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11 December 1998
Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Ministers meeting in Hobart, Tasmania, on 11 December 1998, have agreed to continue to work cooperatively on issues of national and trans-Tasman importance in the areas of fresh water, vegetation management, waste management, oceans and greenhouse.
Ministers welcomed Papua New Guinea joining all Australian jurisdictions and New Zealand as a full member of the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC). ANZECC is the first Ministerial Council to have made the transition from a Commonwealth/State body to a regional Ministerial forum.
At a special joint meeting Ministers from the National Environment Protection Council (NEPC) and ANZECC welcomed the packaging industry's financial offer to support transitional arrangements leading to the establishment of a sustainable kerbside recycling system.
Ministers agreed that the offer had the potential to contribute to restructuring the kerbside recycling system, enabling the National Packaging Covenant to be finalised and implemented. Ministers regard the negotiation of the National Packaging Covenant and its complementary National Environment Protection Measure as heralding a new era in environmental protection in Australia.
Other major outcomes from the ANZECC meeting included agreement to:
Further details of the meeting outcomes and the above reports are at Attachment A.
Sixteenth Meeting - Hobart, 11 December 1998
Water for the environment
Providing water for the environment is an integral element of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Strategic Framework for Water Reform.
Implementation of the COAG Framework represents a significant challenge for jurisdictions. There are different reform 'environments' within the various jurisdictions with different jurisdictions specialising in the implementation of certain reforms. Such differences are to be expected given the diverse nature of the reform framework, the extensive and far reaching nature of the reforms involved and differences in the physical environment, resource use history and market demands within each jurisdiction.
Key issues identified by ANZECC include:
Council endorsed the Guidelines for Establishing the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas, developed by the ANZECC Task Force on Marine Protected Areas during 1998. The Guidelines will assist both government agencies and stakeholders in the development of the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. The Guidelines provide, for the first time, a common framework across the jurisdictions for identification and selection of marine protected areas.
The Guidelines Is one of a set of documents which also includes the Interim Marine and Coastal Regionalisation for Australia (IMCRA) and the Strategic Plan of Action for the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. State agencies have been using IMCRA since before 1998 and some have already adopted the Guidelines.
Council also agreed that following the release of the Australian Oceans Policy, Australia and New Zealand will look at ways of jointly developing a Regional Marine Plan for adjacent areas of the Australian and New Zealand exclusive economic zones.
Native vegetation management
ANZECC endorsed a process for the preparation of a National Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Australia's Native Vegetation that will simultaneously address biodiversity, land degradation and greenhouse objectives. The conservation and restoration of native vegetation is critical to addressing these objectives.
The National Framework will include:
This Framework will contribute to achieving the national goal of reversing the long term decline in the quality and extent of Australia's native vegetation cover, and is to be completed by June 1999.
At a special joint meeting, Ministers from the National Environment Protection Council (NEPC) and ANZECC welcomed the packaging industry's financial offer to support transitional arrangements leading to the establishment of a sustainable kerbside recycling system.
Ministers believe the offer has the potential to contribute to the restructure of the kerbside recycling system enabling the National Packaging Covenant to be finalised and implemented.
Ministers noted that this is the first time a wide range of industry sectors in the packaging chain have made a commitment to recycling and product stewardship. This historical offer involves a significant commitment at the most senior levels in industry and Ministers congratulated all those involved.
Industry will contribute up to $17.5 million over three years on the basis that participating States and Territories provide a matching contribution.
Government officials and representatives of the packaging industry chain will now seek to finalise the implementation process as a matter of urgency and report back to ANZECC. At the same time NEPC Ministers agreed to release a formal draft National Environment Protection Measure for Used Packaging Materials for extensive public consultation, with special reference to small and medium businesses.
The draft Measure will ensure that voluntary participants in the National Packaging Covenant are not unfairly disadvantaged in the marketplace, and will also assist in compliance with the waste reduction and recycling objectives of the Covenant.
Stakeholders will be able to provide input on the potential environmental, economic and social impacts of the proposed Measure during the public consultation phase. This will ensure that the process of developing the Measure is open and transparent.
ANZECC Ministers also endorsed the Chemclear Agreement between AVCARE (the National Association for Crop Protection and Animal Health), the Veterinary Manufacturers and Distributors Association, and the National Farmers' Federation. This Agreement, together with the DrumMuster Program and the National Collection, Storage and Destruction Scheme for Unwanted Rural Chemicals, represents a significant step toward resolving the problems created by the accumulation of unwanted chemicals in rural areas. It forms the basis for sound chemicals management in the future.
The National Greenhouse Strategy (NGS) was launched domestically on 26 November 1998. ANZECC is identified in the NGS as having an interest in and responsibility for implementation planning of a number of measures. In particular the Council has interests and responsibilities in:
Council agreed to establish a contact group to provide ANZECC liaison and coordination on the measures and input to the implementation planning process and ongoing implementation of the Strategy.
Senator Hill will chair a meeting of Environment Ministers early in 1999 to review progress.
INTERNATIONAL AND REGIONAL ISSUES
Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) sustainable development agenda
Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea are all APEC members. Ministers expressed full support for any efforts by New Zealand to integrate environmental and sustainable development issues into APEC's economic and trade policy work when it assumes the APEC chair from Malaysia at the end of 1998. State and Territory Ministers agreed that Queensland would represent them at a meeting of the APEC Marine Resource Conservation Working Group being hosted by Australia in Cairns in May 1999. This Working Group brings APEC members together to share experiences, expectations and information on conservation of marine resources in coastal areas and regional seas, based on an agreed Action Plan for Sustainability of the Marine Environment.
Whale conservation - South Pacific Whale Sanctuary
A high level workshop on proposals to establish a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary was hosted by Australia in Merimbula on the New South Wales coast in October 1998. The proposal was first announced by Australia and New Zealand at the ANZECC meeting of 12 June 1998 in Wellington, New Zealand, and has been the subject of intensive development since. Ministers noted that Japan, which opposes the proposal, has been lobbying South Pacific countries to resist the initiative. Ministers gave their full support to Australia and New Zealand continuing preparations in consultation with South Pacific nations and others to have the proposed sanctuary formally considered by the International Whaling Commission.
UN Commission on Sustainable Development
New Zealand's Minister for the Environment, the Hon Simon Upton, is chairing the annual United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development meeting to be held in New York in April 1999. Ministers gave their support for an Australian proposal to ask the Commission on Sustainable Development to agree to a United Nations initiative to accelerate development of a global system of protection for representative marine ecosystems in coastal areas, regional seas and the high seas. The initiative would involve a wide range of UN and other organisations working together with national governments to develop protective regimes for marine resources and biodiversity. Ministers also endorsed an Australian proposal to push ahead more forcefully with implementation of the Global Plan of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities. The States and Territories will be represented on the Australian delegation to the Commission on Sustainable Development meeting.
Shorebird Action Plan and Multilateral Agreement on Migratory Shorebirds
Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea are part of the 'East Asian-Australasian Flyway', a route used by waterbirds which migrate in large numbers from Siberia, China and other parts of northern Asia to southern hemisphere wetlands. For many years Australia has had migratory birds agreements with Japan and China and has protected roosting and breeding areas in Australia. Ministers welcomed Australia's intention to seek to develop an Asia-Pacific Migratory Waterbird Agreement.
Conservation of southern hemisphere albatross
Ministers also endorsed Australia and New Zealand working with other southern hemisphere countries to develop a regional agreement to protect albatross from fishing activities. Ministers welcomed New Zealand's intention to consider becoming a signatory to the Bonn Convention on Migratory Species.
Management of Subantarctic World Heritage Areas
Council agreed that Environment Australia, the New Zealand Department of Conservation and the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service will cooperate in the management of their Subantarctic World Heritage areas. Australia and New Zealand have successfully nominated their Subantarctic islands, including Macquarie Island south of Tasmania, and the Campbell and Auckland Islands south of New Zealand, as World Heritage Areas. The two island groups have similarities of geography, ecology and visitor expectations. The intention is to work towards integrated management under a common management plan.
Cooperation in research on phytoplasma disease
Following recent evidence that a plant disease which has caused sudden decline in native species in New Zealand is spreading to new species, and that the same disease may occur in Australia, Ministers called for a report, and will also ask the Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand (ARMCANZ) to consider the matter.