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Publications archive - Annual reports

Disclaimer

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Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time.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 2001-02

Environment Australia, 2002
ISSN 1441-9335

Review of Performance - Outcome One: Environment (continued)
Industry

water treatment plant

Improve the environmental performance of Australian industry, governments and communities

Environment Australia undertakes a wide range of activities concerned with improving the environmental performance and sustainability of industry. It also funds and administers programmes that protect the environment and human health from hazardous substances and organisms.

The Supervising Scientist is a statutory position within Environment Australia, established to supervise the environmental management of uranium mines in the Alligator Rivers Region of the Northern Territory. The 2001-02 Annual Report of the Supervising Scientist is included separately within this report.

In 2001-02 Environment Australia worked to improve the environmental performance of Australian industry through the following activities and programmes:

Programmes that Improve the Environmental Performance of Australian Industry

National Environment Protection Council (Administered item)

Objective

To establish National Environment Protection Measures by participating in the National Environment Protection Council.

Result

Under the 1992 Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment, the Commonwealth has an obligation to find national solutions to national environmental issues.

Environment Australia's provision of advice and briefings for the Minister's participation in the Environment Protection and Heritage Council and the National Environment Protection Council has ensured these councils provide national leadership in environment protection policy making and standard setting. Environment Australia also chairs the officials' committees of these councils.

The Commonwealth contributed $422 450 to the operating costs of the National Environment Protection Council Service Corporation, fully meeting its financial obligation.

The National Environment Protection Council agreed to:

Following a decision by the Council of Australian Governments in June 2001, it was agreed that the National Environment Protection Council would meet jointly with the new Environment Protection and Heritage Council. The first meeting of the new council took place on 2 May 2002. The joint arrangement is to enable national environment protection policy solutions to be developed in the same forum as the development of and agreement to national environment protection measures. The arrangement is expected to enhance Australian governments' implementation of the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment.

Waste Management Awareness Programme (Administered item)

Objective

To promote the benefits, and assist in the delivery of practical measures for effective waste management including resource use, recovery and reuse.

Result

The benefits of effective waste management and recycling were promoted through market development and the removal of barriers to the use of recycled materials in products; encouraging source reduction; consumer awareness; and industry and community capacity building.

The following projects contributed to the programme's objective:

In partnership with industry and the community, Environment Australia is working to reduce the environmental impact of major waste streams, particularly construction and demolition waste, organic waste, packaging, and consumer goods such as electrical equipment.

Green Waste

Organic waste accounts for over 40 per cent of landfill volume. Depositing organic waste in landfills generates 3.4 per cent of Australia's annual greenhouse gas emissions and may lead to pollution of groundwater. The Government provided $880 000 over two years to enable better recovery and reuse of green waste, to address structural inefficiencies in the market and to improve the uptake of recycled organic waste markets such as garden compost and potting mixes. Projects are expected to be completed by April 2003.

Packaging

The National Packaging Covenant's activities were extended by the development of a web-based interactive database that allows signatories to input their organisation's details directly and provides a search mechanism that provides information about signatories. The first phase of an evaluation of the effectiveness of the covenant commenced, with a full evaluation to be completed by late 2003.

Consumer Awareness

Environment Australia supported the development of a children's interactive educational CD-ROM, Ollie Saves the Planet. The CD-ROM introduces the concept of sustainability to school children and covers issues such as protecting biodiversity, reducing waste and litter, conserving water, reducing energy consumption and improving air quality. It will be made available to all Australian primary schools.

Support was also provided to Clean Up Australia to undertake the National Plastic Bag Awareness Programme. The programme encouraged consumers to recycle and reduce their use of plastic shopping bags.

Managing Environmental Impacts of Hazardous Substances and Organisms (Departmental output 1.6)

Hazardous Waste
Objective

To administer the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989, which implements Australia's international obligations under the Basel Convention, the Waigani Convention and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) decision in respect of international trade in hazardous wastes.

Result

Applications for permits to import and export hazardous wastes were assessed against technical guidance criteria before being granted. Eight export and ten import permits were granted under the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act. One transit permit was issued and five applications were refused. All permit applications were processed within statutory time frames under the Act.

Inspections were performed on three cargoes suspected of being in contravention of the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act. Other investigations led to one imported cargo being returned to the country of origin under a ministerial order. The Australian Federal Police continued with two investigations into previous contraventions of the Act.

Compliance with the Act is increasingly being policed through intelligence links with industry and other government agencies.

Australia contributed to international meetings, with officers attending eight meetings of the subsidiary bodies of the Basel and Waigani conventions.

Gene Technology/Biotechnology
Objective

To ensure the environment is protected from the intentional release of genetically modified organisms to the environment.

Result

Under the Gene Technology Act 2000, 14 advices were prepared for consideration by the Minister on seven applications to release genetically modified organisms. An additional four risk assessments for the introduction of genetically modified organisms were completed for the National Registration Authority for Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals, with a further nine for other organisms.

The Gene Technology Regulator must seek advice from the Minister for the Environment and Heritage for each intentional release of genetically modified organisms to the environment, firstly in regard to the issues to be addressed when preparing risk assessments and risk management plans, and secondly on the draft risk assessments and management plans.

Under the National Biotechnology Strategy, Environment Australia's interests were coordinated and promoted under Biotechnology Australia and the Minister's involvement in the Commonwealth's Biotechnology Ministerial Council was supported. Work commenced on identifying the nature of and need for industry support for developing environmental applications of biotechnology.

Environment Australia ensured environmental issues associated with genetically modified organisms were considered by government through participation in committees under the Gene Technology Act and the Commonwealth-State Gene Technology Ministerial Council. Australia's interests in international work on biotechnology were pursued through participation in the OECD's Conference on Living Modified Organisms in the Environment and a meeting of the Working Group on Harmonization of Regulatory Oversight of Biotechnology.

Chemicals Management
Objective

To work with industry, governments and other stakeholders, internationally and domestically, to develop and implement policies and programmes that provide for environmentally sustainable chemicals management.

Result

Australia's objectives with respect to environmentally sustainable chemicals management were pursued in a range of international chemical forums, with negotiating positions successfully achieved in all areas including prior informed consent for international trade in hazardous chemicals, persistent organic pollutants and implementation of the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste.

Environment Australia has also been involved in examining the potential implications for Australia of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, in preparation for Commonwealth Government consideration of ratification of these conventions during 2002-03.

National Dioxins Programme

The Commonwealth established the National Dioxins Programme in 2001 to increase understanding about the levels of these toxic substances in the Australian environment and population, and to develop appropriate strategies to reduce, and where feasible eliminate, releases of dioxins. The objectives of the programme are to:

The key actions of the National Dioxins Programme will be implemented over three phases:

Contracts were let for five studies under phase one to measure levels of dioxins in the environment and population, and to determine emissions from bushfires and motor vehicles. The results of these studies should become available in mid-2003 and will be used for the phase two risk assessment.

Chemwatch - ChemCollect Programme
Objective

To collect and destroy unwanted chemicals and pesticides, particularly persistent organochlorines, in rural areas.

Result

The ChemCollect programme provided landholders in rural areas with the opportunity to dispose of unwanted agricultural and veterinary chemicals at no cost. These chemicals, particularly the persistent pesticides, pose a risk to the environment, to people, and to markets for agricultural products.

The Commonwealth funded half of this $27 million programme, under bilateral financial agreements with the states and the Northern Territory, which were responsible for management of the collections.

A total 1636 tonnes of chemicals were collected under ChemCollect to 30 June 2002. This was a pleasing result as it exceeded the target of 1200 tonnes for the programme.

Patnering Industry (Departmental output 1.6)

Objective

To develop and maintain effective partnerships with industry and government to protect and conserve the environment.

Result

The environmental performance of business was improved through:

Twenty-five Australian organisations voluntarily provided reports on their environmental performance for publishing on Environment Australia's Public Environmental Reporting web site.

Product Stewardship Programme
Objective

To develop and implement arrangements which give businesses responsibility for managing the safety, health and environmental performance of products from 'cradle to grave'.

Result

Lubricating Oils

The Product Stewardship Arrangements for Waste Oil have been in place since January 2001 and include a levy on petroleum-based oils and synthetic equivalents. Funds raised from the levy underwrite the costs of benefits paid to recyclers as an incentive to undertake increased recycling of waste oil. In 2001-02, benefit payments totalling $8.2 million were made against approximately 195 million litres of recycled waste oil products.

In addition to the levy-benefit system, the Government has allocated $60 million to promote a sustained increase in the uptake and recycling of waste oil and a sustainable recycling industry. In 2001-02, transitional assistance grants were awarded to 16 local governments to construct or upgrade waste oil collection facilities as well as a number of enterprises to develop and/or trial new technology. A further 200 applications were received from local governments through a targeted transitional assistance grant round. These applications are currently being assessed.

Packaging

The National Packaging Covenant was established in 1999 and at 30 June 2002 had 520 signatories representing all sectors of the packaging supply chain. The covenant is the leading instrument for managing packaging waste in Australia. Early reports indicate the covenant is creating effective links across the supply chain, increasing resource efficiency and reducing packaging waste.

The Commonwealth Government, as a covenant signatory, has submitted an action plan to the covenant council which addresses the use of packaging within government. The Commonwealth provided support for the implementation of the covenant and an independent review of covenant action plans.

Automotive and Electrical

Waste electrical and electronic equipment is growing in environmental significance. Environment Australia is working closely with state and territory governments and peak electrical industry associations and in consultation with relevant environment groups to develop an industry-led National Electrical and Electronic Product Stewardship Strategy. By June 2002 a draft strategy had been developed and annexes for particular products were being drafted.

A similar approach is examining ways to manage the 18 million waste tyres that Australia generates each year. A consultancy report, A National Approach to Waste Tyres, was released for public comment. Thirty submissions were received. Based on this feedback, some policy options are being developed further. Additional consultation with stakeholders will take place in 2002-03.

At its May 2002 meeting, the Environment Protection and Heritage Council requested that the Commonwealth, states and territories work together to develop a systematic framework for determining those waste issues upon which national collaboration would be appropriate. A cross-jurisdictional working group met in June 2002 to progress this decision.

Eco-efficiency Programme
Objective

To develop and implement activities to promote the adoption of eco-efficiency by Australian business and industry.

Result

Eco-efficiency Agreements

The aim of eco-efficiency is to increase the efficiency of natural resource use so as to reduce resource use, pollution, waste and costs to industry. An additional 12 eco-efficiency agreements were signed this year, bringing the total number of agreements to 24.

At 30 June 2002 over 350 000 Australian businesses were covered by eco-efficiency agreements through industry associations, including 13 791 businesses added during 2001-02. A total of 480 businesses were covered by the packaging covenant.

Environment Australia assisted industry associations to promote eco-efficiency to their members, including through workshops and newsletters, and also to benchmark current performance of the industries against eco-efficiency indicators (e.g. water and energy use per unit of product) through surveys of members. The first two sectoral public environment reports, a commitment under the agreements, were released by the Australian Food and Grocery Council and Avcare. All signatories to agreements indicated value was obtained from the activities and the partnership with Environment Australia.

An Eco-efficiency Agreements Roundtable was set up and chaired by Environment Australia to enable associations with agreements to share information and discuss issues, to avoid duplication of effort. Two meetings of the roundtable were held.

Measurement

In August 2001, the Australian Bureau of Statistics conducted a national environment management survey of the Australian mining and manufacturing industries. The aim of the survey was to provide industry, governments and the public with information about the environmental management activities of these industries. Under an agreement with Environment Australia, data collected included eco-efficiency information, which will provide important information on the performance of industry in terms of resource use. It is expected that results based on data from the environment management survey, with other related data, will be published in late 2002.

Promotion

Eco-efficiency, and the tools to implement it, have been promoted through various mechanisms including the Eco-efficiency and Cleaner Production web site, which had over 75 000 hits during the year. The cleaner-production case studies on the web site were updated in August 2001. The case studies showcase how 138 Australian companies are currently reducing production costs, saving resources, reducing waste and maintaining a competitive edge. A further 5000 copies of the eco-efficiency booklet Profiting from Environmental Improvement in Business were printed in response to industry demand.

Business Sustainability

A business sustainability framework document has been developed collaboratively and approved by federal, state and territory governments and New Zealand. The framework outlines a way forward for government in working with Australian industry, to accelerate the move towards sustainability over the next five years. The framework was developed by a working group from all jurisdictions, and included a collaboration document to reduce duplication of effort between governments.

Agribusiness

Environment Australia assisted in the development of a draft framework on environmental management systems in agriculture through membership of the Environmental Management Systems Working Group set up by the federal, state and territory agriculture departments. It is intended that the framework be put to Ministers for approval in October 2002.

Sustainable Building, Construction and Mining Programme
Objective

To promote best practice environmental management in the building, construction, mining and minerals processing sectors.

Result

Mining

The series of publications produced by the Best Practice Environmental Management in Mining Programme was expanded. Two new titles were produced - Mine Decommissioning and Energy Efficiency - the series overview was updated, and Spanish language booklets were produced for the South American mining regulators.

Environment Australia participated in international sustainability initiatives such as the Mining Minerals and Sustainable Development Project to enhance the environmental performance of mining companies within Australia and overseas. A best practice training kit addressing eight priority topics was also published. Funding of $300 000 for water monitoring equipment was delivered to the government of Hungary to help improve its water quality monitoring capacity following the cyanide spill from a Romanian mining operation in early 2000.

Building Environmental Ratings System

Environment Australia worked on developing the first buildings rating system in Australia to rate building performance against a broad range of environmental issues. A draft environmental ratings system for commercial and domestic buildings, the National Australian Building Environmental Rating System, was released in December 2001. When finalised, the system will provide consumers and industry with environmental information that will lead to more sustainable building practices, including design and operation.

GreenSmart

The Partnership Advancing the Housing Environment agreement with the Housing Industry Association was further developed to improve the environmental performance of builders and associated trades. In addition to the introduction of GreenSmart training courses(over 100 builders received training) and the Virtual GreenSmart Village web site, a new GreenSmart village was built at Jerrabomberra, NSW, demonstrating the practical benefits of environmentally sensitive housing.

Your Home, Your Lifestyle: Residential Design Guide

Environment Australia worked in partnership with industry, the Australian Greenhouse Office, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources and the Department of Transport and Regional Services to develop Australia's first comprehensive environmental residential design guide called Your Home, Your Lifestyle. The guide is available online and in hard copy.

Guide to the Use of Recycled Concrete and Masonry Material

Environment Australia completed a project with the CSIRO, Inner Sydney Waste Board, EcoRecycle Victoria and the South Australian Environment Protection Authority to develop a national guide to the reuse of recycled concrete and masonry in new construction applications. The guide is to be published by Standards Australia and is aimed at maximising the diversion of waste from landfill.

WasteWise Construction Programme

The 14 WasteWise Construction Programme partners successfully completed phase two of the project in December 2001. Partners reduced construction waste by designing-out waste in the first place and by implementing site management strategies to capture and recycle waste. Recycling rates of up to 90 per cent were achieved.

Life Cycle Assessment Tools for the Building Industry

Environment Australia concluded a project with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology to produce a national life cycle assessment web site for the construction industry, a standardised data system, and case study information. These tools and information are designed to increase the uptake of life cycle assessment in the industry in Australia.

Greening of Government Programme
Objective

To improve the environmental performance of Commonwealth departments and agencies through better environmental management and greener procurement.

Result

Environmental Management Systems

Environment Australia provided assistance to other Commonwealth agencies to develop and introduce environmental management systems by December 2002, following the Government's decision in May 2001 to encourage agencies to develop such systems. This assistance included a model environmental management system, a web site on sustainable government, targeted training, regular newsletters and discussion forums and advice on the technical aspects of environmental management systems development.

Green Procurement Guide

Work is under way to 'green' the procurement practices of Commonwealth agencies. A draft green procurement guide and checklists for procurement officers will be released for public comment early in 2002-03.

Finance Sector Engagement
Objective

To work with Australia's finance sector to encourage financial institutions to incorporate environmental information in their investment, lending and insurance decision-making.

Result

The finance sector is a key supporter of Australian industry through the provision of capital for projects and business activities. Environment Australia worked with the finance sector to develop the resources and knowledge required for the sector to integrate sustainability criteria into financial products and services. A series of high-level roundtables was convened and a number of publications produced.

A major outcome from the roundtables was the need to develop a set of core environmental reporting indicators to assist industry and business to disclose how they are managing their key environmental risks and responsibilities. Environment Australia has commenced this work in collaboration with industry and other relevant agencies. Support was also given to the development of a public database to house sustainability reporting information provided by the top 300 publicly listed companies in Australia. Work on the related issue of environmental management accounting was also progressed through trials at four companies. Case studies of the trials are being prepared.

Environment Industry Programme
Objective

To promote sustainable development both nationally and internationally by identifying and promoting Australia's environment industry capabilities and expertise.

Result

Environment Industry Action Agenda

The Environment Industry Action Agenda was launched in September 2001. Developed by a group of industry leaders supported by a joint team from Environment Australia and the then Department of Industry, Science and Resources, the action agenda makes recommendations for action by all levels of government and by industry. Priority actions identified include reform of key markets; promotion of industry benefits to customers and the community; engagement with the financial community; measurement of the industry; fostering collaboration along supply chains; and development and implementation of an integrated export strategy. Following the launch, Environment Australia worked with the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources, other departments, and the Barton Group of environment industry leaders, on implementation of the action agenda.

Under the agenda, 23 recommendations for action by the Commonwealth Government were made. At 30 June 2002, two of these had been implemented and a further 18 were under development.

Promotion

Australia's capabilities and expertise in the environment industry were also promoted through the internet database Australia's EnviroNET, the publication EnviroBusiness Update, a visit to Australia by two officials of the Philippines Environment Management Bureau, assistance with programmes for a number of visiting senior Chinese officials, and sponsorship of industry events. Two of these events were Enviro 2002 and the Joint Working Group on Environment, a collaboration between Indonesia and Australia.

The third meeting of the Joint Working Group on Environment was held in Melbourne on 11-12 April 2002, to coincide with the Enviro 2002 convention and exhibition. There were some 85 participants in the working group, including almost 40 Indonesian business people and over 30 Australian business people. Environment Australia worked collaboratively with Austrade in Jakarta to encourage Indonesian business participants.

National Pollutant Inventory
Objective

To provide governments, industry and the community with current, easily accessible information on emissions of pollutants into the environment.

Result

The National Pollutant Inventory is an internet database providing information to the community, industry and government on the types and amounts of certain substances emitted into air, land and water around Australia.

Each state and territory has finalised a bilateral memorandum of understanding with the Commonwealth for the implementation of the National Pollutant Inventory between 2001 and 2004.

The states and territories collated pollutant emission reports from 2374 facilities, with this data being published by the Commonwealth on the internet. This is an increase of more than 400 reporting facilities from 2000-01.

The National Pollutant Inventory programme completed a major update of two handbooks for industry on how to estimate emissions, and the minor revision of several others. The publication of a new handbook for the intensive poultry industry will allow the industry to commence reporting for the first time in 2002-03.

There were 310 000 visits to the National Pollutant Inventory web site in 2001-02.

Supervision and Research on the Environmental Impact of Uranium Mining in the Alligator Rivers Region (Departmental output 1.6)

Objective

To effectively supervise the environmental management of uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region, NT, and conduct research on the environmental impact of such mining.

Result

The Supervising Scientist's scrutiny of uranium mining activities in the Alligator Rivers Region succeeded in ensuring that Kakadu National Park remained protected. The Supervising Scientist's independent environmental monitoring programme demonstrated that standards for water quality near Ranger and Jabiluka were met throughout 2001-02. This was the first year that the Supervising Scientist has implemented a full environmental monitoring programme. The programme involves the routine collection of water samples near mine sites for chemical analysis, and biological monitoring protocols in which key endemic species are directly examined to determine if there is evidence of impact downstream of mine sites.

Research

Environmental research on the effects of uranium mining provides the Supervising Scientist with the information required to undertake his supervisory role. Research into the potential impact of mining focused on further assessment of stream-related processes in the vicinity of the Jabiluka and Ranger mine sites, rehabilitation of the Nabarlek mine, as well as further assessment of mine sites in the South Alligator valley abandoned three to four decades ago. Research included the implementation of novel remote sensing techniques as well as statistical analyses of stream data to derive and test predictions during the operational and rehabilitation phases of mining. Consultation occurred with stakeholders on the development of a landscape-wide analysis in relation to mining. Initial mapping and literature projects were started and other technical projects prepared for further consultation. Further analysis of radionuclides in bush foods was undertaken and the number of items analysed increased.

Assessments of the aquatic toxicity of toxicants that may be found in waters coming off the mine sites were carried out. The toxicology of magnesium sulfate, aluminium and uranium was determined for local aquatic organisms.

Research at Ngarradj to determine baseline stream sediment movement parameters is nearing completion and an ongoing monitoring programme is being established to assess Jabiluka mine site impact against these baseline parameters. Work was also conducted on the erosion and hydrology of the Nabarlek mine site to assess the status of rehabilitation of the mine.

A regional radon and meteorological measurement network was set up and monitoring data provided for locations in the Ranger-Jabiluka region.

Monitoring

The research programme was complemented by the implementation of a full-scale chemical and biological stream monitoring programme in the vicinity of Ranger and Jabiluka. This included the transfer of research results obtained over the past decade into a fully operational monitoring regime in line with recognised scientific sampling practices and national and international protocols.

Using information from the monitoring programmes, the Supervising Scientist was able to provide assurances that ecosystems downstream of mining activities were protected.

Supervision

The Supervising Scientist conducts monthly site inspections and facilitates and manages twice-yearly audits of the Ranger and Jabiluka sites. These processes are consistent with the ISO14000 series of standards. The annual environmental audits of Ranger and Jabiluka are ISO14001 Environmental Management System audits. In May 2002, this audit was led by an independent auditor assisted by the Office of the Supervising Scientist, the Northern Land Council, and the Northern Territory Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development. This rigorous system of inspections and audits, together with the Supervising Scientist's participation in the Northern Territory regulatory processes, reflects the very high level of environmental protection required by the Commonwealth of the mine operator. The outcomes of the audit will be reported to the Alligator Rivers Region Advisory Committee in the usual manner.

The local standards for air quality were met at both the Ranger and Jabiluka project sites, as demonstrated in the results of the Atmospheric Monitoring Programme published by Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) in accordance with the requirements of the general authorisation. Water quality at the projects similarly met all required standards as proven by data published in the monitoring programmes of ERA, the Northern Territory supervising authorities and the Supervising Scientist's own programme. In particular there were no recorded exceedances of any of the site-specific water quality limits at either site.

Reports

Sixty-two reports were completed on standards, practices and procedures developed to protect the environment and people from the effects of uranium mining. Twenty-one reports were completed on measures developed for the rehabilitation of the environment following uranium mining activities.