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ANZECC Communique 17

2 July 1999

Seventeenth Meeting - Hobart, 2 July 1999

Ministers of the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC), meeting in Hobart, Tasmania on 2 July 1999, have agreed to continue to work cooperatively on environment and conservation issues of national and trans-Tasman importance in key areas, including fresh water, vegetation management, waste management, oceans and greenhouse.

At a special joint meeting, Ministers from ANZECC and the National Environment Protection Council (NEPC) agreed to a National Packaging Covenant and to make a National Environment Protection Measure on Used Packaging Materials. This agreement heralds the beginning of unprecedented cooperation between all sectors of the packaging chain to minimise the environmental impacts of consumer packaging waste, to close the recycling loop and to develop economically viable and sustainable recycling collection systems.

Other major outcomes from the ANZECC meeting included agreement to:

Further details of the key outcomes of the ANZECC meeting are at Attachment A.


ATTACHMENT A - KEY OUTCOMES

Seventeenth Meeting - Hobart, 2 July 1999

ANZECC PRIORITY ISSUES

Water for the Environment

The conservation and protection of our valuable inland waterways, aquatic ecosystems and water supplies is a key issue for all Australians.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG), comprising the Prime Minister, State Premiers, Territory Chief Ministers and the President of the Australian Local Government Association, agreed in 1994 to implement a range of reforms designed to arrest the widespread degradation of Australia's water resources. This is now known as the COAG Water Reform Framework.

ANZECC is responsible, jointly with the Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand (ARMCANZ), for reporting to COAG on progress in implementation of the Framework. Council will forward the 1999 joint report to COAG, prepared under the supervision of the ANZECC/ARMCANZ High Level Steering Group on Water, by mid July. The report will provide COAG with an overview and an insight into the aspects of the reform process that require particular attention as implementation proceeds.

Council noted, and agreed to refer to the High Level Steering Group on Water, three papers developed by the ANZECC Working Group on Water Reform on the environmental aspects of the Framework. The papers Performance Monitoring of Water Authorities, Groundwater Protection and Report on Progress with Development and Implementation of the National Water Quality Management Strategy will be passed on to the Steering Group to guide and inform the Steering Group's work program. In addition, two working papers produced by the ANZECC Working Group will also be referred to the Steering Group. These are the draft Principles to Guide Ecologically Sustainable Water Trading and the draft Incorporating Externalities into Water Pricing.

Oceans

Council endorsed the Strategic Plan of Action for the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas as a guide for action by jurisdictions. The Strategic Plan lists thirty-four actions to be undertaken by the Commonwealth, the States and the Northern Territory to advance marine protected area development in Australia. The Strategic Plan complements the Interim Marine and Coastal Regionalisation for Australia and the Guidelines for Establishing the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas, which were finalised in June and December last year.

Native Vegetation Management

Conservation of native vegetation and fauna is an issue at the intersection of biodiversity, greenhouse, land rehabilitation and ecologically sustainable development for Australia. All Australian Governments have committed themselves, through the Natural Heritage Trust, to reverse the long term decline in the quality and extent of Australia's native vegetation cover by June 2001.

Council agreed to release the draft National Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Australia's Native Vegetation for consultation with non government and industry organisations, community groups and local government.

The draft National Framework sets out a national approach to the management and monitoring of Australia's native vegetation, and provides a process through which the implementation of Commonwealth, State and Territory native vegetation commitments can be achieved.

Waste Management

At a special joint meeting of ANZECC and National Environment Protection Council (NEPC) Ministers, ANZECC agreed to:

At the same meeting, NEPC agreed to the National Environment Protection (Used Packaging Materials) Measure. These agreements herald the beginning of unprecedented cooperation between all sectors of the packaging chain to minimise the environmental impacts of consumer packaging waste, to close the recycling loop and to develop economically viable and sustainable recycling collection systems. The Covenant/Measure package is intended to be the sole instrument for managing consumer packaging waste in participating jurisdictions over the next five years, subject to a significant uptake of participation in the Covenant.

In agreeing to the Covenant, ANZECC requested that the principles of waste minimisation and the waste management hierarchy be recognised in its implementation, and that all forms of recycling and resource recovery including kerbside recycling be considered in achieving Covenant life cycle management goals.

In December last year Council gave in-principle agreement to an industry offer of $17.45 million (with matched funding from participating jurisdictions) over three years to support transitional arrangements leading to a sustainable market based kerbside collection system. The business plan agreed to by Ministers gives effect to this funding arrangement and provides an agreed implementation and reporting framework for the joint industry/government funding approval actions over the next three years. Ministers noted that this funding represented 'new money' and would not rely on transferring funds from existing waste management programs.

A Covenant Council will be established to implement and manage the Covenant. Delegated functions of the Council will be implemented by a Kerbside Recycling Group, which will also administer the transitional funding arrangements.

Ministers are aware of the potential impact on small business. The Measure indicates that it is not the intention of the Ministers that enforceable obligations be placed on businesses that do not significantly contribute to the waste stream. The States and Territories will now make the necessary adjustments to their legislative frameworks to allow for the implementation of the Measure.

Council identified the Australian Waste Database, inhibitions to the use of recycled materials and best practice in waste management as key areas for further work. It was noted that the key area of avoiding environmentally damaging disposal of waste oil will receive attention under the Commonwealth Government's Measures for a Better Environment package.

ANZECC Ministers also agreed to proceed with a program of collection, storage and destruction of unwanted rural chemicals (the National Collection, Storage and Destruction Scheme, to be known as Chemcollect) in all States and Territories except the Australian Capital Territory (which has already completed such a program). The Commonwealth will match funding dollar for dollar with the participating jurisdictions; and Ministers agreed to develop bilateral Memoranda of Understanding between the Commonwealth and the States and the Northern Territory to cover these funding arrangements.

Chemcollect will be complemented by a voluntary scheme among farmers and the agricultural and veterinary chemical industry, known as Chemclear, to ensure that unwanted chemicals do not accumulate in the future, and by an industry initiative, called DrumMUSTER to collect empty, unwanted clean chemical containers. Ministers also released an Organochlorine Pesticides Waste Management Plan to provide guidance for management of the most difficult and environmentally hazardous of the unwanted rural chemicals.

Greenhouse

Greenhouse is a key priority area for ANZECC. An active role for ANZECC in implementing the National Greenhouse Strategy has been agreed and includes measures to:

A Contact Group established by ANZECC last December has been actively working with other Ministerial Councils to implement plans for greenhouse education, forest sustainability, life cycle analysis and transport and land use planning.

OTHER ISSUES

LA 21 Achievement Award

Council agreed to a $20,000 ANZECC Local Agenda 21 Achievement Award. Local Agenda 21 (LA21) is a globally recognised approach to local implementation of ecologically sustainable development. The Award will contribute to the achievement of an APEC LA 21 target of doubling the number of LA 21 councils by 2003. It will promote LA 21 by recognising best practice and raising the profile of LA 21 amongst local government.

Whale and Dolphin Watching

Commercial and recreational whale and dolphin watching in Australia has expanded rapidly with enhanced community concern for whale conservation and interest in the natural history of the marine environment. To help ensure these activities do not endanger cetacean populations, ANZECC has agreed in principle to consider a consistent approach across jurisdictions to the regulation of vessel based commercial and recreational whale and dolphin watching.

Council also agreed to publish the Australian National Guidelines for Cetacean Observation, which define a minimum standard of behaviour for whale and dolphin watching activities.

Biodegradable Bait Bags

Council has directed its Standing Committees to identify a preferred national approach to the introduction of biodegradable bait bags. The challenge is to develop a cost effective means of ensuring that where bait bags are not properly disposed of, they persist in the marine environment for the shortest possible time.

Feral Cat Toxicant Project

The Commonwealth Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Robert Hill, announced a very positive breakthrough in the development of a cat specific toxin to control feral cats. The Commonwealth has provided funding for several years of research by Victoria and Western Australia and this will now be extended to field trials.

Predation of native wildlife by feral cats has been shown to be a major factor impacting on biodiversity and ecosystem stability in Australia. Control of feral cat populations by developing a humane and effective control method is seen as vital to the long term conservation of Australian wildlife species.

Consultation with key stakeholder groups, including the Bureau of Animal Welfare, the RSPCA and the Cat Protection Society, has occurred throughout the development of the toxicant and the associated bait delivery system.