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Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2003
ISSN 1441 9335
Review of performance - Outcome one: Environment (continued)
Overall achievement of outcome one
The following is a summary of the overall achievement of Outcome one.
The atmosphere is protected
- 168 tonnes of ozone-depleting substances, including six tonnes imported from New Zealand, were destroyed at the Department's National Halon Bank during 2002-03.
- Significant gains have been made in reducing sulfur in fuels under the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000. In 1999, diesel was around 1300 parts per million sulfur content, but with the introduction of the diesel standard in December 2002, sulfur levels were restricted to 500 parts per million.
- The Launceston Woodheater Replacement Program continued to improve regional air quality through financial incentives and targeted community education. These initiatives contributed to halving the number of times that the national standard for particles was exceeded, from 28 to 14, in 2002.
- Research involving more than 200 participants in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth has determined the major lifestyle factors affecting personal exposure to air toxics such as benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylenes.
Australia's biological diversity is conserved
- Through the Framework for the Extension of the Natural Heritage Trust all jurisdictions have agreed to implement measures to prevent clearing of endangered and vulnerable vegetation communities and critical habitat for threatened species, and limit broad-scale clearing to those instances where regional biodiversity objectives are not compromised.
- In May 2003, the Australian and Queensland governments jointly outlined a proposal to reduce the very high rates of land clearing in the state. Both Governments continued to consult with stakeholders about the proposal.
- The New Atlas of Australian Birds was launched on 1 July 2002, following four years of work with Birds Australia and over 7000 community volunteers. The atlas contains invaluable information on the status and habitat needs of birds across Australia and was made possible through $1.2 million funding from the Natural Heritage Trust.
- In 2002 Australia completed a major step in obtaining a fair and equitable share in the future economic development of its genetic and biochemical resources while maintaining our biodiversity and natural capital. On 11 October the Natural Resources Management Ministerial Council adopted a nationally consistent approach to the management of the genetic resources found in Australia's plants and animals.
Protecting and sustainably managing Australia's coasts and oceans
- The Department continued working in partnership with relevant jurisdictions in the finalisation of a framework for a national cooperative approach to coastal issues.
- In August 2002, the Prime Minister and Premier of Queensland signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation to develop the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan, with the objective of halting and reversing the decline in water quality entering the Reef. In May 2003, the Minister and Premier Beattie launched a draft of the Plan for public consultation.
- The Commonwealth and Queensland governments commenced working together on the protection and restoration of coastal wetlands in catchments adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef Lagoon. In December 2002 the Government announced that a Great Barrier Reef Coastal Wetlands Protection Program would be funded for five years from 2004-05 onwards. The $8 million program, to be matched by Queensland, has as its objective the permanent protection and restoration of wetlands in catchments adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. The program will complement the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan.
- In August 2002 Australia signed, subject to ratification, the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships 2001. An industry-government plan was agreed to phase-out the use of tributyltin-based anti-fouling paints by July 2003 in line with the Government's Australia's Oceans Policy commitment to protect the marine environment.
- A water quality improvement planning process was established in four national hotspots - Perth, Adelaide, Hobart and Douglas Shire.
- At the 7th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species (Bonn, September 2002), Australia successfully proposed eight migratory marine species of conservation concern for listing, including the orca, six other whale species, and the great white shark.
- Australia successfully pursued issues of illegal fishing, whaling and exploitation of sharks at the 12th Conference of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Santiago de Chile, November 2002).
- The Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve was declared on 16 October 2002. At 65 000 square kilometres it is the world's largest highly protected (IUCN Category Ia) marine protected area.
- Fishery assessments under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act are driving change in fisheries management to ensure that Australian fisheries are managed in an ecologically sustainable way. A further 11 fishery assessments have been completed, bringing the total completed to 15, and another 44 are in progress.
Environmental assessments and approvals protect the environment, especially matters of national environmental significance
- The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) conducted a performance audit of the implementation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, tabled in Parliament in April 2003. The ANAO's report found that the Department is administering the Act in a thorough, efficient and timely way.
- In September 2002 the Minister initiated negotiations between the Commonwealth and Queensland to streamline the environment assessment and authorisation of land-based aquaculture proposals adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef, while maintaining a high standard of protection for the reef. As at 30 June 2003, the Minister and the Queensland Premier had agreed a broad framework to streamline assessments, and Commonwealth and Queensland officials had prepared a consultation paper for consideration by industry and other stakeholders.
- In October 2002 the Department and Biosecurity Australia (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) signed a memorandum of understanding to provide for interaction between agencies during the development of quarantine and live import policy.
- In April 2003 the Department released its Compliance and Enforcement Policy, providing a strategic framework to guide the Department's approach to achieving compliance with environment and heritage law and dealing with any breaches.
- The Department conducted an environmental impact assessment of the National Low Level Radioactive Waste Repository proposal, based on an environmental impact statement prepared by the proponent, the Department of Education, Science and Training. After receipt of the assessment report and recommended conditions of approval, the Minister decided on approval of two alternative sites (40a and 45a) for the proposed repository on 7 May 2003. On 9 May, the Minister for Science announced site 40a as the final location.
- The Department commenced audits of all the oil, gas and seismic decisions so far made under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. These audits will be continued in 2003-04.
- A full-time communications officer has been seconded to the National Farmers' Federation until June 2004. The communications officer has been active in increasing awareness and understanding of the Act amongst rural stakeholders and providing assistance with referrals under the Act.
Australia's natural and cultural heritage places are protected and conserved
- 64 grants totalling $3.4 million were approved for round three of the Cultural Heritage Projects Program in November 2002.
- Five projects received funding under the 2002-2003 Commemoration of Historic Events and Famous Persons Program.
- Six grants totalling $20 000 were approved, for works under the Commemoration of Historic Events and Famous People program.
- The Rural and Regional Historic Hotels program administered more than 150 grants and provided just over $2.3 million to support these projects in 2002-03.
- Under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act, 5074 objects were assessed under 293 applications (most objects were not Australian Protected objects), four objects were denied an export permit.
- Two objects were acquired from funding under the National Cultural Heritage Account: Blackburn's whip and a Cliff & Bunting steam engine.
- In April 2003 Australia submitted to the World Heritage Committee the first periodic report on the condition of all its World Heritage properties listed in or before 1994.
- The Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, Melbourne were nominated for inscription on the World Heritage List in December 2002.
- Purnululu National Park was recommended for inscription at the meeting of the World Heritage Committee which commenced on 30 June 2003.
- Seventeen applications were received under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984, seeking protection for ten areas from threats of injury or desecration.
Environmental performance of Australian industry is improved
- Approximately 194 million litres of waste oil was collected and processed for reuse under the Government's Product Stewardship Arrangements for Waste Oil.
- The ChemCollect program was completed with over 1700 tonnes of unregistered and unwanted farm chemicals collected, exceeding the target 1200 tonnes for the program.
- Six new voluntary eco-efficiency agreements were negotiated with industry associations, taking the total to 34 and covering 375 000 businesses. Under the agreements, associations encourage members to improve their environmental performance.
- The number of organisations reporting to the National Pollutant Inventory increased by 600 to 2972.
- More than 600 companies, governments and industry associations have joined the National Packaging Covenant, which encourages companies to reduce packaging waste.
Protection and restoration of the environmental values of Australia's inland waters
- Over 2300 community groups and 58 000 Australians participated in the Waterwatch Program with regular monitoring at over 6850 sites nationally.
- The Department worked to progress the Council of Australian Governments water reforms through the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality and the extension of the Natural Heritage Trust.
- The Department also continued to support the implementation of the Water Reform Framework through its participation in the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council and the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council, which has contributed to progressing implementation of the water reforms, most notably through its work on water trade and environmental flows.
- Seven additional sites, totalling over two million hectares, were designated to the List of Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. The area includes four sites in the Commonwealth external territories, two sites in NSW, one in SA and the extension of one site in NSW.
- A Wetlands Communication, Education and Public Awareness National Action Plan to coordinate activities was completed. Australia was the first contracting party to the Ramsar Convention to complete such an action plan.
- A Native Fish Strategy was released which aims to rehabilitate native fish populations in the Murray-Darling Basin back to 60 per cent of their estimated pre-European levels over 50 years.
- The Department continued to work in partnership with the Queensland and South Australian governments and the Lake Eyre Basin community to implement the Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement.
Conservation, restoration and sustainable use of Australia's land
- All states and territories have signed the intergovernmental agreement that sets out the broad framework for implementing the National Action Plan on Salinity and Water Quality.
- All states and territories except Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory have signed bilateral agreements with the Commonwealth that set out the framework for implementing the National Action Plan. Discussions are progressing well to finalise agreements with these jurisdictions.
- To date, over $219 million in joint funding has been agreed between the Commonwealth and state governments for the National Action Plan.
- The three regional plans accredited by Commonwealth Ministers during 2002-03 will be used as the basis for investments under the extension of the Trust and the National Action Plan. Interim funding totalling $55.4 million has been provided to regional organisations.
Establishing and managing protected areas
- The area approved during the year for preservation under the National Reserve System was 9357 square kilometres made up of 43 properties. In addition, a new Indigenous Protected Area of 3865 square kilometres was added to the National Reserve System.
- Areas for inclusion in the reserve system were drawn from all states.
Further information on the management of national parks and reserves is contained in the Annual Report of the Director of National Parks.