Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2012
Outcome 1: Biodiversity and ecosystems
‘Conserving and protecting Australia's unique biodiversity.’
The conservation and protection of Australia's terrestrial and marine biodiversity and ecosystems through supporting research, developing information, supporting natural resource management, and establishing and managing Commonwealth protected areas.
Main responsibilities for this outcome
Administration of the Caring for our Country initiative.
|Lands and Coasts Division|
Indigenous Carbon Farming Fund.
Regional Natural Resource Management Planning for Climate Change.
Land Sector Carbon and Biodiversity Board.
National Wildlife Corridors Plan.
|Land Sector Taskforce|
Invasive species policy and threat abatement planning.
Development of marine bioregional plans.
Development and management of Commonwealth marine reserves.
Marine and migratory species protection.
International marine conservation initiatives.
Fisheries policy and assessments.
Progressing the government's anti-whaling agenda.
Promoting the science and information base of the department in the areas of environment research, information and reporting.
Administering the National Environmental Research Program.
Implementation (in partnership with the Bureau of Meteorology) of the National Plan for Environmental Information initiative.
Australia State of the Environment 2011 report.
|Sustainability Policy and Analysis Division|
Management of terrestrial reserves.
Administration of the National Reserve System program and the Indigenous Protected Areas program.
Management of the Australian Biological Resources Study and the development of Australian Government policy on the management of Australia's genetic resources.
Coordination and leadership in meeting Australia's commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity.
|Parks Australia Division|
- Through the Caring for our Country initiative, promote an environment that is healthy, better protected, well managed, resilient and provides essential ecosystem services in a changing climate.
- Through the Land Sector Package (an element of the Clean Energy Future plan), assist the transition to a lower carbon economy while improving the resilience of Australia's landscapes to the impacts of climate change, improving the environmental outcomes of carbon farming projects, and helping landholders protect carbon and biodiversity values on their land.
- Conserve Australia's biodiversity at the landscape scale, in particular by linking landscapes through the establishment of wildlife corridors.
- Establish and manage a regulatory framework which maximises social, economic and environmental returns from investment in biodiscovery in Australia.
- Through the National Environmental Research Program, deliver public good focused environmental research designed to engage with end users and support evidence based decision making by environmental managers and policy makers.
- Develop and implement a National Plan for Environmental Information in conjunction with
the Bureau of Meteorology.
- Finalise the Australia State of the Environment 2011 report.
- Build Australia's taxonomic knowledge and capacity.
- Progress Australia's international efforts to stop commercial whaling, including
- Identify a proposed national network of new Commonwealth marine reserves to become
part of the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas.
- Develop and implement national policies to support the ecologically sustainable management of the marine and coastal environment.
- Identify key conservation priorities for marine biodiversity and ecosystems through the marine bioregional planning program.
- Conserve Australia's biodiversity within our protected area estate.
- Contribute to the development of consistent national approaches to reversing biodiversity decline in important ecosystems and ecologically significant communities.
- Improve the quality and availability of environmental information for decision makers
through the marine bioregional planning program.
- Improve conservation outcomes for marine biodiversity, including for listed marine and migratory species.
- Contribute to effective environmental biosecurity for the nation.
- Contribute to the implementation of the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement to facilitate the protection of additional areas of native forest with significant conservation values and contribute to the management of these additional reserve areas.
- The following examples highlight the achievements of Caring for our Country.
- The Reef Rescue program provided financial assistance to more than 2500 land managers over 3.2 million hectares as at 30 June 2012, and is on track to meet Caring for our Country–Reef Rescue targets. More than 1100 farmers undertook projects to improve fertiliser, pesticide and soil management on over 500000 hectares of land, representing 75 per cent of the five-year farmer engagement target achieved after three years. Additionally, 480 graziers have improved groundcover management over 2.7 million hectares of land, representing 74 per cent of the five-year grazier engagement target achieved after three years.
- Caring for our Country's Environmental Stewardship program is now assisting stewardship efforts in over 55000 hectares of nationally threatened ecological communities.
- The Working on Country program met its 2013 target a year early, with approximately 690 Indigenous rangers contracted to manage significant environmental outcomes. The program contributes to Closing the Gap targets by providing meaningful employment opportunities that enable Indigenous people to manage their country and maintain culture. This work brings economic, social and health benefits to Indigenous people and delivers environmental services to the Australian community.
- The final report on the review of the first phase of Caring for our Country was released on 18 April 2012. The review found the initiative to be on track to meet its goals and is supporting the community to protect and conserve the environment and increase the adoption of sustainable land management practices.
- As a result of Caring for our Country investments during 2011-12, the National Reserve System increased by 10.529 million hectares, including seven new Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) covering 10.296 million hectares. Caring for our Country funding assisted governments and non-government organisations in the purchase of 11 properties covering
233525 hectares for inclusion in the National Reserve System. New projects worth just over $1.16 million were approved for conservation covenanting organisations to support the establishment of Protected Areas on Private Land.
- Under the National Environmental Research Program, five multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary research hubs were established and commenced four-year research programs to improve our capacity to understand, manage and conserve
Australia's unique biodiversity.
- The Biodiversity Fund Round One provided a total of 313 projects with $271 million (GST exclusive) in funding over six years. These projects will revegetate, rehabilitate and restore around 18 million hectares of the Australian landscape.
- Progress was maintained in the International Whaling Commission (IWC) on key governance reforms and conservation initiatives of importance to Australia, including: whale watching; Conservation Management Plans; the Southern Ocean Research Partnership; strengthening conservation funding; and reviewing IWC processes to improve operational effectiveness and increase transparency and accountability.
- Support was provided to Australia's legal case against Japanese scientific whaling in the International Court of Justice.
- On 14 June 2012 the minister released details of the Australian Government's proposed final Commonwealth marine reserves network. The marine reserves network proposal was finalised following extensive stakeholder consultations conducted in each region, feedback received through submissions, and consideration of socioeconomic assessments by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences. The final Commonwealth marine reserves network proposals are subject to a final round of public comment during the second half of 2012 as part of the process for proclaiming them under the EPBC Act.
- Between May 2011 and February 2012, draft marine bioregional plans were released for public comment for the South-west, North-west, North and Temperate East marine regions. The draft plans included an assessment of pressures on key conservation values, identified regional conservation priorities, and proposed strategies and actions to address the suggested conservation priorities. The draft plans also included advice on the protection of matters of national environmental significance in each region. These plans were finalised in the second half of 2012.
- The Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement was announced by the Prime Minister, the Hon. Julia Gillard MP, and the Tasmanian Premier, the Hon. Lara Giddings, on 7 August 2011. A Conservation Agreement was signed on 13 January 2012 to provide interim protection for an area of almost 430000 hectares of native forest with significant conservation values while negotiations continue among key stakeholders to develop an agreed wood supply and conservation outcome.
The following examples highlight the achievements of Caring for our Country.
- The Indigenous Fire Management project, funded under Caring for our Country, has now expanded the use of traditional fire management regimes across more than 200000 square kilometres of the northern savannas. With four large-scale project areas across the Kimberley (Western Australia), central Arnhem Land (Northern Territory), western Cape York (Queensland) and the Gulf of Carpentaria (Queensland/Northern Territory), the projects are continuing to manage the incidence of destructive wild fires. There was an 80 per cent reduction in wildfires within the project area relative to the pre-project baseline.
- The Environmental Stewardship program funding round in the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, Northern, Yorke and South Australian Murray-Darling Basin natural resource management regions of South Australia resulted in funding for up to 15 years being approved for private land managers to carry out actions on 18 properties that will help protect and enhance the endangered peppermint box (Eucalyptus odorata) grassy woodland and iron grass (Lomandra spp.) natural temperate grassland ecological communities of South Australia.
- The draft National Wildlife Corridors Plan was further developed to conserve Australia's biodiversity at the landscape scale, in particular by linking landscapes through the establishment of wildlife corridors. The plan is designed to increase the resilience of Australia's native plants, animals and agricultural landscapes against the impacts of climate change, and establishes a strategic national approach to managing biodiversity and native vegetation for future investment.
- Caring for our Country helped to restore or protect the environmental values of priority Ramsar-listed wetland sites and other high-conservation value sites, including the Vasse-Wonnerup System in Western Australia, the Lower Ovens River System in Victoria, the Barwon-Darling River System and Northern Tributaries in New South Wales and Queensland, and the Derwent Estuary in Tasmania.
- The declaration of the Southern Tanami Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) was a major milestone for the IPA program, adding 10 158 000 hectares to the National Reserve System and creating the largest terrestrial protected area in the Australia.
- The five-yearly Australia State of the Environment 2011 report, which provides a national assessment of Australia's environment, was tabled in parliament and released by the minister in December 2011.
- Australia signed the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits arising from their Utilisation on 20 January 2012 and commenced the consultation process for ratification.
- In 2011-12 the department, under the access and benefit-sharing provisions of the EPBC Act (EPBC Regulations 2000, Part 8A) issued 70 access permits and entered into one benefit-sharing agreement with a university investigating novel chemical compounds from organisms collected in Australia's deep seas.
- Since 2010-11 more than 20000 species names and 430 families have been added to Australian Faunal Directory online database. This represents an increase in the number of listed species names by around 20 per cent. Notable additions in 2011-12 include the compilation and online publication of stand alone inventories of weevils and lichens.
- The Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS) funded 60 research grants and taxonomic training positions (PhD, Masters and Honours scholarships) and 13 student travel bursaries in 2011-12 under the National Taxonomy Research Grant program.
- The Land Sector Carbon and Biodiversity Board was established and is providing advice to government on a range of measures that will increase the land sector's resilience to climate change and improve long-term agricultural productivity.
- As Chair of the Working Group on Conservation Management Plans, Australia:
- supported the development of draft Conservation Management Plans for South American populations of southern right whales, submitted to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) at the July 2012 annual meeting
- compiled an inventory of cetacean conservation measures in the Pacific Islands region, submitted to the IWC at the July 2012 annual meeting.
- Australia continued to lead on the development and implementation of core projects of the Southern Ocean Research Partnership, including:
- supporting and presenting at the Symposium and Workshop, Living Whales in the Southern Ocean, held in Puerto Varas, Chile, from 27-29 March 2012
- preparations for a major Australian research expedition to Antarctica in the summer of 2012-13 as part of the Antarctic blue whale project.
- The second year of a three-year pilot program to control tropical fire ants (ginger ants), Solenopsis geminata, was successfully completed at Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve. The work undertaken over the year indicated positive control outcomes and supported the extension of the program to other islands in the Ashmore islet system.
- A collaborative agreement between the department and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority was established to enable the sharing and analysis of Vessel Monitoring System data from commercial fishers operating in Commonwealth marine reserves, with a view to improving the understanding of use patterns in marine reserves. Under the agreement, a geo-fence alert system for commercial fishers operating or entering Commonwealth marine reserves is being developed to assist with awareness of boundaries and rules.
- The Tasmanian Forests National Partnership Agreement was signed by the Prime Minister and the Tasmanian Premier on 26 September 2011, enabling initial payments of $50 million to the Tasmanian Government to facilitate implementation of the Intergovernmental Agreement, including management of conservation areas.
- The Tasmanian Forests Independent Verification Report was released on 23 March 2012 and provides an independent assessment of stakeholder claims relating to wood supply and conservation values in nominated areas of Tasmania's public native forests. This major report informs the ongoing engagement by industry, union and environment stakeholders in their efforts to reach an agreed wood supply and conservation outcome.