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Publications archive - Annual reports

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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Environment Australia Annual Report 2000-01

Environment Australia, 2001
ISSN 1441-9335

THEME: land

Manage land resources sustainably

Australia's fragile soils depend on vegetation cover for nutrients and stability. Excessive land clearing and water extraction have contributed to a substantial decline in the quality of land resources across Australia. In addition, clearing and irrigation have caused water tables to rise in much of Australia, resulting in waterlogging and salinisation.

The reduction of land degradation has been one of the priorities of the Natural Heritage Trust, administered by Environment Australia and Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry - Australia. The bulk of the funds allotted through the Natural Heritage Trust has been invested in catchment-wide, community-based, practical actions that integrate environmental objectives with sustainable farming systems. Much of the work is being done through the 4500 community-based Landcare and catchment groups.

Relevant programme:

  • National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality.

PROGRAMMES THAT PROTECT AND CONSERVE THE ENVIRONMENT

The National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality

The National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality was a major Government policy initiative developed during the course of 2000-01. It seeks to address two of the most critical issues facing Australia's environment, rural industries and regional communities.

This strategic policy approach is reflected in government initiatives that emphasise targeted action, integrated activities and improved strategic planning, particularly at the regional level. The National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality is one such example. Environment Australia is working in partnership with Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry - Australia to implement the national action plan.

DEPARTMENTAL OUTPUTS THAT SUPPORT THESE PROGRAMMES

Output group 1.1 - Policy advice and accountability

Domestic | International | State of the environment | Corporate reform

Strategic policy coordination

Environment Australia continued to pursue a strategic approach to natural resource management and land use policy. It is recognised that to achieve sustainable land management requires integration between both biodiversity and sustainable production objectives.

National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality

Policy advice and input was provided first to the Commonwealth Natural Resource Management Ministerial Group and later to the interim high level group of Commonwealth, State and Territory natural resource and environmental agency chief executives. This second group was the interim intergovernmental group involved in the development of and decision-making on the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality.

In June 2001 the Council of Australian Governments agreed to a number of changes to streamline the operation of ministerial councils, including the creation of a new Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council. The new council will subsume the natural resource management issues from the Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand, the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council and the Ministerial Council on Forestry, Fisheries and Aquaculture, and will also have responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality.

Environment Australia participated in Commonwealth-State working groups to develop specific elements of the action plan. These included capacity building, communication, standards and targets, accreditation, policy reforms and compensation and structural adjustment. The approach developed under the action plan works through regional implementation, accredited integrated planning and monitoring and evaluation based on standards and targets.

Environment Australia provided input to the Council of Australian Governments on the rationalisation of ministerial councils involved in natural resource management and environmental issues. The key outcome was the establishment of a new Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council dealing with wider land, water and vegetation management issues. These include fisheries, greenhouse and biodiversity as well as the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality. Environment Australia provides support structures for the new ministerial council.

Environment Australia continues to promote partnerships between all government, industry and the community groups that pursue sustainable natural resource management.

Output group 1.2 - Strategies

Agreements | Codes | Coordination

National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality

Environment Australia and Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry - Australia have jointly developed the national action plan, announced by the Prime Minister on 10 October 2000, and endorsed by States and Territories in the Council of Australian Governments meeting of 3 November 2000.

As at 30 June 2001, the Commonwealth and all the States and Territories except for Western Australia have signed a draft of an intergovernmental agreement on the action plan. The intergovernmental agreement commits the States and Territories to policy reform for land and water resource management. Reforms include controls to at least prohibit land clearing in the 21 priority catchments and regions where it would lead to unacceptable land or water degradation. It also involves joint development of a national framework for natural resource management standards and targets that will include regional targets for native vegetation retention and restoration.

A bilateral agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australia to implement the national action plan has been signed and others are under negotiation.

Salinity hazard mapping and communication activities have begun in some catchments and regions. The Commonwealth, States and Territories have jointly agreed on the principles and degradation risks that will underpin development of operational definitions of land clearing that lead to unacceptable land and water degradation.

Output group 1.4 - International participation

Forums | Obligations | Representation

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

A whole-of-government approach to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification was developed through an interdepartmental working group. Environment Australia led the delegation that promoted this national policy position to three international meetings during the year and also helped countries attend the fourth conference of the parties held in Bonn in December 2000.

The Australian experience and policy approaches to sustainable management of arid and
semi-arid ecosystems were presented by Environment Australia to the conference of the parties. Assistance to other affected countries has been supplied through technology transfer, capacity building support measures and relaying experience with community participation in natural resource management.

ACTIVITIES AND THE ADMINISTRATION OF LEGISLATION THAT ACCORD WITH THE PRINCIPLES OF ECOLOGICALLY SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

The National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality embodies ecologically sustainable development principles of intergenerational equity and biodiversity conservation by aiming to prevent, stabilise and reverse trends in dryland salinity affecting agricultural sustainability, and to conserve biological diversity.

In implementing the plan, Environment Australia has a particular interest in ensuring that sustainable resource management practices are put in place that: