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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)

Establishing and managing protected areas

The Department supports the development of networks of protected areas (including national parks) to conserve biodiversity, protect ecosystem services and provide nature-based recreation and tourism opportunities.

In 2003-04, the Department worked to protect ecologically significant areas by:

The Director of National Parks publishes a separate annual report containing detailed information about the management of protected areas, available at www.deh.gov.au/about/annual-report.

The Parks Australia Division ('Parks Australia') contributed to this output.

Protected areas

Objective

To develop a comprehensive, representative and well-managed national system of protected areas.

Activities
Establishing and managing protected areas

Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the Director of National Parks is responsible for Australian Government protected areas called 'Commonwealth reserves' and 'conservation zones'. The Department receives an appropriation for managing these areas and uses it to purchase management services from the Director.

The Director's annual report contains detailed information about the management of these protected areas during 2003-04 (see www.deh.gov.au/about/annual-report). In addition, summary information about marine protected areas is reported in the part of this annual report dealing with coasts and oceans.

National Reserve System

The National Reserve System represents the collective efforts of the states, territories, the Australian Government, non-government organisations and Indigenous landholders to achieve an Australian system of terrestrial protected areas to conserve our native biodiversity. It aims to include comprehensive, adequate and representative samples of all Australia's regional ecosystems.

During 2003-04, the Department led a national task force to develop a draft National Reserve System Directions Statement for the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council. The statement will assist agencies in the development, management and understanding of the National Reserve System for the next ten years. The draft statement was released for public comment in February 2004.

The Department also provided spatial data for marine and terrestrial areas in Australia for the United Nations' 2004 version of the World Database on Protected Areas.

The Department continued to administer the Natural Heritage Trust's National Reserve System Programme, which funds the acquisition and covenanting of properties to add to the National Reserve System. The area acquired in 2003-04 (not including Indigenous Protected Areas, which are reported separately below) was 291 791 hectares and covered 20 properties (see Figure 12). Significant purchases included:

Figure 12: National Reserve System approvals for 2003-04

Figure 12: National Reserve System approvals for 2003-04

All new properties approved for inclusion in the National Reserve System contain ecosystems that are poorly represented or not represented at all in the National Reserve System. Many properties have rare or threatened species, communities and ecosystems, or species that depend on reserves for their survival.

Indigenous Protected Areas

Parks Australia works in partnership with Indigenous Australians to establish Indigenous Protected Areas, which are non-statutory protected areas that form part of the National Reserve System. Under the National Reserve System Programme, the Department administers Natural Heritage Trust funding to support Indigenous organisations in establishing and managing Indigenous Protected Areas. In 2003-04, two new Indigenous Protected Areas covering 5106 hectares were declared and three new projects were approved for funding (see Tables 33 and 34).

Table 33: New Indigenous Protected Areas declared in 2003-04
Property State Size (hectares)
Toogimbie New South Wales 4858
Tyrendarra Victoria 248
Total 5106
Table 34: New Indigenous Protected Areas projects approved for funding in 2003-04
Property State Size(a) (hectares)
Mount Serle Station South Australia 50 500
Ngarrbullgan Queensland 148 000
Kaanju Homelands Queensland 471 500
Total 670 000

(a) Areas are indicative only, with boundaries yet to be finalised.

Results

Twenty properties covering 291 791 hectares were added to the National Reserve System. Since 1996, the Australian Government has added 20.865 million hectares to the National Reserve System. This includes 7.075 million hectares purchased or covenanted and 13.790 million hectares declared as Indigenous Protected Areas. This area represents three per cent of Australia's mainland (see Figure 13). The total area covered by terrestrial protected areas (including state and territory protected areas) in Australia is 77.462 million hectares or just over ten per cent of Australia's landmass (see www.deh.gov.au/parks/nrs/capad).

The two new Indigenous Protected Areas declared during the year took the number of Indigenous Protected Areas to 19 (see Figure 14).

Figure 13: National Reserve System additions (1996-2004)

Figure 13: National Reserve System additions (1996-2004)

Figure 14: Indigenous Protected Areas

Figure 14: Indigenous Protected Areas

Report on performance information

Tables 35, 36 and 37 report performance results against the indicators in the 2003-04 Portfolio Budget Statements.

Table 35: Managing protected areas(a) (departmental appropriations)
Performance information Result
'Accuracy, timeliness and comprehensiveness of advice provided to the Minister on managing protected areas.' Timeframes were met and policy advice met the Minister's requirements
'Extent to which the Commonwealth's reserves are managed as required by the [Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999], relevant leases and other contractual arrangements.' Management of all Commonwealth reserves was carried out in accordance with the requirements of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the Director's legal responsibilities were met.
'Extent to which best practice management is demonstrated through:
  • number of parks with current management plans;
  • number of parks with implementation plans;
  • progress on development of a park management effectiveness programme; and
  • progressive improvement in our performance information.'
Management plans were in effect and implementation schedules were completed for 17 of the 20 parks and reserves. The performance assessment approach to annual reporting introduced last year has been continued and provides a consistent approach to planning and performance throughout the agency. Implementation and reporting systems were further enhanced. Parks Australia participated in risk management benchmarking and received a commendation in the inaugural ComCover awards.
'Extent to which the Director meets his obligations under park leases through:
  • management of the cultural heritage of the parks;
  • timely payment of monies due under the lease; and
  • growth in employment opportunities for Traditional Owners through direct or indirect employment.'
Please refer to the annual report of the Director of National Parks at www.deh.gov.au/about/annual-report for details.

(a) Please refer to the annual report of the Director of National Parks at www.deh.gov.au/about/annual-report for a complete report of performance against the Director's seven key result areas for protected area management.

Table 36: Enhancing the National Reserve System (departmental appropriations)
Performance information Result
'Accuracy, timeliness and comprehensiveness of advice provided to the Minister on enhancing the national reserve system.' Timeframes were met and policy advice met the Minister's requirements
'The comprehensiveness, adequacy and representativeness of the National Reserve System is enhanced.' Enhancement is through acquisitions and covenanting properties in priority bioregions or in priority ecosystems for other bioregions. Properties acquired or covenanted were located in five very high priority bioregions, six high priority bioregions, six medium priority bioregions and four low priority bioregions.
'Extent to which new reserves protect ecosystems which have been poorly represented in the national system:
  • increase in area of the reserve system.'
The Department added almost 300 000 hectares to the National Reserve System. Properties acquired (using Natural Heritage Trust funding) contained: 89 ecosystems, including 72 ecosystems unrepresented or inadequately represented in the current reserve system; 54 species listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999; and 17 ecosystems listed either under state and territory or Australian Government legislation.
'Extent to which best practice management is demonstrated through:
  • number of reserves with current management plans; and
  • development of agreements for joint/cooperative management arrangements with Aboriginal people and other government agencies.'
As at 30 June 2004, there were 135 reserves with plans and interim management plans and no joint management arrangements.
Table 37: Pricing information for Tables 35 to 36 (a)
Appropriation Estimated price Revised price Actual expenses
Parks and reserves- Output 1.9 (departmental) $34.894 million $39.151 million $40.336 million

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

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