Publications archive

Department of the Environment and Heritage annual report 2004-05

Volume one
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005
ISSN 1441 9335

Outcome 1 - Environment (continued)

Land

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

Main responsibilities relevant to this output

Land, Water and Coasts Division

Natural Resource Management Programmes Division

Objectives

Main results

Native vegetation management framework

The National Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Australia’s Native Vegetation is an agreement between Australia’s federal, state and territory governments. Under the framework governments have agreed to reverse the long-term decline in the extent and quality of Australia’s native vegetation.

This goal has underpinned related government commitments under the Natural Heritage Trust, the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality and the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement (see section on forest agreements below). For example under the Natural Heritage Trust state and territory governments have agreed to:

In October 2003 the Australian Government announced $45 million from the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality to help New South Wales end broad-scale land clearing and the clearing of protected regrowth vegetation. New South Wales continued consultation with stakeholders and design of systems to implement these reforms through 2004–05.

On 13 May 2005 under the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement Tasmania agreed to phase out broad-scale clearing and the conversion of native forest to plantations (see section on forest agreements below).

Reversing the decline of Australia’s native vegetation will help conserve biodiversity and will make a significant contribution to reducing the net emissions of greenhouse gases.

Review of the framework

The national vegetation framework has been in place since 2001. The Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council began a review of the framework in April 2004. The department is providing secretariat support for the review and expects the review will be completed in 2006.

As part of the review governments are reporting their progress in reversing the long-term decline in the extent and quality of Australia’s native vegetation and achieving the framework’s other goals. The review will also:

Productivity Commission inquiry report on native vegetation laws

On 10 August 2004 the Australian Government tabled in the parliament the Productivity Commission report on the impacts of native vegetation and biodiversity regulations (see www.pc.gov.au). The department led development of the Australian Government’s response to the report.

The Australian Government set up the inquiry in response to concerns by landholders and farmers’ organisations that native vegetation and biodiversity laws were having adverse impacts.

The Productivity Commission endorsed the Australian Government’s approach to implementing the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The commission found that some state government regulations were imposing significant and unnecessary costs on landholders.

The 3 June 2005 meeting of the Council of Australian Governments discussed native vegetation management, noting the progress made by state and territory governments and encouraging them to continue examining appropriate regulation. The Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council will examine good practice regulation as part of the review of the national vegetation framework.

Environmental aspects of forest agreements

To secure the future of Australia’s forests the Australian Government has negotiated 10 regional forest agreements with four state governments. These agreements meet the twin objectives of protecting forests in reserves and creating regional jobs in the forestry industry.

Regional forest agreements are primarily the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, but the department helps to negotiate conservation objectives and monitors the environmental outcomes through annual reporting and five-yearly reviews (see www.rfa.gov.au).

The five-yearly review of the 1997 Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement was finalised in late 2002. After considering the review the Australian Government addressed its recommendations through a supplement to the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement called the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement.

Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement

The Prime Minister and the Premier of Tasmania signed the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement on 13 May 2005. Under the agreement the Tasmanian Government will establish new reserves to protect 171 300 hectares of forests, including 45 600 hectares on private land.

David Atkinson in the Styx Valley

Staff member David Atkinson with one of the world's tallest hardwood trees in the Styx Valley

Photo: M Mohell and the Australian Heritage Photo Library

A new formal reserve of over 30 000 hectares will protect highly significant tracts of rare temperate rainforest in the Tarkine. Nearly all the rainforest in the Tarkine will be protected. Over half of the public land in the Styx Valley will now be protected in reserves. A new Forest Conservation Fund will seek to reserve over 45 000 hectares of forest on private land through voluntary sale or covenanting.

By December 2005 new statutory measures will be developed to prevent the clearing and conversion of rare and threatened non-forest vegetation communities. Forest clearing and conversion to plantations will cease on public land by 2010 and on private land by 2015.

The Australian and Tasmanian governments are investing over $250 million to implement the agreement over seven years (2004–2010). This includes an Australian Government contribution of $131.2 million under the agreement and an additional $25.6 million for other measures that will support the agreement and deliver on election commitments. In addition the Australian Government has made provision in its Budget for a market-based programme to protect 45 600 hectares of private land including the Mole Creek component of up to 2 400 hectares. More details are available via www.rfa.gov.au.

Rangelands conservation

The rangelands, covering 75 per cent of Australia, have special management needs. Grazing has altered extensive areas through land clearing, over stocking and inappropriate fire, water and soil management practices. Property managers who want to invest in restoration may need advice or may lack the means due to the low overall productivity of the land. The department works cooperatively with other government agencies to protect the environment in rangeland areas.

Project expenditure during 2004–05 was $0.7 million from the national component of the Natural Heritage Trust.

Identifying conservation values

In a series of collaborative studies with the CSIRO the department investigated methods such as remote sensing for identifying areas of conservation interest in the rangelands. The studies increased knowledge about spatial patterns of biodiversity in the rangelands. The results will be published in 2005–06.

Managing for biodiversity conservation

The department commissioned a series of consultancies on how to reduce key threats to biodiversity in the rangelands (including property level decision-making, industry best practice, total grazing pressure, fire and weeds) through improved management. The results will be presented as a series of publications in 2005–06.

Australian Collaborative Rangelands Information System

The Australian Collaborative Rangelands Information System is a way of bringing together information about the rangelands that is held by government agencies and other organisations. The system provides a basis for property management, regional decision-making and national reporting based on natural resource information, including biodiversity. During the year the department continued to support development of the system through a partnership with Queensland, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Western Australia, CSIRO and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. The Australian Collaborative Rangelands Information System demonstrated its capacity by providing a report on change in the rangelands across five pilot regions. For more information, see www.deh.gov.au/land/management/rangelands/acris.

Conservation incentives

An important aspect of the department’s work is developing incentives for private landholders to conserve the environment on their land. For example some landholders can access Natural Heritage Trust funding or Australian Government tax incentives in return for entering into formal conservation agreements such as covenants. The department has helped develop information about tax incentives, ‘revolving’ funds and other incentive schemes, and now disseminates this information through state and territory governments, and regional organisations. Four conservation covenanting programmes were approved in 2004–05, bringing the total number of approved programmes to 10.

The department provides direct support from the Natural Heritage Trust for revolving funds in Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales. Managed by specialist non-government organisations, revolving funds are used to buy land in order to protect it under a conservation covenant before selling it on. The department also supports a national network of managers of revolving funds and covenanting schemes.

Partly as a result of these activities 235 perpetual covenants came into operation in 2004–05, protecting 239 654 hectares. These figures do not include various types of agreement used to secure Natural Heritage Trust funding or made under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Bushcare and Landcare

(Administered item – part of the Natural Heritage Trust)

Bushcare and Landcare are those parts of the Natural Heritage Trust invested in:

Total expenditure in 2004–05 under Bushcare was $119.1 million and under Landcare was $78.1 million. Results are reported in the annual reports of the Natural Heritage Trust available at www.nht.gov.au/publications/index.html#annual-reports.

See also: Administration of the Natural Heritage Trust.

Support for the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality

(Service provided to Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry)

The Prime Minister announced the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality in October 2000. The Australian Government has committed $700 million over eight years (2000–2008) to implement the plan, building on related work under the Natural Heritage Trust.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is responsible for administering the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality. The department provides administrative support to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry under a purchaser-provider arrangement associated with a joint Australian Government Natural Resource Management Team, which also manages the Natural Heritage Trust. The department received $1 million in 2004–05 under the purchaser-provider arrangement.

Through the joint team the two departments are helping people in 56 regions across Australia to develop integrated natural resource management plans for both the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality and the Natural Heritage Trust. The plans set priorities for controlling salinity and protecting water quality. Once these plans are accredited by the Australian Government, each region develops an investment strategy, which is the basis for further funding. The total number of regions with investment strategies accredited under the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality is now 32.

Regional plans include actions to manage salinity where appropriate to local and national objectives. Detailed outcomes of investments addressing salinity are identified in the Regional Programmes Report (see www.nrm.gov.au/publications/regional-report).

Detailed outcomes of the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality are reported in the annual reports of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (see www.daff.gov.au) and the Regional Programmes Report.

Results for performance indicators
Performance indicator 2004–05 results
Programme administration
Native vegetation - Vegetation Management
Number of agreements, plans and management arrangements put in place 4 agreements (National Biodiversity and Climate Change Action Plan; Firewood Code of Practice; response to Productivity Commission inquiry into the impact of native vegetation and biodiversity regulations; response to Council of Australian Governments Bushfire Inquiry)
Degree to which projects, activities, agreements or plans contribute to the output High – contributed to better management of native vegetation
Native vegetation - Biodiversity Trends (See also Natural Heritage Trust annual report)
Number of projects or activities approved under each programme 4 projects
Degree to which projects, activities, agreements or plans contribute to the output High – increased understanding of native vegetation condition and change
Conservation Incentives (See also Natural Heritage Trust annual report)
Number of projects or activities approved under each programme 7 projects
Degree to which projects, activities, agreements or plans contribute to the output High – promoted behavioural change by improving landholders’ understanding of available conservation incentives and by providing networks and training for organisations delivering incentives
Forests
Number of agreements, plans and management arrangements put in place 1 intergovernmental agreement (with Tasmania)
Degree to which projects, activities, agreements or plans contribute to the output High – supplementary Tasmanian regional forests agreement increased level of representativeness of reserve system and helped Tasmania to increase protection of old growth forests
Rangelands (See also Natural Heritage Trust annual report)
Number of projects or activities approved under each programme 6 projects
Degree to which projects, activities, agreements or plans contribute to the output High – supported good practice management of the rangelands
All programmes
Extent to which (self-imposed, ministerial or external) timeframes are met High – timeframes met in accordance with departmental standards
Accurate and timely approval, payment and acquittal of grants in accordance with legislation and guidelines Funding was provided under financial agreements that reflect accountability, reporting and acquittal procedures
Accurate and timely payment of monies 100% of payments made in accordance with terms and conditions of financial agreements
Bushcare and Landcare (Administered item - part of the Natural Heritage Trust)
Stakeholder awareness
Information and education products distributed to stakeholders (measured by web site hits, information material distributed, etc) 500 brochures on the Australian Collaborative Rangelands Information System rangelands Summary of Change in Pilot Regions distributed

7 500 brochures on covenants and related tax incentives supplied to over 50 organisations and individuals

Average of 8 689 user sessions per month on the land-related part of the department’s web site
Research, analysis and evaluation
Number of research reports, articles and papers prepared and publicly released 1 Australian Collaborative Rangelands Information System report (another 8 in preparation for release in 2005–06)

Other annual reports - more detailed results

Regional Programmes Report at www.nrm.gov.au/publications/regional-report

Annual report of the Natural Heritage Trust at www.nht.gov.au/publications. The department’s performance in administering the Natural Heritage Trust is reported in the section Administration of the Natural Heritage Trust.

Legislation

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
Natural Heritage Trust of Australia Act 1997

Resources
Element of pricing Budget prices
$’000
Actual expenses
$’000
Departmental outputs
Output 1.8: Land management 7 047 7 857
Administered items
Natural Heritage Trust – Landcare
Natural Heritage Trust – Bushcare
80 600
105 400
78 079
119 113
Total (Administered) 186 000 197 192
Prices are the estimated full-year revenues for departmental outputs and full-year expenses for administered items that are shown in the 2004–05 portfolio additional estimates statements.

See also: summary resource tables.