Department of the Environment and Water Resources, 2007
Outcome 1 - Environment (continued)
The Department of the Environment and Water Resources works with all levels of government, and with the community and industry to minimise the impact of human settlements and industrial processes on Australia's environment and biodiversity.
Main responsibilities for this output
||Policy Coordination Division|
||Environment Quality Division|
||Supervising Scientist Division|
||Approvals and Wildlife Division|
Pollution prevention strategies
- Facilitate consistency in national air, water, and soil standards, and provide all Australians with the benefit of equal environmental protection wherever they live
- Improve urban air quality in order to protect human health and the environment by reducing emissions of pollutants to the atmosphere
- Protect and restore the stratospheric ozone layer
- Reduce pollution from waste by increasing collection, reuse and recycling
- Improve the environmental performance of industry
- Improve public information by promoting better environmental reporting and labelling
- Protect the environment and human health from hazardous substances and organisms
Supervision of uranium mining
- Monitor, audit and supervise uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region of the Northern Territory
- Protect the matters of national environmental significance defined in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
- Protect the marine environment through the management of dumping under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981
- Protect biodiversity, including wildlife and their habitats, and work to ensure that Australia's use of biological resources is ecologically sustainable
- Since July 2000 more than 1,586 matters of national environmental significance have been protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 through the referral, assessment and approval process, with 276 of these matters protected in 2006—07.
- Over the past decade the levels of major air pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide, lead, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide, in Australian cities have declined as a result of collaborative efforts between governments and industry to tackle air pollution at its source.
- Australia exceeded its obligations to phase out the use of ozone depleting substances, with total imports of only 163 tonnes of these substances, a decrease of over 80 per cent since 1999, when imports peaked at over 800 tonnes.
- Important advances were made in improving the safe management of chemicals, including a new national implementation plan to manage the world's most dangerous persistent organic pollutants, a new voluntary international agreement to ensure the safe management of chemicals worldwide by 2020, new national principles for better management of chemicals in the environment and an action plan for implementing the national principles.
- Research, monitoring and supervision indicate that the environment of the Alligator Rivers Region remains protected from the impacts of uranium mining.
- The number of fuel quality samples tested for compliance with the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000 more than doubled compared to 2005—06.
- Since it began in 2001, the Product Stewardship for Oil Programme has funded the installation of more than 950 waste oil collection units, with more than 40 extra units funded in 2006—07.
Developing and implementing strategies to prevent pollution are important parts of the department's activities. The department's pollution prevention strategies focus on reducing pollution at the source, and promoting the collection, reuse and recycling of waste materials. The successful delivery of these strategies relies on cooperation with the state and territory governments and with industry. Ministerial councils are the key forums for making decisions on priorities and management actions.
Environment Protection and Heritage Council
The Environment Protection and Heritage Council is made up of environment and heritage ministers from Australia's federal, state and territory governments. A focus of the council is to achieve urban sustainability through national approaches to air quality, waste management, chemical management, and water quality and efficiency.
In 2006—07 the council:
- released the National Water Quality Management Strategy National Guidelines for Water Recycling: Managing Health and Environmental Risks. The guidelines are an authoritative reference for the supply, use and regulation of recycled water schemes (for more information see National Water Quality Management Strategy in the chapter on land and inland waters)
- approved a new ministerial agreement on Principles for Better Environmental Management of Chemicals. The council also agreed to an action plan on chemicals in the environment (for more information see the section on the national risk management framework in this chapter).
The Environment Protection and Heritage Council's functions extend beyond the urban environment to encompass national and world heritage protection and management. Other achievements of the council can be found in the relevant sections of this report.
National Environment Protection Council
The National Environment Protection Council is a statutory body with law-making powers established under the National Environment Protection Council Act 1994 and corresponding legislation in the states and territories.
The council's functions are to make National Environment Protection Measures and to assess and report on their implementation and effectiveness. National Environment Protection Measures set out agreed national objectives for protecting or managing particular aspects of the environment; to date seven measures have been made with a number currently under review.
Information on National Environment Protection Measures is available on the council's website at www.ephc.gov.au/nepms/nepms.html .
An independent review of the National Environment Protection Council Act 1994 by John Ramsay Consulting Pty Ltd was tabled in the Australian Parliament on 30 June 2007. The review report made a number of recommendations about streamlining and improving processes, promoting greater uniformity and accountability in National Environment Protection Measure implementation, and increasing the Act's responsiveness to current environmental needs. The National Environment Protection Council will respond to the review late in 2007.
In June 2007 the council varied the National Pollutant Inventory National Environment Protection Measure and agreed to prepare a variation of the Assessment of Site Contamination National Environment Protection Measure. The Ambient Air Quality and Diesel Vehicle Emissions measures are under review. A new Product Stewardship National Environment Protection Measure is being developed to deal with waste tyres.
Each jurisdiction contributes funding to support the operations of the National Environment Protection Council Service Corporation which provides secretariat, project management and administrative services to the Environment Protection and Heritage Council and the National Environment Protection Council. The department paid $472,436 in 2006—07; half of the Australian Government's annual contribution.
Detailed outcomes are reported in the annual report on the operation of the National Environment Protection Council Act 1994 at www.ephc.gov.au/nepc/annual_reports.html .
National Pollutant Inventory
The department hosts the National Pollutant Inventory, which is a free publicly available database of chemical emissions information. People use it to find out the types and amounts of chemical substances being emitted into the air, land and water from industrial processes and other activities. The 90 substances included in the inventory have been identified as important because of their possible health and environmental effects. The database is at www.npi.gov.au .
The National Environment Protection (National Pollutant Inventory) Measure is the statutory basis for the inventory. The measure requires industry to report on emissions if they exceed certain levels and the department to publish the results each year in the National Pollutant Inventory. One of the aims of the inventory is to encourage government, industry and the community to improve their environmental performance by reducing emissions.
The Australian Government provided funding of $4 million over three years (2005—2008) for the National Pollutant Inventory. Funding was extended by $5.2 million in 2005 for the period 2005—2009.
The 2006 National Pollutant Inventory results were published in January 2007. This was the eighth annual data release. Since reporting started in 1999, the number of facilities reporting each year has trebled.
In any one year, the data present a mixed picture with some emissions up and others down compared with the previous year. For example, in 2005—06 emissions of 39 substances increased over the previous year while emissions of 47 substances decreased. Real changes in reported emissions data usually result from changes in the way a facility is operated. For example, the Mitsubishi Motors Australia Ltd plant in Tonsley Park, South Australia, has shown significant reductions in emissions of volatile organic compounds since it installed a reductive thermal oxidiser. This pollution control device was installed in response to a South Australian Environment Protection Authority environmental improvement programme to control volatile organic compound emissions.
A case study of the improvements made at the Mitsubishi plant is at www.npi.gov.au/overview/reduction.html .
National Pollutant Inventory review
The National Environment Protection Council commenced the statutory process to make a variation to the National Environment Protection (National Pollutant Inventory) Measure in July 2005. The council considered ways to improve the inventory's effectiveness both as a source of information and as a driver of cleaner production. The National Environment Protection Measure variation subsequently went before the council on 2 June 2007. Ministers agreed to a variation, including to reporting transfers of substances in waste, and to minor changes to the current substance list and thresholds, and to publication requirements.
Australians consistently rank air pollution as an environmental concern, although Australia's air quality is generally good. Actions taken by Australian governments to improve air quality have already delivered billions of dollars in avoided health costs.
The department works with other agencies, governments and industry to reduce emissions of air pollutants. The department's work focuses on tackling the major sources of air pollution, including motor vehicles, woodheaters and industry, as well as specific pollutants that pose threats to human health and the environment.
As a result of these collaborative efforts, the levels of key air pollutants in Australian cities, including nitrogen dioxide, lead, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide are generally lower now than they were 10 to 15 years ago.
Particles and ground-level ozone are still a concern in some cities. In larger cities, ozone levels exceed the national standard several times a year and particle levels continue to exceed the national standard in some areas. Smoke from woodheaters is a common cause of elevated particle levels, particularly during winter. Work to address these concerns will continue.
Reducing vehicle emissions
Motor vehicles are the largest contributor to urban air pollution in Australia and have a major influence on the incidence of smog and haze. Three strategies are being implemented to reduce vehicle emissions— making sure that vehicles meet effective emission standards when they first enter the market; ensuring that they continue to meet these emission standards while they are in use; and providing them with the cleanest, economically viable fuels on which to operate.
The Australian Government has an ongoing programme of introducing new vehicle emission standards to ensure that the environmental benefits of evolving emission control and fuel efficiency technologies are realised in Australia. New vehicle emission standards are established as Australian Design Rules under the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 which is administered by the Department of Transport and Regional Services. The quality of fuel supplied in Australia, however, has been a key constraint to the introduction of tighter vehicle emissions standards.
National fuel quality standards have been implemented under the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000 which is administered by the department. Fuel quality standards have been introduced for petrol, diesel, biodiesel and autogas sold in Australia. The fuel standards pave the way for advanced emissions control technology required to meet tighter emissions standards, reduce the level of harmful pollutants in fuel, and ensure the efficient operation of engines.
A major review of the Act was undertaken in 2005—06. The review concluded that the overall policy objectives of the Act are being met and should not be altered, but recommended strengthening the monitoring, compliance and enforcement programme, and simplifying administration of the Act, in particular the current system for processing applications for variations to fuel standards. During the year amendments to the Act were progressed to implement recommendations from the review.
Another study identified the potential environmental and commercial impacts of companies being granted approvals to vary fuel standards and how these impacts could be offset. The study recommended that the range of conditions that the minister can apply to an approval be broadened to allow him to require companies to fund measures such as air quality monitoring programmes. The study also recommended that the circumstances under which an application can be made be limited to avoid companies applying to vary standards in order to gain a commercial advantage. The department is considering amendments to the Act in light of the issues raised in this study.
Monitoring compliance and enforcement of fuel standards
The department monitors fuel at outlets including terminals, depots and service stations to ensure it complies with the standards. The department is spending $6.3 million over four years from 2006—07 to increase fuel quality compliance inspections. These inspections will help to ensure fuel quality standards are being met, thereby increasing consumer confidence and preventing poor quality fuel having negative impacts on vehicle operability and on air quality.
In 2006—07 the department took 2,321 fuel samples, an increase of more than 100 per cent from the previous year's 1,069 samples. Of these 97 per cent tested compliant with fuel standards. Incidents of non-compliance were dealt with either through administrative action (warnings and education), civil action or prosecution, depending on the seriousness of non-compliance.
A full report on the operation of the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000 is in the second volume of this set of annual reports.
Work continued to implement recommendations from the Prime Minister's Biofuels Taskforce report, with projects on the impacts of ethanol and other biofuels on human health, the environment, and the operation of motor vehicles. Progress in 2006—07 included:
- An independent study was completed on how vehicles in the Australian market operate on E5 (5 per cent ethanol and 95 per cent petrol) and E10 (10 per cent ethanol and 90 per cent petrol). The report is available on the department's website. The study found that about 60 per cent of petrol vehicles are suitable for use with E10. All new Australian cars and most new imported models are compatible with E5 or E10. However, the study established that it would not be appropriate for E5 to be sold unlabelled.
- The department commissioned a study on the health impacts of ethanol blend fuels to be completed in 2007—08. The study will assess the comparative impact of low ethanol blend fuel on tailpipe particulate and evaporative emissions under Australian conditions.
- Work continued on developing a biodiesel blend standard. Standards already exist under the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000 for 100 per cent biodiesel and for petroleum diesel, but not for blends of the two.
In addition to cleaning up fuels supplied to the current vehicle fleet, work has continued on major projects relating to motor vehicle emissions.
The department continued to support in-service emissions testing for diesel vehicles through funding agreements with the states and territories. Diesel vehicles are tested for compliance with the exhaust emissions standards in the National Environment Protection (Diesel Vehicle Emissions) Measure.
The Australian Government's energy white paper Securing Australia's Energy Future announced the introduction from 1 July 2006 of tax credits for users of heavy diesel vehicles who can demonstrate that their vehicle is not a high polluter. One of the five permissible criteria for eligibility is to pass the in-service emission standards referred to in the National Environment Protection (Diesel Vehicle Emissions) Measure.
In 2004 the department initiated the second National In-Service Emissions Study to provide up-to-date data for the petrol vehicle fleet. The preliminary phase included developing an Australian composite urban emissions drive cycle for light duty petrol vehicles. This enables the vehicles tested in laboratories to better simulate city driving conditions.
The main phase of the study commenced in June 2007 and will consist of comprehensive emission testing of hundreds of vehicles. The study will considerably improve knowledge of the petrol vehicle contribution to urban air pollution, lead to more accurate estimations of aggregate emissions and enable modelling of management strategies under different conditions, particularly traffic congestion. It will also improve understanding of transport emissions' environmental and health impacts.
This information will inform policy development and national initiatives such as the review of the National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure.
Review of air quality and diesel National Environment Protection Measures
In 1998 the National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure set acceptable levels for the six common air pollutants: particles, ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.
The National Environment Protection Council commenced the substantive phase of a review of the Ambient Air Quality Measure in 2006—07. The review is due to be completed in 2008, and resulting changes to the measure will ensure that Australia has the most up-to-date and effective policy framework and air quality standards to protect human health from exposure to air pollution. As part of the review a discussion paper was prepared on issues relating to air quality policy, monitoring and reporting. It was released for public consultation in June 2007.
The review of the National Environment Protection (Diesel Vehicle Emissions) Measure was completed in April 2007. The review process included public consultation and identified a number of ways in which the measure could be updated to reflect advances in technology. The council agreed to vary the measure and to prepare a variation proposal.
Pollution from non-road engines
Emissions from non-road engines can be a significant source of air pollution in some urban air-sheds. Examples of non-road engines include lawnmowers and leaf blowers, recreational boats, generators and pumps. Non-road engines are a significant source of pollution because they do not have the same advanced emission controls found on modern road vehicles. In 2006 the department commissioned a national inventory and benchmarking of the environmental performance of garden equipment and marine outboards (the two major non-road contributors). The department used recent data sourced from state and territory jurisdictions to create a national inventory of small engine emissions.
Managing woodsmoke pollution
In 2005—06 the department developed a certification procedure to improve woodheater compliance with pollutant emission standards. During 2006—07 work continued with other jurisdictions and industry to implement the procedure.
This included ongoing compliance checks of woodheaters against Australian Standards and increasing public access to woodheater performance information including via an industry-maintained website of all certified woodheaters.
Woodsmoke from a residential chimney in Tasmania, resulting from the poor operation of a woodheater.
Photo: J Todd
The current standards for woodheaters, which include a maximum particulate emission limit, have been a useful tool for driving improvements in woodheater design and hence reducing overall emissions. In 2006—07 the department commissioned a major study on the way people operate woodheaters in their homes. The study will inform development of a revised test method to strengthen the standards as a means of reducing woodsmoke emissions. The study will take place during the 2007 winter. It will collect data on the operation of woodheaters across four Australian states and from New Zealand.
Domestic woodheater emissions can be greatly reduced by improved operation. The department has updated its Hot Tips for Woodheaters brochure, showing simple ways to reduce woodsmoke pollution. The brochures will be provided to local and state governments for distribution to householders.
While marked improvements have been made, Launceston in Tasmania continues to experience poor air quality during winter. In response to this problem, the department provided grants to four industrial facilities under the Launceston Clean Air Industry Programme to assist them to make technological changes to reduce pollutant emissions. This three-year, $1 million programme will build on a previous grants programme that helped 2,242 householders in Launceston to replace woodheaters with less-polluting alternatives. Together these initiatives will help to continue the current downward trend in annual exceedences of particle pollution levels in the Tamar Valley.
Clean Air Research Programme
In April 2006 the department provided $1.4 million for 13 research projects under the Clean Air Research Programme. These air quality research projects will finish in June 2008 and cover issues such as ground-level ozone formation, public exposure to air pollutants and the estimated health benefits of improved air quality. The early findings of these research projects are already informing policy to address the risks associated with air pollution and develop effective strategies for its reduction.
Australian Child Health and Air Pollution Study
The Australian Child Health and Air Pollution Study began early in 2007. The study was commissioned by the Environment Protection and Heritage Council with the aim of providing information to policy makers on air quality and air pollution management. Half of the council funding for the study was provided by the Australian Government.
The study will investigate the relationship between air quality and respiratory health by testing 3,200 students from 60 primary schools across Australia. This is the first nationwide study of child health in relation to air quality to be conducted in Australia, and aims to improve understanding of the effects of air pollution on breathing problems, asthma and allergies in Australian children.
After consulting with key stakeholders to identify priority pollutants for action and research, and to identify strategies to improve air quality in non-industrial indoor settings, the department is funding a formaldehyde study that will be completed in late 2007. This national study is measuring levels of formaldehyde in a range of indoor environments, including mobile homes, caravans and demountable buildings where formaldehyde-containing materials are used extensively, to determine if this pollutant poses a risk to people's health and requires management action.
Air quality data
To improve access to air quality data the department has established a national air quality database. These data will inform future decisions on standard setting and management strategies, and allow better assessment of the status and trends in air quality.
Some chemicals used in the community and by industry for applications such as refrigeration, air conditioning, foam production, aerosols and fire protection deplete the earth's stratospheric ozone layer. Ozone depletion is a major global environmental problem that if left unchecked would allow higher doses of ultra violet band B (UVB) radiation to penetrate the earth's atmosphere. This would greatly increase the incidence of skin cancer and eye cataracts, as well as affecting plants, animals and aquatic life.
The international community's response to ozone depletion is set out in the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer 1985 and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer 1987—both of which have been ratified by Australia. Under the protocol, all member countries have agreed to phase out their use of ozone depleting substances and replace them with less harmful alternatives.
As a result of these efforts, in which Australia has played a leading international role over many years, scientists predict a full recovery of the ozone layer in the mid-latitudes by around 2050, and over the Antarctic in the period 2060 to 2075. This predicted recovery depends on full and ongoing compliance with the internationally agreed phase-out targets for the use of ozone depleting substances.
Australia ensures that it meets phase-out obligations through the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989. Under the Act, the department controls the manufacture, import and export of all ozone depleting substances and their synthetic greenhouse gas replacements, as well as regulating their end uses to minimise emissions of these harmful gases. The department also works with industry and the community to develop and implement programmes to assist the phase-out of ozone depleting substances and to minimise emissions of these substances and their synthetic greenhouse gas replacements.
Australia has exceeded its obligations to phase out the use of ozone depleting substances. Production of ozone depleting substances has ceased in Australia and local consumption is now limited to relatively small quantities that are imported. Total imports in 2006—07 were 163 ODP (ozone depleting potential) tonnes, a decrease of over 80 per cent since 1999, when imports peaked at over 800 ODP tonnes.
The department received five licence applications to import, export or manufacture ozone depleting substances in 2006—07. All applications were assessed within the statutory timeframe. The department also granted eight applications for an exemption under section 40 of the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989. Exemptions are allowed where they are essential for medical, veterinary, defence, industrial safety or public safety purposes, and where no practical alternatives are available. There were also 203 applications for licences to import refrigeration and air conditioning equipment containing an ozone depleting or synthetic greenhouse gas refrigerant. All applications were assessed within the statutory timeframe and were granted.
In accordance with the requirements of the Montreal Protocol, the use of methyl bromide is prohibited unless exempted for a critical use. In 2006—07 Australia's total use was reduced to 55 metric tonnes, used only for approved purposes such as fumigation for quarantine purposes
The department also manages Australia's National Halon Bank. The facility recovers and stores halon (a very potent ozone depleting gas) that is essential for fire fighting in some limited aviation and maritime uses. It also collects and destroys surplus halon. In 2006—07 the department oversaw the collection of 13,534 kilograms of halon from Australia and facilitated the safe disposal of 850 kilograms of halon from the Republic of Fiji and 1,700 kilograms from New Zealand. In addition, a total of 9,300 kilograms of mixed waste refrigerants were imported for disposal from New Zealand and 100 kilograms of CFC 12 (a chlorofluorocarbon) were disposed of on behalf of foreign ships.
Detailed performance results on the operation of the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989 are in the second volume of this set of annual reports.
Product stewardship schemes
The department works closely with industry and with state, territory and local governments to reduce waste through product stewardship initiatives. The department is working with the states and territories to investigate the scope for implementing stewardship programmes for tyres, televisions, mobile phones and computers. Stewardship programmes are already operating for newsprint, packaging and waste oil.
Product Stewardship for Oil Programme
About 520 million litres of lubricating oil is sold each year in Australia and about 280 to 300 million litres of used oil is generated. If disposed of incorrectly, this oil can cause serious damage to the environment. It can contaminate the soil, groundwater, streams, rivers, lakes and drinking water.
The Product Stewardship for Oil Programme aims to reduce this damage through encouraging used oil recycling by providing benefit payments to used oil recyclers. The department has policy responsibility for this programme, while the Australian Taxation Office administers the levy and benefit elements of the programme.
A total of $31.9 million in product stewardship benefits was paid to recyclers for recycling used oil in 2006—07, an increase of $14.7 million from 2005—06. The volume of oil for which benefits were paid in 2006—07 was 219.5 million litres.
Industry estimates that about 150—165 million litres of used oil was being recycled before the programme's implementation on 1 January 2001. Since then, used oil recycling has increased by about 40 per cent.
As a complement to the stewardship levy—benefit arrangements, the Australian Government has also provided $34.5 million in transitional assistance funding from July 2000 until June 2007 to underpin the long-term viability of the oil recycling industry. In 2006—07 this included 24 grants worth a total of $0.91 million which were approved to fund various activities including waste oil collection units. One grant, worth about $0.16 million, will provide waste oil collection units in communities in the Barkley Tablelands and a bulk storage facility in Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory.
Since it began, the Product Stewardship for Oil Programme has funded installation of more than 950 waste oil collection units, with 40 units funded in 2006—07.
Detailed performance results on the operation of the Product Stewardship (Oil) Act 2000 are in the second volume of this set of annual reports.
National Packaging Covenant
The National Packaging Covenant is a voluntary industry arrangement to reduce the environmental impacts of packaging.
Established in 1999, and revised in 2005, the National Packaging Covenant commits signatory companies and governments to performance targets including:
- a national recycling target of 65 per cent of packaging by the end of 2010
- no new packaging waste (above 2003 levels) going to landfill
- a national recycling rate of 25 per cent for materials that are currently not recycled.
The National Packaging Covenant Council, with membership from industry and governments, has overall responsibility for the covenant. The department is represented on the council and in 2006—07 contributed $186,309 from the Natural Heritage Trust towards administration and to assist in the development and implementation of a communication strategy for the covenant.
The 2005—06 annual report of the National Packaging Covenant estimated that the national packaging recycling rate had increased from a baseline of 50.5 per cent at the end of 2003 to around 56 per cent by the end of June 2006.
The department developed a covenant action plan on behalf of the Australian Government, which outlines how it intends to undertake covenant commitments and report against specific key performance indicators, including the amount of packaging recycled annually.
The department is also developing a simple methodology which will assist all Australian Government departments to report consistent data.
The National Packaging Covenant is underpinned by the National Environment Protection (Used Packaging Materials) Measure. Under this measure, governments agree to require brand owners who are not covenant signatories to take back and recycle a percentage of their packaging products.
Millions of plastic bags enter the environment as litter each year. These bags are unsightly and have the potential to accumulate in the environment, and harm aquatic and terrestrial animals.
Australia's environment ministers have agreed to a package of measures to reduce the impact of plastic bags on the environment. These included negotiating a voluntary industry code of practice with retailers in which major supermarkets agreed to halve their use of plastic bags by the end of 2005, researching degradable plastics, and providing support for education and community campaigns. As a result of these measures, plastic bag usage in Australia fell by 34 per cent between December 2002 and 2005.
In June 2007 Australia's environment ministers reiterated their intention to phase out plastic bags by December 2008. Ways to achieve the phase-out will be considered by the Environment Protection and Heritage Council, along with a final regulation impact statement, in 2007—08.
In 2006—07 the department allocated $30,000 from the Natural Heritage Trust to support voluntary action to reduce use of plastic bags, including through the Western Australian Bag Smart campaign and the Small Business Awareness initiatives.
Hazardous substances regulation and management
The department is involved in a range of initiatives to minimise the environmental and health impacts of hazardous substances. Internationally, the department represents Australia's interests in the development of agreements designed to control hazardous chemicals. The department is the lead Australian agency on the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, the Basel Convention on the Control of the Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, and the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management.
Within Australia, the department works through the Environment Protection and Heritage Council to develop nationally applicable guidelines and standards for hazardous chemicals in consultation with the states and territories, industry and community groups.
The department administers the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989 which implements Australia's obligations under the Convention on the Control of the Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (the Basel Convention).
The Act regulates the import, export and transit of hazardous wastes, including the environmentally sound management of the waste to protect both the environment and human health.
In 2006—07, 48 permit applications were processed (31 exports, 16 imports and one transit). Twenty-one permits were granted, two applications were refused and one was withdrawn; 25 applications were still to be determined as at 30 June 2007.
Australia continued to play a strong role internationally, and in November 2006 was selected as a member of the Compliance Committee of the Basel Convention. The department also worked closely with the Basel Convention secretariat and the Basel Convention Regional Centre for South-East Asia to promote the environmentally sound management of wastes in the Asia—Pacific region.
During the year the department began assessing nine applications from Orica Australia to export up to 18,400 tonnes of hexachlorobenzene (HCB) waste and contaminated materials from its Botany Bay site in Sydney. The waste is from one of the largest remaining concentrated HCB stockpiles in the world, and needs to be exported for safe disposal overseas as no suitable processing facilities currently exist in Australia.
More information on the operation of the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989 is available in the second volume of this set of annual reports.
Persistent organic pollutants
Persistent organic pollutants are chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of living organisms and are toxic to humans and wildlife.
Australia has obligations under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, which it ratified in 2004, to restrict, reduce or eliminate the release of the 12 chemicals listed as persistent organic pollutants.
In 2006—07 the department finalised a national implementation plan that sets out how Australia will meet its obligations under the convention to reduce and eliminate persistent organic pollutants. It reflects the work already undertaken through the National Strategy for the Management of Scheduled Waste, an agreement of more than 10 years standing between the Australian Government, the states and territories for the safe management and disposal of a number of persistent organic pollutants, including polychlorinated biphenyls, hexachlorobenzene and organochlorine pesticides.
Australia will withdraw its exemption of mirex (a persistent organic pollutant) under Article 4 of the Stockholm Convention by the end of 2007. As a result of this withdrawal, Australia will have no remaining exemptions under the convention.
In 2006 Australia participated in an assessment of proposals to include 10 new chemicals on the Stockholm Convention and in an expert group which finalised guidelines for reducing emissions of persistent organic pollutants including dioxins.
The department released reports of three studies investigating the levels of brominated flame retardants in the Australian population, in indoor air, and in aquatic sediments. The findings contributed to decisions by the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme to ban import or manufacture of two of these chemicals.
The department also led the Australian delegation to the 3rd conference of the parties to the convention in May 2007. The parties adopted guidelines for reducing emissions of persistent organic pollutants, agreed to continue development of a non-compliance mechanism for the convention, and agreed to a process to evaluate the effectiveness of the convention.
Informed consent to import hazardous chemicals
In February 2004 the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade came into force. Australia became a party to the convention on 18 August 2004.
The department led the delegation to the 3rd meeting of the conference of the parties in October 2006. The conference made decisions on operational issues necessary for the functioning of the convention. The department also participated in the 3rd meeting of the convention's Chemical Review Committee in March 2007. The committee has agreed to forward guidance documents on two chemicals, tributyltin and endosulfan, to the next conference of the parties in 2008 for the conference to consider whether to add these chemicals to the convention.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) continued its work on assessing the impact of heavy metals on the environment and human health, with priority given to mercury, lead and cadmium.
In 2006 the department participated in work to assess the potential for lead and cadmium to be transported globally by atmospheric and aquatic means and the impact on the environment and human health.
In 2001 UNEP prepared a global mercury assessment, which concluded mercury was a chemical of global concern that posed significant risks to human health and the environment. In February 2007 the department provided $50,000 towards the UNEP Mercury Programme to review the most appropriate measures for addressing mercury releases and to support continuation of partnership initiatives. The department also began two studies to review current regulatory and voluntary measures related to mercury and to determine mercury sources, transportation and fate in Australia.
The department also provided financial support to the Australian LEAD Group, a not-for-profit community group which administers the Global Lead Advice and Support Service, a free telephone and internet service that provides information and referrals for lead poisoning and lead contamination prevention.
Strategic international approach to chemicals
In 2002 the World Summit on Sustainable Development urged international organisations to cooperate in improving international chemicals management. In response, UNEP began developing the Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management (SAICM). The purpose of the strategic approach is to ensure that internationally chemicals are used and produced in ways that mitigate significant adverse impacts on human health and the environment by the year 2020. The department contributed $90,000 to SAICM for projects to improve chemicals management in developing countries.
The department continued to work with community groups, Australian Government departments, industry and states and territories to develop the National Framework for Chemicals Environmental Management (NChEM). The framework aims to provide a nationally consistent approach to regulating and managing the environmental impacts of chemicals, including ensuring consistent implementation of chemical assessment decisions. The framework also aims to identify gaps in environmental chemicals management.
In June 2007 the Environment Protection and Heritage Council agreed to the Ministerial Agreement on Principles for Better Environmental Management of Chemicals and to an action plan on chemicals in the environment.
The principles for better environmental management of chemicals include:
- better information links and coordination amongst chemical regulators
- adoption of best practice approaches and more transparent methodologies when undertaking environmental risk assessments of chemicals
- more streamlined environmental regulation of higher risk chemicals to deliver sound and effective outcomes for the environment, industry and the public without unnecessary red tape.
The action plan identifies areas for immediate action on improving chemical management processes, and identifies actions requiring further detailed development and costing. Proposals will be submitted to the Productivity Commission for examination of broader chemical management reform.
National approach to industrial residues
While there are benefits from the reuse and recycling of industrial residues, there is also potential for harm to human health and the environment if these materials are used inappropriately.
The department has been developing a national approach to increase environment protection by providing nationally consistent criteria and information that environment agencies can use to assess proposals for the reuse of industrial residues. In November 2006, the Environment Protection and Heritage Council adopted the approach: Guidance for Assessing the Beneficial Reuse of Industrial Residues to Land Management Applications — A National Approach.
National Chemical Monitoring Programme
Work continued on implementing the National Chemical Monitoring Programme which is developing a database for reporting and monitoring industrial and household chemical use, disposal and environmental fate. As part of this work, a review of chemical monitoring is under way. Another study is determining the cost of developing an environmental sample bank in Australia, to store samples for future analysis as new chemicals of concern are identified.
Biotechnology risk assessments
The Gene Technology Regulator, in the Department of Health and Ageing, regulates genetically modified organisms under the Gene Technology Act 2000. The Act requires that the regulator seek advice from the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources on each intentional release of a genetically modified organism into the environment. With the assistance of the department, the minister provided advice to the regulator on 14 occasions in 2006—07 to ensure that environmental impacts were adequately assessed and managed by the regulator for each licence granted.
In 2006—07 the department also performed three risk assessments of genetically modified organisms and other biological agents for the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to ensure there were no unintended adverse environmental effects as a result of these releases.
To assist its work, the department helped to fund research projects and workshops, primarily through Biotechnology Australia, on the commercial release of genetically modified crops and other organisms in Australia.
During the year, the department participated in the reviews of the Gene Technology Act 2000 and its Regulations, ensuring that the level of environmental protection afforded by the regulatory system has been fully considered in the review processes. The Gene Technology Amendment Bill 2007 was passed in parliament on 20 June 2007 and the majority of the amendments commenced on 1 July 2007.
Biotechnology research and trade in biotechnology products are also issues relevant to the work of a number of international forums in which the department participates. Outcomes include improved international regulatory guidance documents for member countries and appropriate consideration of Australia's national interests.
Chemical risk assessments
The department provides other Australian Government regulators with advice on the environmental impacts of new and existing industrial, agricultural and veterinary chemicals.
Agricultural and veterinary chemicals
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority regulates agricultural and veterinary chemicals. One test for registering a new chemical product is whether the product is likely to harm the environment when used according to its instructions. The authority seeks the department's advice with this test on a fee for service basis. In 2006—07 the department received $1.1 million in return for carrying out 102 environmental risk assessments for new uses of agricultural and veterinary chemicals.
As part of the authority's ongoing review of existing chemicals, the department prepared environmental risk assessments for chemicals including 1080, fenamiphos, methiocarb and the environmentally acceptable disposal of dips used for stock treatments.
The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme regulates industrial chemicals. The department assesses the potential environmental impact of new industrial chemicals and reviews the environmental impact of priority existing chemicals on behalf of the scheme. Advice is provided by the department on a fee for service basis. In 2006—07 the department received $690,000 in return for carrying out 220 environmental risk assessments for new industrial chemicals and the priority review programme. Chemicals reviewed by the department included triclosan, sodium cyanide and several brominated flame retardants. The number of new chemicals assessed is slightly lower than last year but is still consistent with a long-term trend of increasing numbers of industrial chemical assessments being undertaken by the department.
Nanotechnology is a relatively new technology that has the potential to provide human health and environmental benefits in a range of products. The department participated in a whole-of-government process to develop a National Nanotechnology Strategy, which includes measures to encourage the uptake of the technology in Australia while ensuring that any health or environmental risks are appropriately addressed in regulatory arrangements.
The Supervising Scientist is a statutory office under the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978 and the occupant of the office is the head of the Supervising Scientist Division within the department. The Supervising Scientist Division supervises uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region, which includes Kakadu National Park. The department works closely with the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources and the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry, Fisheries and Mines in fulfilling this role.
The department has specific roles and responsibilities under the Act to protect the environment of the Alligator Rivers Region from the potential impacts of uranium mining. The roles and responsibilities include environmental monitoring, supervision, and research into the impact of uranium mining.
The Alligator Rivers Region, some 220 kilometres east of Darwin, contains a number of former, current and potential uranium mines, including:
- Ranger, which is currently being mined
- Nabarlek, where mining has ceased and rehabilitation is under way
- Jabiluka, which has been in long-term care and maintenance since December 2003
- Koongarra, a potential mine that is the subject of discussions between the traditional Aboriginal owners and the mining company, Koongarra Pty Ltd.
None of these sites are part of Kakadu National Park. A number of smaller uranium deposits were mined during the 1950s and 1960s in what is now the southern portion of Kakadu National Park.
The Supervising Scientist Division continued to conduct research, monitoring, supervision and audit activities during 2006—07. The division carried out a second year's trials of continuous water quality monitoring in Magela Creek adjacent to the Ranger mine including second stage testing of an in situ biological monitoring methodology during the 2006—07 wet season. The success of this trial provides further support for replacing the current resource-intensive creekside monitoring programme in subsequent years with this streamlined procedure.
Work to date indicates that the environment of the Alligator Rivers Region remains protected from the impacts of uranium mining.
Detailed performance results are provided in the Supervising Scientist's annual report on the operation of the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978 at www.environment.gov.au/about/publications/annual-report/.
The department manages referral, assessment and approval processes under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The department also manages assessment and approval processes under other federal laws, particularly the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 and the Sea Installations Act 1987.
Environmental assessments and approvals
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 establishes procedures for determining which actions require approval under the Act, and the related environmental assessment and approval processes. Approvals are required for actions that are likely to have a significant impact on matters of national environmental significance protected under Part 3 of the Act; and for Australian Government actions and actions involving Commonwealth land that are likely to have a significant impact on the environment.
Since the commencement of the Act in July 2000 more than 1,586 matters of national environmental significance have been protected through the referral, assessment and approval process, with 276 matters protected in 2006—07. The matters of national environmental significance protected include world heritage properties, wetlands of international importance, threatened species and ecological communities, migratory species, and the Commonwealth marine environment.
Timeframes for all decision-making in the referral, assessment and approval process are fully specified in the Act. In 2006—07, 83 per cent of decisions were made within statutory timeframes. While this figure is comparable to previous years (85 per cent in 2005—06 and 90 per cent in 2004—05), timelines for decisionmaking have been a challenge for the department.
In February 2007 a range of amendments to the Act came into force and the Australian Government provided $70.6 million in new funding over four years which will improve the administration of the environmental assessment and approvals process under the Act.
More details on the amendments and on the operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 are in the second volume of this set of annual reports.
Sea dumping and sea installations regulation
The Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 was enacted to fulfil Australia's international responsibilities under the 1996 Protocol to the London Convention on Sea Dumping, which Australia ratified in 2000. The Act regulates the deliberate loading and dumping of wastes and other matter at sea.
In 2006—07, 14 sea dumping permits were issued (13 by the department and one by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority). This reflected the ongoing need to dispose of dredged material at sea due to expansion of ports around Australia, particularly as a result of the resources boom. Reviews by the department of applications to dispose of dredged material offshore involve detailed environmental impact assessments in accordance with the National Ocean Disposal Guidelines for Dredged Material.
There were ongoing enquiries regarding permits under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 to place artificial reefs and to dispose of unwanted vessels at sea.
The Sea Installations Act 1987 regulates construction and operation of human made devices, equipment and other installations in the marine environment including tourism pontoons and fish aggregation devices. The Act ensures that sea installations are operated safely, are environmentally sound and are operated in a manner that is consistent with the protection of the environment.
Most sea installations in Australia are within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. This year 14 permits or permit exemptions for sea installations under the Act were issued (10 by the department and four by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority).
The department administers the wildlife protection provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The Act is the Australian Government's main tool for protecting wildlife and conserving biodiversity. The Act also regulates wildlife trade to protect Australia's native wildlife from overexploitation.
Threatened species and ecological communities protection
Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 actions require approval if they are likely to have a significant impact on wildlife and ecological communities that are listed as nationally threatened. Activities that may affect listed threatened species or communities in Commonwealth areas may require permits. In 2006—07 the department issued four permits under Part 13 of the Act for listed threatened species.
Details of these and other activities relating to the protection and conservation of threatened species are included in the report on the operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 in the second volume of this set of annual reports.
Threatened species recovery
Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the department is working to prevent nationally threatened species from becoming extinct and to recover their populations. The department develops threatened species recovery plans when the minister's Threatened Species Scientific Committee has determined that there is a need to have a plan in force. In 2006—07 the department invested over $1.9 million from the national component of the Natural Heritage Trust in developing and implementing plans to recover terrestrial threatened species.
In 2006—07 the minister approved 66 recovery plans covering 106 species under the Act. This brings the total number of recovery plans in force to 308, covering 395 species and 15 ecological communities. A further 289 plans are in preparation covering 400 species and 14 ecological communities.
The total number of species and ecological communities covered by plans in place or in preparation is 814, or 51 per cent of listed species and ecological communities.
|Year||Plans brought into force||Total plans in place 1|
1 Total includes revised recovery plans, and is adjusted for revoked plans where the species or community is no longer listed.
Changes to listing and recovery requirements
Amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 which came into force in February 2007 established a new process for listing threatened species and ecological communities. The new process is designed to improve the effectiveness of listing by focusing on species and communities in greatest need of protection.
The amendments also provide greater flexibility in responding to changing conservation needs for threatened species and ecological communities.
Importantly the amendments changed the focus from recovery plans to recovery action. The minister is now required to ensure there is approved conservation advice at all times for each listed species and community. The approved conservation advice will contain information on key threats to the species or community and actions needed to aid its recovery. The minister may determine that, in addition to conservation advice, a recovery plan is required.
Threatened Species Network
The department supports the Threatened Species Network, a community-based programme of the Natural Heritage Trust and World Wildlife Fund for Nature Australia. The network includes a team who support projects that enable all Australians to be involved in hands-on conservation. The network's projects are funded through the Natural Heritage Trust's Threatened Species Network Community Grants Programme.
The network's activities in 2006—07 benefited over 237 species and ecological communities listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Work included 32 new projects funded under the grants programme. The network also provided advice on threatened species to over 125 advisory panels, recovery teams, assessment panels, and survey and research teams.
Threatened species recovery—forty-spotted pardalote
Photo: D Watts
The forty-spotted pardalote (Pardalotus quadragintus) occurs in Tasmania and is restricted to four main populations on offshore islands and peninsulas along the east coast of Tasmania. Populations have been recorded from the south-east at Tinderbox and on Maria Island and Bruny Island, and also on Flinders Island in Bass Strait.
The species inhabits lowland dry sclerophyll forests and woodlands and is listed as endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. A national recovery plan for the forty-spotted pardalote was adopted on 10 November 2006.
Population estimates are below 4,000 individuals. Numbers have remained relatively stable since recovery actions commenced in 1991. The recovery effort has strong community support not only for protection of this species but also for the conservation of dry sclerophyll forests in Tasmania generally.
Threatened species recovery—glossy black-cockatoo
Photo: Graham Chapman
The South Australian subspecies of the glossy black-cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami halmaturinus) is listed as endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The third national recovery plan for this species has been in force since October 2005.
The long-term objectives of the recovery plan are to ensure that a viable breeding population survives in South Australia and that the status can be changed from endangered to vulnerable within 25 years. It is expected that this objective can be met by expanding the current distribution to include the species' former range on the Fleurieu Peninsula.
Management actions taken to assist with the recovery of the glossy black-cockatoo include population monitoring and analysis, habitat protection and expansion, protecting nest sites, and community involvement.
These actions have resulted in an increase in the population size to 320 individuals at October 2006, which is the highest number counted to date. At the current rate of increase, an average of 3 per cent since 1995, the recovery plan is likely to achieve its objectives by 2015.
Australian Wildlife Hospital
The Australian Government provided $2.5 million toward the construction of new veterinary facilities at the Australian Wildlife Hospital in 2005—06. Construction is due to be completed in 2008.
The hospital is the largest specialist native wildlife hospital in Australia, and services an area in excess of 100,000 square kilometres stretching from northern New South Wales through to Maryborough and west to Toowoomba. The hospital also provides a valuable information service to veterinarians and wildlife carer groups around Australia, and conducts research into wildlife disease and health management. The facility is used by universities to give veterinary students and wildlife trainees practical work experience and course work. The hospital works in collaboration with volunteer wildlife rescue organisations and concerned individuals.
The new facility at the Australian Wildlife Hospital will be able to treat up to 10,000 wildlife patients each year, almost twice the current capacity.
Photo: Australian Wildlife Hospital
Wildlife industry regulation
The department protects animal and plant species and ecosystems by regulating the import and export of certain wildlife and wildlife products under Part 13A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The export of Australian native species is regulated to protect them from overexploitation. Protection of Australia's native ecosystems from the threat of alien invasive species is achieved by regulating imports of live specimens.
Part 13A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is designed to meet Australia's obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Parties to the convention protect endangered species from overexploitation that may result from international trade by regulating imports and exports through a permit system.
The department represents the Oceania region on the CITES standing committee. The department led the Australian delegation to the 14th meeting of the conference of the parties to CITES, held in The Hague, Netherlands, from 3—15 June 2007. Outcomes achieved included improved protection for cetaceans and sharks, and increased attention to illegal trade in wildlife as ingredients in traditional medicines. Australia also strongly supported successful moves to protect sawfish, conclude guidelines on compliance with the convention, and frame a strategic vision to guide future activities.
As part of its regional representative and advocacy role, Australia led a number of CITES initiatives. These include:
- establishment of a timber officer position in the CITES secretariat for a trial period, funded by Australia, to focus initially on the Asia—Pacific region. The position will increase international capacity to effectively address deforestation, illegal logging and unsustainable trade in timber species
- a project to build legislative and administrative capacity for the implementation of CITES in Palau. This project has to date engaged a legislative consultant to review national legislation and draft new implementing legislation. An official of the CITES Management Authority of Australia travelled to Palau to conduct presentations, participate in workshops and hold discussions with officials of the Government of Palau, with the aim of establishing effective governance arrangements in line with CITES objectives. This collaboration is at the request of the CITES Management Authority of Palau
- a project to put in place an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development to assist the CITES Management Authority of Vanuatu. This project is at the invitation of Vanuatu.
These cooperative efforts to improve environmental governance have fostered strong bilateral relationships and will contribute to biodiversity conservation in the Oceania region.
Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking
To complement its CITES activities, Australia recently joined the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking, along with a number of national governments and several non-government organisations. The department will act as the focal point for the coalition in Australia. The coalition's goals are to:
- improve wildlife law enforcement by expanding enforcement training and information sharing and strengthening regional cooperative networks
- reduce consumer demand for illegally traded wildlife by raising awareness of the impacts of illegal wildlife trade on biodiversity and the environment, its links to organised crime, and the availability of sustainable alternatives
- catalyse high-level political will to fight wildlife trafficking by broadening support at the highest political levels for actions to combat the illegal trade in wildlife.
Wildlife industries and trade
The department uses its regulatory powers to encourage management practices that are humane and not detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild. In supporting responsible wildlife-based industries, one new wildlife trade management plan was approved in 2006—07. The department also issued 2,805 permits to export or import, including 496 'multiple-consignment' permits.
Multiple-consignment permits were introduced in response to feedback from industry participants and have since been widely adopted. These permits enable the holder to either import or export a number of shipments over a set period of time for certain species, while managed programmes ensure overexploitation does not occur. They streamline the administrative process and reduce the compliance burden for the department's clients.
In respect to compliance, a total 7,533 seizures were made under Part 13A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and six successful prosecutions were undertaken. In one case, an individual convicted of attempting to smuggle 23 exotic bird eggs into Australia from Bangkok, Thailand was sentenced to two years in prison and issued with a $10,000 fine. These harsh penalties reflect the seriousness with which Australian courts view wildlife crime.
In combating illegal trade, the department works closely with partner agencies, sharing intelligence and resources. The department works with state and territory wildlife authorities, the Australian Customs Service, the Australian Federal Police, overseas CITES management authorities, Interpol, and some non-government organisations such as TRAFFIC—the joint wildlife trade monitoring programme of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature and the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
The department is finalising Guidelines for Cooperative Conservation Programmes for CITES I animals in collaboration with the Australasian Regional Association for Zoological Parks and Aquaria. Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is tightly controlled and is permitted only for non-commercial purposes such as conservation breeding, research and education. A number of programmes that are operated with the intention of conserving a species threatened by international trade were approved in 2006—07. One such programme enabled the export of a female captive-born orang-utan for rehabilitation and release into the wild under the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Project at Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in Indonesia.
Further details of activities relating to wildlife protection and wildlife industry regulation are in the annual report on the operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 in the second volume of this set of annual reports.
Wildlife industry regulation—building partnerships with industry
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) regulates trade in all forms of wildlife listed in the Appendices to CITES, whether whole, processed or wild collected, farmed, artificially propagated or captive bred. The export and import of specimens listed on CITES is regulated via export and import permits.
Kerry Smith, Assistant Secretary of the Wildlife Branch, speaking at the Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association's annual conference in Brisbane, 18—20 May 2007.
The department assists industry to comply with international wildlife trade laws by attending trade fairs and industry conventions. At these events, business people can ask questions and provide feedback on compliance issues, while the department works to raise awareness and understanding of trade regulation and its purpose.
Ingredients in traditional medicine
Wildlife (both animal and plant) products have been used in traditional medicines for many centuries. As the demand for these medicines has increased, particularly with the globalisation of trade, a number of wildlife species have become endangered and many are now threatened with extinction. The department is committed to stamping out the use of endangered and threatened species in traditional medicines.
The department is working cooperatively with traditional medicines users and practitioners to raise awareness about wildlife conservation and wildlife trade.
The department has entered into an agreement with the Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association to raise awareness among its members of wildlife trade issues. The agreement aims to give traditional medicine practitioners the opportunity to express their interest in protecting endangered species through a certification scheme and by using substitutes and alternatives to endangered wildlife in traditional medicine.
|Performance indicator||2006—07 results|
|Commonwealth contribution to the National Environment Protection Council Service Corporation (administered item)|
|Percentage of payments that are consistent with the terms and conditions of funding (Target: 100%)||100%. $472,436 was provided to support the operations of the National Environment Protection Council Service Corporation|
|Trends in the concentration of key air pollutants in ambient air in major urban areas||Overall, air quality is good with most pollutants declining. Particulate standards are occasionally exceeded. Ozone levels approach the standard in large cities with some exceedences in Sydney
Since the removal of lead from petrol, airborne lead levels are now so low that regular ambient monitoring has ceased except where smelting and industrial facilities are close to residential populations
|National Environment Protection Measures for air quality are implemented and reviewed to provide world best-practice in the protection of community health||The review of the National Environment Protection (Ambient Air
Quality) Measure is progressing
The review of the National Environment Protection (Diesel Vehicle Emissions) Measure was completed in April 2007
|Australian Fuel Quality Standards are implemented, and further harmonised with international standards||No new standards came into force|
|Biofuels Task Force (administered item)|
|Fuel sampling numbers increased by 100% from 2005—06||Fuel samples more than doubled from 1,069 in 2005—06 to 2,321 in 2006—07. Samples covered petrol, diesel, biodiesel and autogas from approximately 750 sites around Australia and 145 compliance incident reports were received|
|Vehicle testing programme (E5 and E10) and health study completed by 2007||Vehicle testing (E5 and E10) report was released in March 2007
Health impacts study has commenced and is expected to be completed early in 2008
|Ozone depleting substances|
|Mass of imports compared to Montreal Protocol limits||163 ODP (ozone depleting potential) tonnes were imported during 2006 against the total permissible import under the Montreal Protocol of 404 ODP tonnes|
|Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Account (administered item)|
|The Australian Government's obligations under the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989 are met, including effective administration of the Act, management of the Halon Bank and programmes to phase out ozone depleting substances and minimise emissions of ozone depleting substances and synthetic greenhouse gas||Australia has done better than its obligations to phase out the use of ozone depleting substances. Production of ozone depleting substances has ceased in Australia and local consumption is now limited to relatively small quantities that are imported
The department oversaw the collection of 13,534 kg of halon
from Australia and facilitated the safe disposal of almost 12,000 kg of halon and mixed waste refrigerants from outside Australia
|Licence and enforcement actions are undertaken within statutory timeframes||100%|
|Supplies of essential use halon are provided within the requested timeframe||100% supplied within agreed timeframes|
|Percentage of facility inspections meets local ordinance requirements||90%. One case exceeding total suspended particulates and boron content of waste water was identified. A second sample was taken and was within the acceptable parameters|
|Percentage of payments that are consistent with the terms and conditions of funding||100%|
|Number of licence applications||208. 5 licences to import hydrochlorofluorocarbons and 203 precharged equipment licences to import refrigeration and airconditioning equipment|
|Number of alleged breaches||6,373. Alleged breaches are generally notifed through the Australian Customs Service and relate to suspicious individual imports. All alleged breaches were investigated and resolved directly, or by Customs, through determining that the import was permitted, or issuing of an appropriate licence or voluntary surrender of the goods|
|Number of requests for halon supply||12|
|Number of facility inspections||5|
|Number of projects funded||None|
|Launceston's air quality (administered item)|
|Reduction in particle emissions from industry facilities funded under the Launceston Clean Air Industry Programme||The programme is still in its implementation phase and no emission outcomes are available|
|Australian Government action plan is developed and implemented by 2007||An action plan was approved by the minister and is being implemented|
|Agreement is reached by the end of 2006 to manage the impacts of plastic bags over future years||A consultation regulation impact statement was released in January 2007 canvassing options to reduce the environmental impact of plastic bags. The Environment Protection and Heritage Council will consider how to proceed, pending completion of a final regulation impact statement, before the end of 2007|
|Number of waste oil collection units under the Product Stewardship for Oil Programme||In total 950 units have been installed; 40 extra units were funded in 2006—07|
|Area serviced by collection units||Collection units have been installed in all states and territories. Urban and rural areas are well serviced and grants for used oil collection units extend to remote and Indigenous communities|
|Hazardous substances and new organisms|
|Number of environmental risk assessments of (i) industrial chemicals and (ii) agricultural pesticides and veterinary medicines completed||(i) 220 assessments for new industrial chemicals (ii) 102 assessments for new uses of agricultural and veterinary chemicals|
|Number of genetically modified organism release proposals for which environmental risk advice was prepared||The department provided advice for 14 proposals to release genetically modified organisms and performed 3 risk assessments of genetically modified organisms|
|Median (i) and annual maximum (ii) uranium concentrations measured downstream of the Ranger mine reported as percentages of the allowable limit (6 micrograms per litre)||(i) 0.7%
|Number of times limit exceeded||None|
|Number of actions affecting matters protected by part 3 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 whose adverse environmental impacts have been addressed||276 matters protected under part 3 of the Act were protected through the referral, assessment and approval process. this is an increase of 6 matters from 2005—06|
|Number of recovery plans (i) being prepared and (ii) in operation||(i) 414
|Percentage of listed threatened species and ecological communities with recovery plans in operation||25% of listed threatened terrestrial species and ecological communities have a recovery plan in operation|
|Output 1.4—Response to the impact of human settlements|
|Policy advisor role: The minister is satisfied with the timeliness and
accuracy of briefs and draft ministerial correspondence provided by the department
|Minister was satisfied with timeliness and quality of briefs. The department has experienced challenges in responding to the unprecedented volume of correspondence now being received, but procedural adjustments and new systems have improved timeliness|
|Provider role 1: Percentage of payments that are consistent with the terms and conditions of funding (Target: 100%)||100%|
|Regulator role 2: Percentage of statutory timeframes triggered that are met (Target: >90%)||Reports on the compliance with statutory timeframes triggered under relevant Acts are provided in the second volume of this set of annual reports|
|Price||Refer to the resources table below|
1 Only applies to the administration of grants programmes funded entirely from departmental funding for this output. Any grants programmes within this output that are wholly or partially funded through administered appropriations are separately reported.
2 Applies to areas that administer legislation, for example reporting timeframes triggered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
|Elements of pricing||Budget prices
|Sub-output: 1.5.1 Environmental assessments||17,272||18,016|
|Sub-output: 1.5.2 Pollution prevention strategies||42,960||42,927|
|Sub-output: 1.5.3 Supervision of uranium mines||10,080||10,648|
|Sub-output: 1.5.4 Wildlife protection||13,295||13,254|
|Total Output 1.5||83,607||84,845|
|Commonwealth Environment Research Facilities 1||15,943||15,943|
|Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Account||1,700||1,419|
|Bio Fuels — MCE Additional and Australian Government Task Force||4,029||3,867|
|National Environment Protection Council||429||429|
|Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme 2||250||422|
|Improving Launceston's air quality||415||403|
1 Commonwealth Environment Research Facilities is reported in cross-cutting activities.
2 Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme is reported in land and inland waters.