Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities 2010 - 2011 overview
2010-11 was a year of change and opportunity for the department. We welcomed a new Minister and a Parliamentary Secretary and changed our name to reflect a substantially expanded agenda - the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.
The addition of ‘sustainability’ is not only reflected in the department’s name, but in the essence of our work. These elements of sustainability - economic, social and environmental - are already playing out in many of our programs and policies.
In 2010-11 we assisted in delivering on the government’s commitment to protecting biodiversity across the continent and in our oceans. The department consulted widely on the review of the Caring for our Country program. We worked with natural resource management stakeholders including Indigenous Australians, landholders and community groups to identify ways to better protect and manage the natural environment.
And there was broad consultation on the establishment of a network of marine reserves for the benefit of healthy and productive oceans. As part of this process, marine bioregional plans are being developed for each of the identified marine regions in the South-west, North-west, North and East. The draft Marine Bioregional Plan and Commonwealth marine reserve network proposal for the South-west Marine Region for were launched for public consultation in May 2011.
In partnership with states and territories the department launched Australia’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy; more than 4 200 species names and 370 families were added to the Australian Faunal Directory. 28 species and two ecological communities were listed for protection under national environmental law (the EPBC Act) and a further 12 species and 17 ecological communities were undergoing assessment for possible listing at 30 June 2011.
As 2010-11 saw the breaking of the drought in south-eastern Australia, national water reform continued as a key priority. The focus of our work ranged widely from urban water use to on-farm water efficiency programs. The Murray-Darling Basin continued to be a significant area of activity. During the year, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority released its Guide to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and the department participated extensively in the community consultation sessions that followed.
In April 2011, an important milestone was reached with just over a thousand gigalitres of water entitlements secured from infrastructure and water purchase programs. This water will be dedicated to the environment, supporting future healthy, productive rivers for local communities, irrigators and the nation.
National environment law
This year also marked a shift towards a more proactive, streamlined and holistic approach to biodiversity conservation including work leading up to the government’s response to the independent review of Australia’s national environment law - the EPBC Act.
Over the past 12 months some extremely large and complex assessments were completed. Department officers developed more than 300 conditions for each of three coal seam gas projects approved in Queensland to minimise their environmental impact, and they assessed world-first technology for a floating liquefied natural gas facility.
There were also good compliance achievements, including Operation CETUS, which saw our compliance and enforcement officers joining forces with state colleagues and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to monitor the activities of people interacting with whales, ensuring a stress-free migration period.
Closing the gap
A number of the department’s environmental and heritage conservation programs are proving to be a vehicle for meaningful Indigenous community participation, stimulating economic development and community capacity in locations where there are few other employment opportunities. These programs form part of the government’s coordinated efforts to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage.
In the last year the Working on Country Indigenous ranger program employed over 625 Indigenous rangers to help manage and protect over 1.5 million square kilometres of land across Australia, several ranger teams receiving national awards for their successes and achievements. Indigenous Protected Areas - known as IPAs - remain one of Australia’s conservation success stories. IPAs work because they recognise the crucial relationship between Indigenous Australians, the land and sea. They provide jobs and training opportunities, often in remote areas where business opportunities are limited. Rangers have told us that IPAs lead to a range of wider community outcomes such as better health, better school attendance and greater social cohesion.
Today Australia has 44 Indigenous Protected Areas, protecting more than 26 million hectares across the country.
In 2010-11, five new Indigenous Protected Areas, covering 2.36 million hectares were declared, including the spectacular Uunguu Indigenous Protected Area. Uunguu, meaning ‘living home’, protects more than 340 000 hectares of north Kimberley coastline.
In 2011 we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Sir Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition to Commonwealth Bay. Events to commemorate Mawson’s expedition will continue through to 2012.
Our scientists continue globally significant and coordinated research in the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean, looking into critical issues such as climate change and increased global demands for food.
We also implemented Antarctic Treaty measures, proclaiming five new Antarctic Specially Protected Areas, three Antarctic Specially Managed Areas, three Historic Sites and Monuments, and declaring one Specially Protected Species.
This has been a significant year for heritage protection with the World Heritage Listings of Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia and Koongarra in Kakadu National Park and seven places added to the National Heritage List including the Great Ocean Road and Scenic Environs.
We also supported the Australian Government’s inaugural Heritage Week in April which was marked with more than 300 events across the country.
This year saw further progress in the implementation of Australia’s first National Waste Policy: Less Waste, More Resources, resulting in groundbreaking product stewardship initiatives and the passage of the Product Stewardship Bill through parliament.
The policy heralds a new and environmentally responsible approach to waste management in Australia. Agreed by all Australian environment ministers, it sets Australia’s waste management and resource recovery direction to 2020.
Following extensive consultation across governments and the community, we assisted the government in the delivery of Australia’s sustainable population strategy, Sustainable Australia - Sustainable Communities. Work has continued on a range of policies and programs underpinned by the principles of economic prosperity, liveable communities and environmental sustainability.
In line with the government’s target to deliver 35 000 dwellings by 30 June 2014, almost 4 000 affordable rental properties were made available under the National Rental Affordability Scheme with support for a further 19 000 odd dwellings. Under the Housing Affordability Fund projects, the first 749 reduced price lots/dwellings were sold.The achievements of department during 2010-11 are many and provide a solid foundation from which the department’s efforts will continue - policy development and program delivery to help achieve a sustainable Australia, in the interest and wellbeing of all. Back to top