Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2012
Outcome 5: Environment protection and heritage conservation
‘Protecting and conserving Australia’s heritage - our natural, Indigenous and historic treasures.’
Increased protection, awareness and appreciation of Australia’s environment and heritage through regulating matters of national environmental significance and the identification, conservation and celebration of natural, Indigenous and historic places of national and World Heritage significance.
Main responsibilities for this outcome
|The department’s Heritage and Wildlife Division is responsible for:
||Heritage and Wildlife Division|
|The department’s Environment Assessment and Compliance Division is responsible for:
||Environment Assessment and Compliance Division|
|The Supervising Scientist is a statutory office under the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978, and is assisted by the department’s Supervising Scientist Division in carrying out responsibilities for supervising uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region (which includes Kakadu National Park). The Supervising Scientist works closely with the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism and the Northern Territory Department of Resources.||Supervising Scientist Division|
- Identify and protect Australia’s natural, Indigenous and historic heritage places.
- Provide funding and advice to support heritage protection, conservation and interpretation.
- Assist Papua New Guinea to protect the historic values of the Kokoda Track.
- Provide for the protection of the environment, especially matters of national environmental significance.
- Administer environmental regulation under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 (Sea Dumping Act).
- Protect the Alligator Rivers Region from the impact of uranium mining under the Environment Protection (Alligators Rivers Region) Act 1978.
- Regulate international trade in Australian native species, species listing under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the import of live animals.
- Promote a cooperative approach to protecting and managing the environment involving governments, the community, landholders and Indigenous peoples.
- Make it easier for governments, business and communities to value biodiversity and ecosystems and comply with environmental legislation.
- Improve sustainability in priority high-growth areas.
- On 31 August 2011 the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, the Hon. Tony Burke MP, included the West Kimberley in the National Heritage List. Covering around 19 million hectares of land and sea, the Kimberley national heritage listing recognises, celebrates and protects the outstanding Indigenous, natural and historic heritage values of this iconic and extraordinary region.
- International interest in Australia’s environment was highlighted by a joint monitoring mission by the World Heritage Centre and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area in March 2012. The department coordinated this mission, which primarily assessed the state of conservation of this World Heritage Area. The findings of the mission were considered by the World Heritage Committee at its annual meeting in June-July 2012.
Protection of matters of national environmental significance
- In 2011-12 the department continued to assess large, complex and economically significant projects from all industry sectors under the EPBC Act. Seventy-five proposals were approved subject to conditions and one proposal was determined to be clearly unacceptable. Key projects included:
- the Wheatstone project to be undertaken by Chevron Australia Pty Ltd, which involves the construction and operation of a liquefied natural gas and domestic gas plant, including onshore and offshore facilities
- the Olympic Dam copper, uranium, gold and silver mine, processing plant and associated infrastructure
- various iron ore proposals to be developed in the Pilbara Bioregion, Western Australia.
- The Commonwealth entered into four new strategic assessments in 2011-12, including a comprehensive strategic assessment for developments and activities that may impact on the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
- Based on assessments completed by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee, the minister listed six new species, including the listing of the koala as vulnerable in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, and six ecological communities as threatened under the EPBC Act. Guidelines and landholder factsheets were also published for seven ecological communities.
- The department, in partnership with the relevant state and territory government environment agencies, made substantial investment in the recovery of threatened species and ecological communities through developing and implementing recovery plans. The minister or his delegate approved the adoption of 27 national recovery plans under the EPBC Act, covering 36 species and nine ecological communities.
- The department worked closely with CSIRO to develop a method for carrying out a national flying fox monitoring program, due to commence in 2012-13.
- A report assessing the outstanding universal values of the Dampier Archipelago in Western Australia was prepared for the Australian Heritage Council. With more than one million images in an area of 36857 hectares, this is one of the richest, most diverse and exciting collections of Aboriginal rock engravings in Australia.
- $20 million was provided for the protection and promotion of the World Heritage-listed Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne.
- $7.9 million was provided to 235 projects to protect, conserve and enhance the values of significant historic heritage under the Your Community Heritage program.Your Community Heritage is a new and practical approach to supporting communities to celebrate their local heritage, and share their local stories and traditions that together tell our national story.
- A strategic heritage assessment of post offices across Australia was conducted by Australia Post, resulting in 43 post offices being included in the Commonwealth Heritage List during 2011-12.
- Under the Kokoda Initiative, the department supported the long-term objective of sustainable development of the Owen Stanley Ranges, Brown River Catchment and Kokoda Track Region, and the protection of its special natural, cultural and historic values through $4.391 million from AusAid.
- The department provided assistance to Palau with the preparation of a World Heritage nomination dossier for the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon, which was inscribed on the World Heritage List at the 36th Session of the World Heritage Committee in St Petersburg, 24 June-6 July 2012. The Australian Government also funded the attendance of the Palau delegate to the meeting.
Protection of the Alligators River Region
- During 2011-12 the Supervising Scientist Division continued to conduct research, monitoring, supervision and audit activities. The continuous monitoring program, implemented and refined over the past six years, continues to be particularly well received by stakeholders. The mining company Energy Resources of Australia Ltd now has a similar program within Magela Creek that has been in operation for the past two years. Both programs, combined with the Supervising Scientist Division’s in situ biological monitoring program, continue to provide stakeholders with a high level of information about potential mine site impacts on the surrounding aquatic environment, and can be considered leading practice for real-time monitoring and compliance.
- All findings to date indicate that the environment of the Alligator Rivers Region remains protected from the impact of uranium mining. During the 2011-12 wet season, the maximum total uranium concentration measured downstream from the Ranger mine was approximately 7 per cent of the local ecotoxicologically-derived limit, and approximately 2 per cent of the guideline for drinking water. 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/ssd/publications/index.html#annual.