of its continuous monitoring program over the previous four wet seasons from 2005-06 to 2008-09, the division is now in a position to have continuous monitoring of Magela Creek as the mainstay of its monitoring program. This shifts the focus away from weekly grab sampling to more responsive event-based sampling. This, combined with the refinement over the last couple of years of the in situ biological monitoring program, should provide stakeholders with a greater level of information about potential mine site impacts on the surrounding aquatic environment.
All findings to 30 June 2010 indicate that the environment of the Alligator Rivers Region remained protected from the impacts of uranium mining. Detailed performance results are provided in the Supervising Scientist's annual report on the operation of the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978, available at www.environment.gov.au/about/publications/annual-report
The nationally endangered regent honeyeater (top) and swift parrot (above).
Photo: Chris Tzaros
The Australian Government provided $1.5 million to Birds Australia for the 'Woodland Birds for Biodiversity' project to be carried out across the temperate woodland region of South-east Australia, including the western slopes of the divide in New South Wales, and in Victoria and eastern Tasmania. The project is a unique example showcasing how the Australian Government and organisations including Birds Australia, New South Wales Nature Conservation Trust, Trust for Nature Victoria, and Tasmanian Land Conservancy are working together to engage communities and landholders in addressing the loss, fragmentation and degradation of eastern temperate woodland habitat. Over one-third of Australia's landbird species are woodland dependent and over 40 of them, including the nationally endangered swift parrot and regent honeyeater, are now threatened.
Given the urgency for actions to improve and protect habitats and halt declines in bird numbers, it was critical that investments be strategic to maximise onground outcomes. Birds Australia developed a prioritisation tool that state-based organisations can use to identify the best habitat patches for suites of woodland birds with greater confidence. This confidence is helped by the comprehensive amount of data now known about woodland species. This has been collected by volunteers involved with Birds Australia's Atlas of Australian Birds project, as well as in specific activities such as broad ranging and long term swift parrot and regent honeyeater surveys. Chris Tzaros from Birds Australia says "volunteers who have contributed either to the Atlas or targeted woodland bird surveys are now seeing how important this data is and how it can be applied to significantly assist conservation planning. People are realising the value of their contributions to long term monitoring".
Mr Tzaros also believes the success of this project lies in its ability to engage with landholders about the value of privately-owned habitat, using woodland birds as a means to capture their interest, especially high-profile threatened species such as Tasmania's forty-spotted pardalote, and the bush stone-curlew that has declined dramatically throughout the woodlands of Victoria and New South Wales. "This project has instigated a lot of interest from local communities, with one recent workshop in central Victoria drawing 180 community members to learn about woodland ecosystems and threatened woodland birds in their area" he notes. This community engagement work assists both trusts in Victoria and New South Wales and the Land Conservancy in Tasmania in negotiating conservation covenants on private properties. Negotiations with landholders are well underway throughout woodland landscapes that have been identified using the prioritisation tool developed by Birds Australia.
Furthermore, the project aims to build on the momentum created by the Caring for our Country funded woodland bird conservation project, the swift parrot and regent honeyeater recovery programs and several key linked re-vegetation projects. The aim is to enhance the conservation of threatened and declining woodland birds in the temperate eastern woodlands region, and to use these species as flagships for the conservation of other threatened woodland biota.
The department is working to establish a network of new marine reserves in Commonwealth waters as part of the marine bioregional planning program. Australia is divided into five marine regions, including the South-west marine region, which extends from off the shore of Shark Bay, Western Australia, to Kangaroo Island, South Australia. The South-west marine region features high biological diversity and a large number of species found nowhere else in the world. In designing the marine reserves the department takes into consideration the current available science to understand what conservation features need to be included for protection.
As one of many inputs into the design of marine reserves, last year the CSIRO completed a report for the department describing the ecological relationship between the identified Areas for Further Assessment in the South-west marine region. These are areas in which future marine reserves are proposed to be located. An aim of the report was to improve our understanding of the transport of particles - for example marine larvae - through and within the South-west marine region, to improve our understanding of the connections between different marine species, populations and ecosystems.
The report highlighted some important findings about the Leeuwin Current that drives connectivity patterns between the areas of interest. Connectivity is stronger in autumn months and during la Niña years, when the Leeuwin Current flow is maximal. Additionally, coastal waters and waters of the upper slope between 0-500 metres show much greater connectivity across these areas than deeper waters. Based on these and other findings, the South-west Connectivity Report is helping the department design new marine reserves that will improve the resilience of marine biodiversity to natural disturbances and human pressures.
The colours indicate the many individual particle tracks across South-west waters but are unrelated to the source of the particle.
Scientists estimate there are more than 560,000 different types of Australian plants and animals, but so far only a fraction of what is out there has been discovered. A staggering 75 per cent of our biodiversity has never been described and almost half of our continent has never been visited by a survey team.
A groundbreaking new project called Bush Blitz is starting to fill in the gaps. Bush Blitz is a $10 million nature discovery mission launched in February 2010 marking the International Year of Biodiversity.
Scientists digging a pitfall trap at the NSW Bush Blitz.
Photo: Alex Cowley
It is the world's first continental scale survey - a three-year project to document the plants and animals in hundreds of properties across Australia's National Reserve System. The surveys are expected to uncover hundreds of new species and provide baseline scientific data that will help protect Australia's biodiversity for a generation to come.
This innovative partnership is led by the Australian Government and also involves BHP Billiton, not-for-profit conservation research organisation Earthwatch and scientists from the Terrestrial Ecosystems Research Network (TERN). It is led by the Australian Biological Resources Study within the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, with significant funding through Caring for our Country. Across the country, Bush Blitz is supported by state and territory governments, museums and herbariums, leading universities, CSIRO, the Atlas of Living Australia and the Australian Science Teachers Association.
In its first year, Bush Blitz has successfully surveyed nearly 8,500 square kilometres of habitat, covering eight per cent of the National Reserve System. Results of these surveys are still coming in from scientists around Australia. As at 30 June 2010 at least 300 new species have been discovered. Two more years of surveys are planned, to eventually cover up to 45 per cent of the reserve system.
Bush Blitz is also training the next generation of taxonomists, with grants to enable the description and publication of the newly discovered species. Museums and herbariums receive some funding to process the specimens, and to digitise the survey results and upload them to Australia's Virtual Herbarium and to the Online Zoological Collections of Australian Museums. Both of these feed in to the Australia's Natural Heritage Assessment Tool where the data can be used to analyse the spread and uniqueness of Australia's biodiversity.
Samantha Deegan lives in the Kakadu area with her family and has been employed fulltime on the Kakadu Indigenous Ranger Program since early 2009.
The program, funded through the Australian Government's Working on Country program, is helping to boost Indigenous job opportunities in the park. It contributes to the Closing the Gap target of halving the difference between Indigenous and non-Indigenous job outcomes within a decade.
'The Kakadu Indigenous Ranger Program is great - it's helped me get real experience across lots of different areas in Kakadu,' Samantha said.
'Since I started in the ranger program, I've worked in the Mary River District doing weed work and helping to open visitor sites like Gunlom and Koolpin Gorge after the wet season. I've helped coordinate staff training, and worked in the Bowali Visitor Centre giving tourists advice on great things to do at Kakadu. I've also completed a fair bit of training with the park, and at the moment I'm working on a project to record the oral histories of senior traditional owners in the park, which I'm really enjoying.
'I grew up at outstations in Kakadu and my kids are now growing up in the park and going to school here. I love working in the field, and in future my goal is to work as a full-time ranger in the Jim Jim District in Kakadu.'
In 2009-10, the Kakadu Indigenous Ranger Program provided salaried job opportunities for 11 Indigenous community rangers within the park. The success of the program is underpinned by the park's strong partnership with the Warnbi and Werenbun Aboriginal Corporations. Rangers in the program are employed through these two Indigenous corporations. They are then based at Kakadu where they receive training and mentoring, and work in many different park management roles.
To date, six people involved in the program have gone on to Australian Public Service roles within the park, with other participants building the experience and skills necessary to win such positions in the future.
There are many social and economic benefits to the Kakadu Indigenous community, as rangers develop networks and increase their social participation through employment while enhancing their own living standards and those of their families.
The Kakadu Indigenous Ranger Program is currently funded until June 2013, which will ensure Kakadu continues to contribute significantly to Closing the Gap for Indigenous communities through jobs in conservation and park management.
Program 1.1: Caring for our Country - Sustainable Management of Natural Resources
|Program deliverables under the Caring for our Country program include:|
|Investment of Caring for our Country funds in projects under the 2009-10 Caring for our Country business plan.||$223.8 million was spent in 2009-10 on projects approved under the 2009-10 Caring for our Country business plan, including Landcare.|
|Release of the Caring for our Country business plan for 2010-11.||The Caring for our Country business plan was released on 7 January 2010.|
|Release of the 2008-09 annual report card for Caring for our Country, reporting progress towards achieving outcomes.||The 2008-09 annual report card for Caring for our Country, which reports on progress towards achieving outcomes, is being prepared for release in the 2010-11 financial year.|
|Expansion of the Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) network.||8 new IPAs were declared, expanding the IPA network and delivering 2.633 million additional hectares of Indigenous land into the National Reserve System. In addition, a further 14 new IPA consultation projects were commenced, bringing the total number of IPA consultation projects to 36.|
|Investment in employment of indigenous rangers.||Working on Country invested $45.5 million in contracting about 590 Indigenous rangers to manage the natural and cultural values of the Indigenous estate.|
|Investment in projects that address threats to the Great Barrier Reef.||To 30 June 2010 over 1,480 farmers and graziers were contracted to undertake on-ground works over an area of 500,000 hectares to improve reef water quality across the entire reef catchment.|
|Investment in Environmental Stewardship to conserve high quality public assets on private land or affected by activities on private land.||In 2009-10, 69 land owners entered into contracts to manage 14,600 hectares of the critically endangered white box (Eucalyptus albens), yellow box (Eucalytus melliodora), Blakely's red gum (Eucalyptus blakelyi) grassy woodland and derived native grassland (box gum grassy woodland) ecological community on their property.
Total to 30 June 2010 is 201 land managers contracted to manage over 26,400 hectares of this critically endangered matter of national environmental significance ecological community through the Environmental Stewardship Program.
|Increasing under-represented bioregions in the National Reserve System.||The Australian Government helped to increase the National Reserve System in 23 bioregions, of which 12 are a priority with less than 10% reservation
The greatest increase in protection occurred in the following priority bioregions:
Daly Basin (6.8177% increase)
Flinders Lofty Block (3.3959% increase)
Einasleigh Uplands (0.6159% increase)
Murchison (0.3886% increase)
Brigalow Belt North (0.2423% increase)
Stony Plains (0.1634% increase).
|In addition to deliverables under Caring for our Country, DEWHA will also:|
|Manage the Australian Government's reserve estate to a high standard through the Director of National Parks.||The Director of National Parks continued to manage 7 terrestrial parks and reserves including the World Heritage-listed Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Parks in the Northern Territory and Booderee National Park in the Jervis Bay Territory. A network of 26 Commonwealth marine reserves and two marine conservation zones are managed by the Marine Division of DEWHA under delegation from the director.|
|Establish a nationally consistent and effective legal framework for managing access to genetic resources, to facilitate research and development while protecting biodiversity from over-exploitation.||DEWHA continued to work with state and territory jurisdictions to ensure a nationally consistent approach to access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing. In addition to the legislation covering Commonwealth areas, the Queensland and Northern Territory Governments have legislation in place and Victoria and Tasmania have legally effective measures to implement Australia's nationally consistent approach. A national forum on biodiscovery and a meeting of state and territory officials and key industry stakeholders was held in 2009 to raise awareness of the nationally consistent approach.|
|Key Performance Indicators||2009–10 Results|
|Delivery against targets identified in the 2009-10 Caring for our Country business plan. The business plan includes specific targets for:|
|Increasing the area of Indigenous-owned land declared as Indigenous Protected Areas.||2,633,769 hectares of land declared as Indigenous Protected Area.|
|Increasing the number of Indigenous rangers contracted to deliver environmental outcomes in the management of Indigenous Protected Areas.||The Working on Country program now contracts about 590 rangers to manage the natural and cultural values of the Indigenous Estate, including approximately 27 declared Indigenous Protected Areas and several proposed Indigenous Protected Areas that are currently under consultation.|
|Investigating opportunities for generating carbon credits arising from fire management for Indigenous emissions trading.||The Indigenous Fire Management in Northern Australia project continued to progress emissions research across four fire management project areas. This work is informing the development of a savanna offsets accounting methodology.|
|Increasing the number of private landholders contributing to the ongoing conservation and protection of biodiversity.||69 landowners entered into contracts to manage the critically endangered white box (Eucalyptus albens), yellow box (Eucalytus melliodora), Blakely's red gum (Eucalyptus blakelyi) grassy woodland and derived native grassland (box gum grassy woodland) ecological community on their property through the Environmental Stewardship program.
As at 30 June 2010, 201 land managers were contracted through the Environmental Stewardship program.
|Increasing the area of private land that is managed to protect and conserve biodiversity.||14,600 hectares of critically endangered ecological communities of nationally environmental significance have been targeted for protection under the Environmental Stewardship program.
Total to 30 June 2010 was 26,400 hectares.
|Increasing the area that is protected within the National Reserve System, particularly in under-represented bioregions.||With the support of Caring for our Country up to 1.14 million hectares were added to the National Reserve System in 2009-10. This brings the total area protected with support from Caring for our Country to 1.29 million hectares since 1 July 2008.
27 properties were purchased for the reserve system with funding assistance from the Australian Government. The government also provided support to protected area on private land projects in Tasmania, Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia.
The Australian Government helped to increase the National Reserve System in 23 bioregions, of which 12 are a priority with less than 10% reservation.
The greatest increase in protection occurred in the following priority bioregions:
Daly Basin (6.8177% increase)
Flinders Lofty Block (3.3959% increase)
Einasleigh Uplands (0.6159% increase)
Murchison (0.3886% increase)
Brigalow Belt North (0.2423% increase)
Stony Plains (0.1634% increase)
Program 1.2: Environmental Regulation, Information and Research
|The deliverables for this program include the following, in addition to those outlined in the table below:|
|Assessment of fisheries managed under Commonwealth legislation and state export fisheries in accordance with the EPBC Act.||27 fisheries were assessed in accordance with the EPBC Act including 5 fisheries managed under Commonwealth legislation and 22 state export fisheries.|
|Development of a national coastal policy and implementation and further development of the national framework for integrated coastal zone management.||The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts inquiry into climate change and environmental impacts on coastal communities tabled its report in October 2009. The department is contributing to a government response to the report, which will identify future directions for coastal policy at the national level.
In May 2010 the Natural Resources Management Ministerial Council considered a stocktake on implementation of the National Cooperative Approach to Integrated Coastal Zone Management Framework. Ministers agreed to refine the role and governance of the framework to address implementation challenges. Work to implement this decision is underway.
|Develop and implement a sound policy framework for the Great Barrier Reef, including through the operation of the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Council and measures such as the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan.||On 3 July 2009 the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Council held its first meeting under the new intergovernmental agreement. The council discussed some of the challenges that must be faced in maintaining the health of the reef into the future and set in motion the first steps to achieving this including: agreeing to take action to build and maintain the resilience of the reef to the impacts of climate change; improving the quality of water entering the reef; continuing to manage fishing activities in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area to ensure ecological sustainability and the protection of World Heritage values; and maintaining a complementary and joint program of field management for the marine and island national parks in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The department is currently continuing these actions in collaboration with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Queensland Government.|
|Australia's international efforts to stop so called 'scientific' and commercial whaling are progressed, including through the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the Marine Mammal Conservation Initiatives program.||February-March 2010: First major ship-based expedition conducted involving scientists from Australia, New Zealand and France. Preliminary results of the expedition were released at the June annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC62).
31 May 2010: Australia lodged with the Registrar of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague the application instituting the proceedings against Japan in the Dispute Concerning Japan's JARPA II Program of Scientific Whaling' (Australia v Japan).
Throughout 2009-10 Australia played an active and constructive role in multilateral discussions on the future of the IWC. IWC62 was held in Agadir, Morocco on 14-25 June 2010. At the meeting, the Chair's proposal which would have legitimised commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean, North Pacific and the North Atlantic did not go forward. Since there was no consensus on the proposal, the IWC agreed to a 'period of reflection' for the next 12 months and to revisit the subject of the future of the IWC at next year's annual meeting. The interregnum period provides Australia with the opportunity to work to reinforce ongoing discussions with a practical program of collaboration in areas where agreement exists.
|Promote environmental biosecurity issues, including through the government's response to the Beale Review.||Contributed to preparation of the government's response to the Beale Review (not yet released).|
|Increase knowledge of Australia's biodiversity through research and training.||The department furthers Australia's biodiversity knowledge through its research hubs and the ABRS.|
|Undertake 'public good' focused research, designed to engage with end users and support evidence-based decision making by environmental managers and policy makers.||The department is leading the development of the National Plan for Environmental Information that will ensure it can provide decision-makers with the environmental information they need.|
|Deliverables||2009–10 Budget||2009–10 Results|
|Statutory decisions under the EPBC Act made within the statutory timeframe [%].||95||
94% of the statutory decisions under the EPBC Act were made within the statutory timeframes. This covers all statutory decisions made under the Act including permits, listings, recovery plans and environmental impact assessment.
This was an improvement on the 2008-09 result which was 93%.
|Reported compliance incidents under the EPBC Act, which are assessed or further investigated in accordance with the published departmental compliance and enforcement policy [%].||100||100%
945 reports about 532 new incidents representing potential breaches of Part 3 of the EPBC Act were investigated.
|Listed species or ecological communities for which a recovery plan or conservation advice exists or is in preparation [%].||100||100%
Of the 1,712 listed species and ecological communities 56% were covered by recovery plans and 44% were covered by conservation advices.
|Marine bioregional plans are in place to support decision making, spatial management and conservation activities [number of plans].||4||No plans are yet in place.|
|Grant funding awarded to high priority applied marine mammal research projects [number of projects].||15||24 marine mammal research projects including a post-doctoral research project were funded in 2009-10 through the Australian Antarctic Division. Funding fully expended in 2009-10.|
|Researchers supported under the Australian Biological Research Study (ABRS) National Taxonomy Research Grants Program [number].||65||65 reseachers were supported by 56 grants.|
|Biodiversity research projects co-funded with other agencies [number].||5||5 projects co-funded - target met|
|Value of contribution made by other agencies to co-funded biodiversity research projects [%].||50||50% - target met|
|Annual research program into the impact of uranium mining on the environment is conducted.||Yes||Yes. The Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist continued to invest in research into the impact of uranium mining with a focus on aquatic ecosystem protection, ecotoxicology, environmental radiation and spatial sciences.|
|Annual monitoring program is conducted to ensure protection of the environment from the impact of uranium mining.||Yes||Yes. A comprehensive program of routine periodic inspections and audits was conducted across a range of sites including Ranger uranium mine, Jabiluka and Nabarlek.|
|Key Performance Indicator
|Performance of this program will be measured through more comprehensive and enhanced access to authoritative information on Australia's biodiversity. Performance against this measure is outlined below:|
|Impacts on matters of national environmental significance are appropriately regulated through use of the range of mechanisms provided in the EPBC Act.||Yes||Matters of national environmental significance were protected through the use of: environmental impact assessment of projects referred to the department; strategic assessments and bilateral agreements under the EPBC Act; compliance enforcement action.|
|The Commonwealth and state/territory governments are part of the cooperative approach to implementing the EPBC Act through arrangements that include bilateral agreements.||Yes||EPBC Act assessments and bilateral agreements for all state and territory governments are in place, which allows them to assess project impacts of matters of national environmental significance on behalf of the Commonwealth and participate in aligning lists of threatened species.|
|Relevant decisions under the EPBC Act consider marine bioregional plans.||N/A||N/A. No plans are yet in place.|
|Completed marine mammal research projects are providing key results to relevant management authorities.||Yes||As part of the $32 million International Whaling and Marine Mammal Conservation Initiatives program announced by the minister on 5 December 2008, additional funds have been allocated to the Australian Marine Mammal Centre for research. The research projects funded, as well as the work identified above through the Southern Ocean Research Partnership and the Indo-Pacific Research Fund, are directly related to the work Australia is doing to progress cetacean conservation in the IWC, in other international forums (for example: CITES, CMS), and feeds into the department's national cetacean work (for example, recovery planning).|
|Fisheries assessments completed within agreed timeframes [%].||95||100%. Assessments have been completed within agreed timeframes for all Commonwealth-managed and state-managed fisheries requiring approvals under the EPBC Act.
The department achieved 100% completion for 2007-08 and 2008-09.
A total of 27 fisheries were assessed in 2009-10, with 4 being considered by the minister and the remainder under delegation.
|Taxa revised or newly described under the ABRS [number].||200||Research resulted in 786 descriptions of new species and revisions of others to reflect current scientific knowledge.|
|Annual research program on the impact of uranium mining on the environment independently endorsed by the Alligator Rivers Region Technical Committee (ARRTC).||Yes||Yes. The research program was endorsed at the ARRTC meeting held in Darwin on 18-20 March 2009|
|Times uranium concentration of surface water downstream of Ranger mine exceeds 6 micrograms per litre [number].||0||0. The maximum concentration recorded was 0.32 micrograms per litre which is less than 6% of the limit.
This target has been consistently achieved since 2005-06.
Refer to Appendix 2: Resources for Outcomes - Expenses and Resources for Outcome 1.
- 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