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Department of the Environment and Heritage Annual Report 2003-04

Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2004
ISSN 1441 9335

Review of performance: Outcome 1 - Environment (continued)

Protecting and managing the land

The Department works to ensure the management of Australia's natural and agricultural land is ecologically sustainable.

In 2003-04, the Department worked to:

This section reports on activities funded using the Department's appropriation for its 'land management' output. For more information about the Department's land management activities see also:

The Land, Water and Coasts Division and the Natural Resource Management Programmes Division contributed to this output.

Native vegetation

Objective

To halt two centuries of decline in the extent and quality of Australia's native vegetation.

Activities

The Department is working with other Australian Government and state and territory government agencies and the Australian community to improve how native vegetation is protected.

The National Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Australia's Native Vegetation is jointly implemented by the Department and other government agencies. On 16 April 2004, the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council approved a review of the framework. The review has commenced.

The review will evaluate progress towards reversing the long-term decline in the quality and extent of Australia's native vegetation. The review will address the range of costs and benefits of vegetation management, and evaluate management tools such as volunteerism, grants, market-based measures and regulatory approaches. It will also consider best management practice.

The Department is also working in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, through the Natural Heritage Trust and the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality, to increase the capacity of governments and communities to adopt ecologically sustainable land management practices. A focus of this work is to address salinity, especially dryland salinity, which is the build-up of salt in the soil surface in non-irrigated areas.

The Department continued to monitor the implementation by the states and territories of their commitments to:

During 2003-04, the Department also managed Natural Heritage investments to:

Result

The review of the National Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Australia's Native Vegetation commenced. An updated framework is expected in late 2005.

The Department secured agreement to a range of commitments by state and territory governments to improve native vegetation management. These commitments are summarised in Table 30.

Table 30: Native vegetation reform commitments in National Action Plan and Natural Heritage Trust bilateral agreements
Jurisdiction Reforms
Australian Capital Territory Stronger emphasis on biodiversity and vegetation management through land management agreements on all rural leases.
New South Wales Commitment to end broad-scale land clearing and clearing of protected regrowth vegetation.
Northern Territory Commitment to control the clearing of native vegetation across all tenures.
Queensland Commitment to protect all threatened vegetation communities and phase out clearing of remnant vegetation by 2006.
South Australia Commitment to achieve a net gain in native vegetation quality and extent.
Tasmania Commitment to protect all threatened forest and non-forest vegetation communities and maintain at least 95 per cent of the 1996 native forest estate on public land.
Victoria Native vegetation management framework in place to achieve a net gain in native vegetation cover.
Western Australia Environmental Protection Act 1986 now protects native vegetation.

Integrated natural resource management

Objective

To improve land management and protection through regional communities.

Activities

Natural resource management policies and programmes are delivered through the Natural Heritage Trust (including Landcare and Bushcare) and the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality.

Under these initiatives, integrated natural resource management plans are being developed for 56 regions across Australia. Each of the plans and subsequent investment strategies will include land conservation objectives.

The Department continued to work on the development of bilateral agreements for the Natural Heritage Trust and the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality between the Australian Government and each of the states and territories.

With the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the Department co-managed Natural Heritage Trust national investments of $32 million to build community capacity to engage in the delivery of the Trust nationally.

The Natural Heritage Trust also invested in national capacity building, with the most significant amount being $10.5 million invested in the National Natural Resource Management Facilitator Network. This network facilitates community involvement in the Natural Heritage Trust and the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality. It includes members in all levels of government and in the planning regions, and members who facilitate Indigenous involvement.

In addition, the Community Engagement and Capacity Building Working Group of the former Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council Programmes Committee worked to improve the development and monitoring of capacity building investments at the regional level.

Result

The Natural Heritage Trust Ministerial Board (which oversees Trust expenditure) and relevant state ministers accredited 33 integrated regional natural resource management plans in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales. The Department expects to provide the remaining 23 integrated plans for ministers to accredit during 2004-05.

The Department administered Australian Government expenditure totalling $73.187 million on environmental work under the Natural Heritage Trust's Landcare programme.

For further information about outcomes, see the Natural Heritage Trust's annual reports at www.nht.gov.au/publications, and the National Action Plan's annual report at www.napswq.gov.au/publications.

Report on performance information

Table 31 reports performance results against the indicators in the 2003-04 portfolio budget statements.

Table 31: Land management (departmental appropriations)
Performance information Result
'Accuracy, timeliness and comprehensiveness of advice provided to the Minister on sustainable land management.' Timeframes were met and policy advice met the Minister's requirements.
'New national strategies and projects developed and implemented.' Terms of reference were announced and a working group established to review the National Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Australia's Native Vegetation.
'Extent to which bilateral and regional agreements reflect the objectives on the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality.' All bilateral agreements finalised by 30 June 2004 reflected the objectives of the intergovernmental agreement for the National Action Plan. Arrangements were put in place to ensure that regional plans and agreements are consistent with the intergovernmental agreement.
'The number of jurisdictions which have in place institutional and legal regimes to prohibit land clearing in areas which would lead to unacceptable land and water degradation, in accordance with and within the required timetable under the Intergovernmental Agreement for the National Action Plan.' Bilateral agreements under the National Action Plan set out specific commitments for the implementation of agreed institutional and legal reforms to prohibit land clearing in areas that would lead to unacceptable land and water degradation, in accordance with the timetable under the intergovernmental agreement.
'Number of National Action Plan bilateral and regional agreements signed.' Seven National Action Plan bilateral agreements were signed by 30 June 2004 - only the Australian Capital Territory was yet to sign.
'Number of accredited Regional plans in place under the National Action Plan.' Thirty-three integrated regional natural resource management plans were accredited by Australian Government Ministers.
'Number of capacity building initiatives for natural resource management under the National Action Plan, and feedback on their effectiveness.' Capacity building initiatives were integrated into all regional plans under the National Action Plan.
Table 32: Pricing information for Table 31(a)
Appropriation Estimated price Revised price Actual expenses
Land management - Output 1.8 (departmental) $3.246 million $6.168 million $5.881 million

(a) See also the summary resource tables at the end of this 'Review of performance'.

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