Program 1.1 Sustainable management of natural resources
Land and Coasts Division
Parks Australia Division
The Land and Coasts Division administers Caring for our Country—the government’s flagship environment protection and sustainable agriculture initiative. It is administered jointly by the department and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
The Director of National Parks is the statutory agency responsible for the Australian Government’s protected area estate, both terrestrial and marine. The director is assisted by Parks Australia, a division of the department, in carrying out the director’s responsibilities for management of terrestrial reserves.
The director has also been delegated functions and powers by the minister and the secretary of the department for programs that complement the director’s statutory functions. Under these delegations, the director administers the National Reserve System Program and the Indigenous Protected Areas Program, both of which are significant components of the Caring for our Country initiative. The director also manages the Australian Biological Resources Study and the development of Australian Government policy on management of Australia’s genetic resources, including regulating access to such resources in Commonwealth areas, and provides coordination and leadership in meeting Australia’s commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Under Caring for our Country, the government has identified five-year outcomes to be achieved for six national priority areas:
- accelerating the establishment of a 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
- enhancing the skills, knowledge and engagement of communities to help protect our environment and productive land base.
In addition to the objectives under Caring for our Country, the department aims to:
- conserve Australia’s biodiversity within our protected area estate
- establish and manage a regulatory framework which maximises social, economic and environmental returns from investment in biodiscovery in Australia.
Caring for our Country
Caring for our Country seeks to achieve an environment that is healthy, better protected, well-managed and resilient and provides essential ecosystem services in a changing climate. The initiative sets measurable targets that focus effort on the most effective ways to improve Australia’s natural environments and help ensure productive land remains viable into the future. To achieve these targets, the government works in partnership with regional natural resource management organisations; local, state, and territory governments; Indigenous groups; industry bodies; land managers; farmers; Landcare groups; and communities. Caring for our Country also operates a network of state- and territory-based officers, including Indigenous Land Management Facilitators, to help support project delivery at a local level.
There are also two national coordinators (business/industry and Indigenous) who broker partnerships to maximise the effectiveness of investments.
The Caring for our Country business plan 2011–12
The Caring for our Country business plan 2011–12 was released on 5 April 2011. The business plan maintains a range of investment approaches to allow Caring for our Country to continue to meet the needs of the community. To ensure ongoing progress against the five-year outcomes, the majority of targets from the previous business plan have been retained. Some have been revised, following stakeholder feedback, to allow more flexibility and greater potential for investment.
Community Action Grants
The Community Action Grants program was established to help support community groups contributing 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 them to participate and engage in natural resource management. Under the first round of Community Action Grants in 2010–11, over $7.9 million was provided to 452 projects. More than $310 000 of this funding was for 19 projects located in or adjacent to World Heritage or National Reserve System sites, and over $850 000 went to 46 Indigenous groups to conduct natural resource management work and record cultural heritage and traditional knowledge.
Groups around Australia are currently working on activities including planting and protecting areas of existing native and/or remnant vegetation; reducing the impact of invasive species, including Weeds of National Significance; recording Indigenous knowledge and cultural heritage; running workshops and field days to build community awareness and knowledge of local environmental issues, and demonstrating sustainable land management techniques such as managing soil erosion or rehabilitating land.
The National Reserve System
The National Reserve System is Australia’s national network of protected areas. It conserves examples of our unique landscapes, plants and animals for future generations. The National Reserve System currently protects 13.7 per cent of Australia’s land area, covering over 105 895 377 million hectares. The National Reserve System program provides funding through Caring for our Country to support the collective effort of governments, non-government organisations and Indigenous and private landholders to expand the protected area estate.
Underpinning Australia’s National Reserve System is a bioregional framework for the development of a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system. The aim is to fill notable gaps in the system by increasing the level of protection in bioregions that are less than 10 per cent protected in reserves and contribute to landscape-scale conservation outcomes.
During 2010–11, the government contributed over $22.2 million towards the purchase of 19 properties, covering more than 772 280 hectares. It also contributed just over $1.4 million to strategic projects to establish protected areas on private lands through perpetual covenants.
Funding for a national secretariat to support the newly-established Conservation Lands Trust Alliance was also approved in 2010–11. The alliance, created by seven non-government covenanting organisations who assist landholders to register conservation covenants over their land, will work with interested stakeholders to improve private land conservation as part of the National Reserve System. The alliance will develop nationally consistent principles, standards, and best practice guidelines for private land areas included in the National Reserve System. A web based information site and forum will be available for owners of covenanted lands across Australia to share their experiences, receive recognition of their work and provide input into future directions, policies and strategies.
Land purchases supported this year included:
- Gilbert River and Rungulla, adjoining properties in north-central Queensland. These properties protect over 118 000 hectares of largely intact native vegetation. The properties will be managed as national parks under Queensland Government legislation and help build an important habitat link as part of the state-wide Great Artesian Rim corridor along the Gregory Range. The Gilbert River dissects both properties, creating unique and undisturbed springs and an unusual plateau lagoon of high conservation value. Together these properties form an important new conservation node protecting diverse ecosystems across the poorly protected Gulf Plains and Einasleigh Uplands bioregions. In addition to providing seasonal refuge for an impressive array of tree-dwelling mammals, woodland birds and amphibians, including nationally threatened species, the properties also contain culturally important rock art sites.
- Henbury Station in Australia’s arid centre is a 527 293 hectare addition to the National Reserve System. Through Caring for our Country, the government has assisted the purchase of Henbury by pastoral company R.M. Williams Agricultural Co. Landscape Management Pty Ltd, which will manage the property for nature conservation and at the same time generate income through carbon sequestration. Henbury Station is an important addition to the National Reserve System being in an area under-represented for biodiversity conservation. The owners of Henbury are also using it as a pilot project to examine the potential for conservation while generating carbon-based income to supplement or replace earnings from farming activities.
North East Cape York. (Roger Fryer)
- Skullbone Plains in Tasmania’s central highlands. The protection of this 1 647 hectare reserve has created a large conservation corridor, linking the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and the Walls of Jerusalem National Park, to form a significant part of the Central Plateau Conservation Area. Skullbone Plains is owned and managed for nature conservation by the Tasmanian Land Conservancy and protects the nationally threatened ecological community ‘Alpine Sphagnum Bogs and Associate Fens’. The reserve is also home to eight nationally threatened species including the Tasmanian devil, the spotted-tail quoll and the Clarence galaxias, a small, cryptic fish that only survives in trout free lakes, wetlands and streams.
Indigenous Protected Areas
The government’s Caring for our Country initiative is providing funding over five years to support Indigenous Protected Areas, non-statutory protected areas that form part of the National Reserve System. The funding assists Indigenous landowners to establish and manage Indigenous Protected Areas on their lands and supports them through contractual arrangements with the government. The program also promotes the integration of Indigenous ecological and cultural knowledge into the management of these areas.
In 2010–11 the Indigenous Protected Areas program supported 44 declared Indigenous Protected Areas. Another 48 consultation projects explored the potential for Indigenous Protected Area declaration over Indigenous-owned land.
The government’s Caring for our Country initiative provided over $11 million in grants and project support during 2010–11. The Indigenous Land Corporation provided an additional $1 million in 2010–11 under a $7 million agreement to expand the Indigenous Protected Area initiative. This arrangement has enabled coordinated, streamlined funding support from government for Indigenous Protected Areas.
Five new Indigenous Protected Areas, covering 2.36 million hectares, were declared in 2010–11:
- Marri-Jabbin (Thamarrurr) Indigenous Protected Area covers 64 497 hectares of the western Northern Territory savanna and woodland.
- Brewarrina Ngemba Billabong Indigenous Protected Area covers 261 hectares of land, protecting a culturally and environmentally important site.
- Uunguu Indigenous Protected Area covers 343 797 hectares of land at the northern tip of the Kimberley, a biologically important zone that supports populations of small mammals.
- Apara Makiri Punti Indigenous Protected Area covers around 1.1 million hectares. Five Antara–Sandy Bore Indigenous Protected Areas cover around 846 000 hectares in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands in the north of South Australia.
The 48 Indigenous Protected Area consultation projects were supported to develop plans of management that incorporated Indigenous ecological and cultural knowledge into contemporary protected area management practices. This included 11 new Indigenous Protected Area projects initiated in 2010–11 to help Indigenous landowners to consult and plan for potential Indigenous Protected Area declarations over more than 15 million hectares of land.
Working on Country
Working on Country builds on Indigenous traditional knowledge to protect and manage land and sea country. There are 625 full-time equivalent positions, with additional casual and part-time ranger work contracted to the Working on Country Indigenous Ranger program, which represents the government’s $243.1 million investment to 2012–13. The Indigenous rangers are employed to manage the natural and cultural values of the Indigenous estate across remote and regional Australia. Working on Country rangers combine Indigenous Ecological Knowledge with contemporary natural resource management skills to manage weeds, feral animals, threatened species, sea country, fire management and to protect cultural sites. Over 80 per cent of Working on Country projects involve the transfer of Indigenous Ecological Knowledge and 94 per cent of projects manage matters of national environmental significance. Job retention under Working on Country has been high and the majority of Indigenous rangers are undertaking accredited and other forms of training to further develop their skills in land, sea and cultural heritage management.
Indigenous Emissions Trading
Indigenous Emissions Trading is implementing two projects that build Indigenous capacity in carbon markets:
- The Indigenous Fire Management in Northern Australia project uses traditional fire management to reduce the number of intense wildfires that are causing significant biodiversity loss. The project also aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, thereby offering a potential pathway to emerging carbon markets and creates enterprise opportunities for Indigenous people whilst supporting ongoing land management activities. The initiative is being implemented across four project areas (north Kimberley, Central Arnhem Land, Gulf and Cape York) across over 100 000 square kilometres of biodiversity-rich but wildfire-prone savanna landscapes. The project also involves savanna emissions research and capacity building. Research undertaken in these project areas is helping determine actual emission outcomes from altered fire management practices.
- The Indigenous Carbon Market Participation project supports Indigenous engagement in reforestation opportunities under the emerging carbon markets on Indigenous held land across Australia. Work was undertaken in 2010–11 on Indigenous reforestation case studies, which will provide business planning and feasibility assessments for four potential reforestation project areas across different regions of Australia.
Feral Camel Management Project
The Feral Camel Management Project is a four-year $19 million investment in the mitigation of adverse impacts of feral camels on priority environmental assets. The project is undertaken in partnership with Indigenous landowners/managers, relevant state and territory government agencies, pastoralists and the camel industry.
The primary objective is to reduce feral camel density around priority environmental assets (including terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems). All options for camel removal are being investigated, including helping Indigenous land communities and organisations to develop willingness and capacity to remove camels through commercial ventures. Aerial culling in remote and/or inaccessible areas has been successful, although the recent extended wet weather across much of the rangelands has hampered operations. The wet weather has encouraged the camels to disperse into small family groups, which reduces the pressure on aquatic ecosystems, and the strategy has changed temporarily to prevent mobs of camels from drifting back to priority environmental assets. More intensive operations will recommence as the weather improves and the camels begin aggregating into larger herds.
The Environmental Stewardship program uses voluntary market-based approaches to support private land managers reduce critical threats to biodiversity by increasing the area of native habitat being managed for conservation. The program targets specific matters of national environmental significance under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 where an improvement in their quality and extent can be effectively achievfouted through the actions of private land managers. By June 2011, 270 private land managers had been contracted for up to 15 years under the Box Gum Grassy Woodland and Multiple Ecological Communities projects in the program for the conservation management of over 47 500 hectares of five nationally threatened ecological communities on private land in South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland.
National Wildlife Corridors Plan
The National Wildlife Corridors Plan, which commenced in 2011, is a three-year commitment of $10 million to link national parks and reserves with well-managed private land. This initiative will help to build the resilience of Australia’s environment to climate change by working with the 56 regional natural resource management groups, and local communities, to develop a national plan for wildlife corridors. It will guide future government investments in projects that support the protection of our natural environment and conserve our biodiversity.
Landscape-scale management of native species and natural resources
The government is committed to taking a more strategic, landscape-scale approach to managing native species and natural resources. The approach is being implemented through coordination and, where necessary, realignment of a mixture of new programs, such as the National Wildlife Corridors Plan and the Carbon Farming Initiative, and existing policies and programs, particularly Caring for our Country. The concepts of landscape-scale management were developed further by an expert workshop in May 2011.
Caring for our Country funding addresses a range of environmental challenges in World Heritage places. Integrated management arrangements are being secured for the Wet Tropics of Queensland and the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Areas, to assist in reducing threats to the universal values of the properties. Within the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area, 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 continue to engage enthusiastically in the Caring for our Country Reef Rescue program. Through Reef Rescue, $200 million will be invested in the five years to 2013 to address the impacts of declining water quality on the Great Barrier Reef. This investment is helping land managers to adopt improved management practices that reduce the amounts of nutrients, chemicals and sediments leaving their properties and entering the reef lagoon.
Since 2008 more than 2 000 land managers in priority areas have received Reef Rescue funds to deliver water quality improvements through on-ground works and a total of 3 600 have been engaged in the program through farm planning, risk assessment and training activities. To June 2013 land managers received more than $40 million in incentive payments and have contributed $70 million of their own cash or in-kind labour and equipment.
The Reef Rescue Land and Sea Country Indigenous Partnerships program continues to provide unique opportunities and support for traditional owners to conduct sea country management in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. During 2010–11, significant achievements were made in a number of areas:
- A roll-out of a small grants program has successfully provided 12 traditional owner groups with nearly $500 000 in funding to support their sea country management projects.
- Multi-agency field surveillance in high-risk areas for unlawful hunting have increased. This program has achieved very significant conservation outcomes by addressing illegal use of nets set to take turtle and dugong. Compliance officers operating with the support of traditional owners have seized a total of 44 nets since the start of the Reef Rescue Indigenous Partnerships Program in 2009 and have significantly reduced this practice.
- Support has continued for an Indigenous Reef Advisory Committee to provide strategic advice and direction on the Reef Rescue Program.
Community members, school children & rangers cleaning up the beach and camping grounds.
The government’s Community Coastcare initiative is providing funding over five years to help local communities protect and restore the Australian coastline and prepare for the impact of climate change. Since 2008 the Community Coastcare initiative has allocated $69.1 million to 513 projects involving over 2 000 community groups. Community Coastcare is delivering significant outcomes by increasing the capacity of coastal communities to adapt, restore and protect the local coastal environment.
In the Gippsland Lakes, $5.25 million has been invested over three years in planning and on-ground actions to protect the conservation values of this significant wetland system. Strategies to improve water quality and reduce nutrient inputs from public and private land ($3 million) and to minimise the impacts of flooding problems for current and future developments through a flood mitigation program ($2.25 million) have been developed.
Ramsar wetlands and High Ecological Value Aquatic Ecosystems
Since 2008, $36.9 million has been committed under Caring for our Country to protecting and restoring significant aquatic ecosystems. Priority has been given to Ramsar wetlands in northern and remote Australia and High Ecological Value Aquatic Ecosystems in the Murray-Darling Basin. Ramsar wetlands are recognised as internationally important sites for flora, fauna and the ecological communities they support. High Ecological Value Aquatic Ecosystems include rivers, wetlands, floodplains, lakes, inland saline ecosystems, groundwater-dependant ecosystems and estuaries of high environmental value. This funding has helped communities to implement measures to protect, restore and manage nationally and internationally significant wetlands sites through on-ground activities, information gathering and community engagement and capacity building.
In 2010–11 Caring for our Country sustained the environmental values of priority wetland sites such as internationally listed Ramsar wetlands and those with high conservation value, including Howard Sand Plains and Coburg Peninsula in the Northern Territory; Cotter River in the Australian Capital Territory; the Lowbidgee Floodplain and the Macquarie Marshes in New South Wales; the Mitchell River System, Barmah Forest and Western District Lakes in Victoria; Mitchell Springs, Currawinya National Park and Great Sandy Strait in Queensland; the Derwent Estuary in Tasmania; the Bool and Hacks Lagoons and Coongie Lakes in South Australia; and the Eighty Mile Beach, Lakes Argyle and Kunanurra in Western Australia.
Policy and governance framework for the Great Barrier Reef
The Reef Water Quality Protection Plan contains priority work areas as well as supporting actions that contribute to the plan’s goal and objectives. It builds on existing government policies and government, industry and community initiatives aiming to halt and then reverse the decline in the quality of water entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.
The plan, which is aimed at long-term solutions, identifies actions to encourage good planning and to help land managers to adopt best management practices that are both profitable and environmentally sustainable.
In accordance with the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan, an independent audit by Lloyd Consulting thoroughly assessed the degree to which actions had been implemented, how well partners were engaged and whether there were any impediments to the successful implementation of plan. The final report was submitted by the auditors in March 2011. The audit found overall that progress had been positive and that partners felt engaged and committed to the plan. It also highlighted the significant improvements in the program compared to the previous Reef Plan (2003).
The audit highlighted some areas in which improvements should be made, specifically around communications (both within and external to the program) and the need for greater engagement with farmers and graziers through extension programs.
A joint government response to the audit is being been prepared through the Reef Plan Intergovernmental Operational Committee and will identify the steps to be taken in addressing the impediments highlighted in the audit.
Australia’s biodiversity offers vast potential for both fundamental and applied scientific research, which will generate 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 sharing the benefits arising from their use. The purpose of the framework is to provide legal certainty for researchers and innovators, ensure sustainable use and obtain tangible benefits for Australia and the conservation of Australia’s biodiversity.
During 2010–11 the department continued to provide policy advice for Australia’s negotiations on an international regime for access and benefit-sharing leading to the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilisation (the Nagoya Protocol). After the Nagoya Protocol was adopted, the department became responsible for overseeing the signature and ratification process. Consultations to inform the Australian Government’s decisions commenced. This process involves establishing an interdepartmental committee of relevant Australian Government agencies and briefing the Commonwealth–State–Territory Standing Committee on Treaties, the department’s Indigenous Advisory Committee and industry groups.
Convention on Biological Diversity
The department plays an important role in protecting and conserving biodiversity whilst supporting Australia’s global leadership role in relation to the sustainable management of biodiversity and wildlife, domestically and internationally.
In 2010–11 the department coordinated and led Australia’s engagement in the United Nations Year of Biodiversity, which was in turn led by the Convention on Biological Diversity for the United Nations.
The importance of, and Australian and global engagement in, the Year of Biodiversity was best evidenced by a highly successful tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity held in Nagoya, Japan—widely considered as a critical milestone in actions to ensure the conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity.
While Australia had one of the smaller delegations, it made a substantial contribution to the highly successful multilateral meeting. This was due to the well prepared delegation led by the department. Of particular note was the contribution to finalising the Aichi Targets—20 ambitious global biodiversity targets for the next 10 years that include raising awareness of the values of biodiversity and resource mobilisation and increasing the protection of land and sea areas to 17 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.
- 19 properties, covering more than 772 280 hectares, were added to the National Reserve System with funding support of over $22.2 million from Caring for Our Country.
- Over 21 000 hectares of nationally threatened ecological communities on private land were protected under the Environmental Stewardship Program.
- Assistance has been provided to more than 2 000 land managers since 2008 to undertake on-ground works 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. A total of 3 600 land managers have been engaged through the program in farm planning, risk assessment and training activities.
- Through the open call process under the Caring for our Country 2010–11 business plan, communities in coastal environment have been assisted in restoring, protecting and improving the water quality of coastal hot spots through $24.8 million in funding for over 40 Community Coastcare projects.
- A range of community and natural resource management organisations, governments and landholders have received $6.5 million in funding for 15 projects through the open call process under the Caring for our Country 2010–11 business plan to help them address threats posed by invasive plant and animal species and improve land management practices in priority Ramsar wetlands and High Conservation Value Aquatic Ecosystems across Australia.
- Funding of $7.9 million in Community Action Grants was provided for 452 projects across Australia, including over $850 000 to Indigenous organisations to fund 46 projects.
- Landholders, communities, local government and non-government organisations received funding of $10.8 million over two years, until June 2011, to undertake targeted natural resource management bushfire recovery works in six fire-affected Victorian catchments.
- Research undertaken as part of the Indigenous Fire Management in Northern Australia project has underpinned the development of a savanna burning offset methodology under the Carbon Farming Initiative. This methodology provides an economic opportunity for Indigenous land managers to access the carbon market through traditional fire management practices whilst supporting ongoing land management activities. The area under traditional fire management regimes has been expanded as a result of projects covering more than 100 000 square kilometres of northern Australian savannas.
- Twenty-eight traditional owner groups were engaged through the Reef Rescue Land and Sea Country Indigenous Partnerships Program.
- Indigenous Protected Areas now cover an area equivalent to 25 per cent of Australia’s National Reserve System. Indigenous custodians of Indigenous Protected Areas manage and protect important natural and cultural heritage values on behalf of all Australians.
- The Uunguu Indigenous Protected Area was declared by the Wunambal Gaambera people of the north Kimberley, protecting 340 000 hectares of northern savanna country including a wealth of threatened species, wetlands of national significance and internationally significant rock art.
- Apara Makiri Punti and Antara–Sandy Bore Indigenous Protected Areas were declared on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara lands in South Australia. The new Indigenous Protected Areas will protect over 1.9 million hectares of land as well as threatened plants and animals including marsupial moles, mallee fowl and the great desert skink. Apara Makiri Punti Indigenous Protected Area covers more than 1.1 million hectares and includes unique landscapes such as the western end of the Musgrave Ranges and the extensive sand dune and sand plain country studded with small hills and rocky outcrops. Antara–Sandy Bore Indigenous Protected Area extends over 836 000 hectares and includes the Everard Ranges.
- In 2010–11 the department, and agencies accredited under the access and benefit-sharing provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Regulations 2000, Part 8A), provided over 65 access permits for the collection of biological resources from Commonwealth reserves.
- The first Existing Pest Animal National Strategy under the Australian Pest Animal Strategy for management of feral camels was developed. 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 commenced in April 2010 and is ongoing into 2010–11.
- Reducing the impact of invasive species is a priority for Caring for our Country. Since 2008 Caring for our Country has invested over $58 million for better weed and pest animal management. In 2010–11 projects from Caring for our Country funding included:
- $19 million to mitigate the impacts of feral camels in Australia on environmental, social and economic assets and values across Australia’s rangelands. This figure does not include regional base-level funding, much of which goes towards managing weeds and pest animals. $711 million has been provided over the period 2008–09 to 2012–13
- over $13.2 million for projects targeting Weeds of National Significance and vertebrate pest animals (particularly rabbits, pigs, dogs and horses).
These investments build on Caring for our Country projects worth over $45 million announced in 2008–09 and 2009–10 to reduce the impact of weeds and pest animals on biodiversity and natural icons, including over $1.5 million to find a new biological control for rabbits.
Barrow Island, Western Australia. (Kevin Walley)
Monitoring, evaluation, reporting and improvement plans have been completed by all Caring for our Country grantees required to do so. The Caring for our Country Report Card 2009–10 and the 2009–10 Natural Heritage Trust Annual Report are being prepared for release. Data being collated for the report card shows that strong progress continues to be made towards fully achieving all five-year outcomes.
In 2010–11 a significant review of the Caring for our Country initiative explored the effectiveness of the program, achievements to date and options for natural resource management in the future. A range of communication methods including social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook and an online forum, were used to generate discussion and to disseminate information through existing stakeholder networks.
The review explored options for future government support for natural resource management. It was supported by a number of issues papers, a community consultation report as well as contemporary research and thinking on issues such as landscape-scale management and community capacity building and engagement.
Progress towards the targets of the Reef Rescue program will be measured against the baseline survey of land management practices that was conducted this year across 28 catchments draining to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. Also, an integrated water quality monitoring and reporting program will monitor water quality from farms to the reef lagoon and measure progress towards accomplishment of the Reef Rescue water quality targets.
Environmental Stewardship Program
An independent review commissioned in 2010 provided a positive report on the performance of the trial Environmental Stewardship Program. The review recommended refining aspects of program implementation and supported the continuation of the program. The review report is available on the Caring for our Country website. Funding for the program was extended for four years in the 2010–11 budget.
The Indigenous Protected Area program
In 2010–11 the Indigenous Protected Area program supported the declaration of over 2 million hectares of land as Indigenous Protected Areas. In addition, new Indigenous Protected Area consultation projects were initiated for more than 15 million hectares of Indigenous-owned lands. The consultation projects are expected to progress toward Indigenous Protected Area declarations over coming years and will contribute to a significant expansion of the National Reserve System.
In accordance with the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan, an independent audit, undertaken by Lloyd Consulting, has thoroughly assessed the degree to which actions of the Reef Plan had been implemented, how well partners were engaged and whether there were any impediments to the successful implementation of the plan. The final report was submitted by the auditors in March 2011. A joint government response to the audit is being prepared through the Reef Plan Intergovernmental Operational Committee and will identify the steps to be taken in addressing the impediments highlighted in the audit.
The department manages regulations under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) on access to biological resources in Commonwealth areas and benefit-sharing arrangements for their use. Since amendments to the EPBC Regulations establishing the access arrangements were passed in late 2005, the department, and agencies accredited under the access and benefit-sharing legislation, have provided over 450 access permits and finalised seven benefit-sharing agreements.
As the convenor of the Biodiversity Working Group—a group of state, territory and Commonwealth officials responsible for biodiscovery policy—the department is the contact point for agencies in other jurisdictions and continues to work with the states and territories to implement measures to facilitate biodiscovery. The department played a central role in negotiations that led to the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol.
|Program deliverables under the Caring for our Country program include:|
|Investment of Caring for our Country funds in projects under the 2010–11 Caring for our Country business plan.||$337.9 million approved under the 2010–11 business plan for investment through to 2012–13.|
|Release of the Caring for our Country business plan for 2011–12.||The 2011–12 business plan was released on 5 April 2011.|
|Release of the 2009–10 annual report card for Caring for our Country, reporting progress towards achieving outcomes.||The 2009–10 annual report card is being finalised and will be released in the 2011–12 financial year.|
|Expansion of the Indigenous Protected Area network.||Five new Indigenous Protected Areas (IPA) were declared, expanding the IPA network and delivering 2.36 million additional hectares of Indigenous land into the National Reserve System. In addition, a further 11 new IPA consultation projects were commenced, bringing the total number of IPA consultation projects to 48.|
|Investment in employment of Indigenous rangers.||$126.8 million has been spent over four years up to 30 June 2011 under Working on Country.|
|Investment in projects that address threats to the Great Barrier Reef.||$103.5 million has been invested in the Reef Rescue over three years up to 30 June 2011.|
|Investment in Environmental Stewardship to conserve high-quality public assets on private land or affected by activities on private land.||Through the Environmental Stewardship Program, over $6.6 million was shared between land managers in SA and NSW. The funding was used to protect and enhance 69 sites on private land encompassing over 21 000 hectares of five nationally threatened ecological communities.
At 30 June 2011, 270 sites were protected through the Environmental Stewardship Program, covering 47 500 hectares of nationally threatened ecological communities across SA, NSW and Qld.
|Increase in the number of private landholders contributing to the ongoing conservation and protection of biodiversity.||Through the Environmental Stewardship Program, 69 sites on private land were contracted for between 10 and 15 years to protect and enhance five nationally threatened ecological communities.|
|Increase in the area of private land that is managed to protect and conserve biodiversity.||Over 21 000 hectares of nationally threatened ecological communities have been targeted for protection under the Environmental Stewardship Program. The total to date is over 47 000 hectares protected under the Environmental Stewardship Program.|
|Investment in World Heritage Areas, Ramsar wetlands, critical aquatic habitats and coastal hotspots.||$36.9 million invested since 2008 to address threats from invasive plant and animal species and improve land management practices in priority Ramsar wetlands and High Conservation Value Aquatic Ecosystems across Australia.|
|Increase in under-represented bioregions in the National Reserve System.||The National Reserve System (including Indigenous Protected Areas) was increased in 20 bioregions, of which nine are a priority with less than 10 per cent reservation.
The greatest increase in protection occurred in the following priority bioregions:
As part of this increase, 19 properties, covering more than 772 280 hectares were added to the National Reserve System with funding support under Caring for our Country.
|In addition to deliverables under Caring for our Country, the department also:|
|Manages the Australian Government’s reserve estate to a high standard through the Director of National Parks.||The Director of National Parks continued to manage seven 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. Under delegation from the director, the Australian Antarctic Division manages the Heard and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve while the Marine Division manage the remaining 25 Commonwealth marine reserves.|
|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.||In October 2010 the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilisation was adopted by the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Following adoption of the protocol the department became responsible for overseeing the signature and ratification process. The department also continued to work with state and territory jurisdictions to ensure a nationally consistent approach to access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing.|
|Delivery against targets identified in the 2010–11 Caring for our Country business plan. The business plan includes specific targets for:||Specific targets are used as a means of achieving the Caring for our Country initiatives outcomes. During 2010–11 significant progress has been made against targets and specific details will appear in the Caring for our Country annual report card.|
|Investing Caring for our Country funds in projects under the 2010–11 Caring for our Country business plan.||The Caring for our Country business plan for 2011–12 was released.|
|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 over 625 full-time, casual and part-time rangers to manage the natural and cultural values of the Indigenous Estate, including approximately 27 declared Indigenous Protected Areas and several consultation Indigenous Protected Areas.|
|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.||Through the Environmental Stewardship Program, 69 sites on private land were contracted for between 10 and 15 years to protect and enhance five nationally threatened ecological communities.|
|Increasing the area of private land that is managed to protect and conserve biodiversity.||Under the Environmental Stewardship Program, 14 616 hectares of critically endangered National Environmental Significance ecological community have been targeted for protection, bringing the total to date to 26 460 hectares.|
|Addressing threats by invasive plant and animal species to sustain the environmental values of Ramsar wetlands and critical aquatic habitats.||$36.9 million has been invested since 2008 to address threats from invasive plant and animal species and improve land management practices in priority Ramsar wetlands and high conservation value aquatic ecosystems across Australia.|
|Engaging with at least 500 community organisations in coastal rehabilitation restoration and conservation projects.||Caring for our Country has exceeded the target of engaging at least 500 community organisations in coastal rehabilitation restoration and conservation projects under the Coastal Community Engagement target. Over 760 groups will be engaged by 2013 in projects approved through the 2010–11 business plan.|
|Developing at least 20 Indigenous partnerships that engage Indigenous communities in delivering Caring for our Country outcomes.||28 traditional owner groups were engaged in Traditional Use of Marine Resource Agreements.|
|Increasing the National Reserve System, including Indigenous Protected Areas, by five million hectares per year with a focus on under-represented bioregions.||
Over 3 126 835 hectares were added to the National Reserve System (including Indigenous Protected Areas) in 2010–11. This comprised support for the purchase of 19 properties and declaration of five new Indigenous Protected Areas.
This brings the total increase in the National Reserve System under Caring for our Country to 7 408 261 million hectares (since 1 July 2008).
The following resources relate to information referred to in Outcome 1, Biodiversity and Ecosystems.
Caring for Our Country
Weeds in Australia
Helping to plant native banksias around the Batemans Bay foreshore on the south-east coast of New South Wales.Back to top