Department of the Environment

About us | Contact us | Publications

About us header images - leftAbout us header images - centreAbout us header images - right

Publications archive - Annual reports

Disclaimer

Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Environment Australia Annual Report 1999-2000

Environment Australia, 2000
ISBN 0642450420
ISSN 1441-9335

Outcome 1 - Environment

Departmental Outputs

Policy advice and accountability

A large part of Environment Australia's work consists of advising the Minister, the Parliamentary Secretary, the Government and intergovernmental, international, domestic and non government organisation clients on the implications of policies as they affect the environment. During the year key issues included the new Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, implementation of Australia's Oceans Policy, conservation of native vegetation, protection of the atmosphere, the land, inland waters, coasts and oceans, heritage issues including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage, impact assessment and scientific research. The success of the policy advice given is measured against the outcome of protecting and conserving Australia's unique environment.

Domestic

Objective

Provide timely, effective, accurate and complete advice across the range of environmental issues and scientific matters including uranium mining.

Result

Biological diversity

Environment Australia provided coordinated advice, especially relating to implementation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, peak non government organisations, multilateral and bilateral agreements and arrangements, national strategies, ministerial visits and delegations.

Strategic input was provided at meetings of the High Level Steering Group on Water; the National Land and Water Resources Audit Advisory Council; the Ramsar Standing Committee; the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research; the Murray-Darling Basin Commission; the CSIRO Biodiversity Sector Advisory Group; and the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council Standing Committee on Conservation.

A number of ministerial advisory committees were convened including the Endangered Species Advisory Committee, the Australian Biological Resources Study Advisory Committee, the Biological Diversity Advisory Council and the Threat Abatement Plan Implementation Team.

Key areas of policy development were land clearing, Bush for Wildlife, revolving funds, local government conservation incentives, regional delivery (devolved grants), dryland salinity, firewood, farm forestry, conservation agreements and incentives. A series of research reports, partly funded through Environment Australia's Bushcare programme, influenced policy development in institutional reform, taxation and philanthropy issues. The Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council's National Vegetation Framework was finalised and agreed by all States and Territories. Input was provided to the National Vegetation Information System, the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement Private Land Reserve Programme and the Natural Heritage Trust training initiative.

Clean air

Environment Australia provided timely policy advice on the initiatives contained in the Measures for a Better Environment package relating to vehicle emissions standards, fuel quality standards and the National Environment Protection Measure for Diesel Emissions.

After extensive review and consultation with refiners and other key stakeholders, Environment Australia finalised a set of specifications for petrol and diesel parameters that affect air quality.

Seven preparatory projects led to the development of a proposal for a National Environment Protection Measure on Diesel Emissions.

For the first time Australia has an understanding of the age and make up of the diesel fleet and a short, cost effective test for in-service emission testing. This work paves the way for State and Territory Governments to consider a range of strategies to reduce emissions from the diesel fleets in our major cities.

The Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council review of the National Ozone Protection Programme found that the programme has been highly effective in enabling Australia to meet its international obligations under the Montreal Protocol. Phase-out targets for ozone-depleting substances were met or exceeded.

Environment Australia published the Australian Halon Management Strategy in February 2000. The strategy provides a framework for the responsible management of Australia's halon stocks to 2030 in line with Australia's international obligations.

Administrative guidelines for hydrochlorofluorocarbon licences and quotas were completed and distributed to licensees. The guidelines outline the licence and quota system and licensees' responsibilities for compliance with the Ozone Protection Act.

Policy advice assisted the development of the Living Cities - Air Toxics programme. This three year initiative represents the first time an Australian Government has sought to develop a national approach to the management of toxic air pollutants and indoor air quality.

Environment Australia worked closely with State and Territory Governments, industry and community groups (including the Australian Medical Association) to produce a state of knowledge report on toxic air pollutants, collate information on the levels of community exposure and develop a list of priority pollutants. The list will include around 30 substances such as benzene, dioxins, formaldehyde, toluene; heavy metals including mercury, cadmium and arsenic; and a number of pollutants which affect indoor air quality like lead, carbon monoxide, particles and oxides of nitrogen.

Eco-efficiency

With the assistance of industry, Environment Australia took initiatives to improve the eco-efficiency of business and industry, including voluntary agreements with industry associations, education and information activities and the development of methodologies for performance improvement.

Secretariat support was provided for the Eco-Efficiency Consultative Group, which gave advice from industry's perspective to the Minister and Environment Australia on sustainability issues and actively promoted eco-efficiency to business.

In line with requests being made of industry to improve their environmental performance, Commonwealth Government agencies are being asked to improve their environmental performance. Environment Australia assisted the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet with the development of guidelines for departments on preparing reports on their environmental impacts as required by the new Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. A model environment management system for government agencies was commissioned and a draft developed.

Environment Australia researched and produced a comprehensive discussion paper on oil recycling in Australia with options for encouraging increased recycling. The report includes comprehensive information on the oil recycling industry, comparisons with international recycling levels and information on different systems of product stewardship throughout the world and the suitability of those systems to Australia.

Inland waters

Three National Water Quality Management Strategy Guidelines were completed eight months earlier than expected. The guidelines, prepared for the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council and the Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand, are:

The guidelines will enable better definition and measurement of water quality problems in Australia, including setting of water quality objectives, and will provide important tools for assessments under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Substantial progress was made on the Water Monitoring in Australia report and database, funded by Environment Australia and the National Land and Water Resources Audit. The report will summarise water monitoring in Australia and make recommendations for improved monitoring.The database will be a source of metadata on water monitoring.

Comments were provided on a number of proposals and plans including in Queensland: the proposed Nathan Dam; the draft and final water allocation and management plans for the Fitzroy basin; the draft water allocation and management plan for the Condamine-Balonne basin; and the draft water management plan for the Moonie catchment; and in Western Australia the draft environmental impact statement for the Ord River Irrigation Area Stage 2.

Environment Australia was actively involved in Murray-Darling policy development providing input to development of the cap on water diversions from the Murray-Darling river system in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory; a draft Murray-Darling Basin salinity management strategy; environmental flow and water quality options for the River Murray; a draft integrated catchment management policy statement for the River Murray; and development of a scoping study for the implementation of a sustainable rivers audit and its contribution to ensuring a balance between instream and consumptive uses.

As a member of the Snowy Reference Group, Environment Australia helped develop the Commonwealth's response to the Snowy Water Inquiry and the Commonwealth's position on the corporatisation of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. Environment Australia made recommendations on the remediation of former Snowy scheme sites and the development of the implementation agreements for the operation of Snowy Hydro Ltd, which will commence operations once corporatisation of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority is achieved. Environment Australia also provided a response to the Snowy water inquiry into the return of environmental flows to the Snowy River and upper montane rivers.

In partnership with State Governments and the Lake Eyre Basin community, Environment Australia worked to ensure the sustainable management of the water and related natural resources of cross-border river systems in the basin. This includes the protection of associated environmental and heritage values. Key activities included the further development of the cross border Lake Eyre Basin Agreement and support for the community-based catchment management work of the Lake Eyre Basin Coordinating Group and its associated catchment committees.

Environment Australia also continued to work with relevant State Governments and community stakeholders to ensure the sustainable management of the Great Artesian Basin. Key activities included support for, and participation in, the work of the Great Artesian Basin Consultative Council. In this capacity, Environment Australia contributed to the development of the Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan to minimise impacts on environment and heritage values affected by the unsustainable extraction, distribution and use of basin groundwater.

Coasts and oceans

A National Taskforce on the Prevention and Management of Marine Pest Incursions was convened in August 1999, following decisions of the Ministerial Council on Forestry, Fisheries and Aquaculture and the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council. The taskforce, chaired by Environment Australia and including representatives of relevant Commonwealth and State agencies, tabled its final report in December 1999.

The threat of new incursions of introduced marine pests, or translocations of existing pests to new locations within Australia, is real and immediate. Areas that can be detrimentally affected by these pests include fisheries and aquaculture production, human health, shipping and ports, tourism, coastal amenity, and species and ecosystem health and diversity.

The report included 57 recommendations to remedy current deficiencies in preventing new pest incursions, responding to new pest outbreaks and controlling existing pest incursions. The taskforce also made recommendations on immediate action to establish a credible national ready- response capability within current statutory arrangements and resources, and long-term reform to establish a permanent and comprehensive national system for the prevention and management of introduced marine pests.

The Commonwealth Government has endorsed the substance of the report and provided up to $2.5 million to address emergency response requirements.

Environment Australia sought support for a proposal to establish a South Pacific whale sanctuary and to end ‘scientific' whaling at the 52nd meeting of the International Whaling Commission.

The Commonwealth Government has promoted the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity, including the use of marine protected areas as a tool for integrating conservation and sustainable use. Australia is promoting this issue through the United Nations, in particular through the recently established informal consultative process on oceans and the law of the sea.

International cooperation on conservation of marine turtles was identified as a major need and a proposal for a regional agreement was pursued. Australia hosted a regional meeting of Indian Ocean and South-east Asian countries in Perth in October. The meeting agreed on the need for regional cooperation and asked Australia to prepare a draft agreement for discussion at the next meeting.

Identifying environmentally suitable antifoulants is a priority for the Government's policy to ban tributyl tin as early as 2003. The Antifouling Programme working group assessed ways to support the development of alternatives.

World Heritage

Environment Australia undertook an evaluation of the Willandra Lakes region socioeconomic package. Advice was provided on the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves (Australia) and Macquarie Island World Heritage properties.

Advice was also provided to the Minister on matters relevant to meeting Australia's World Heritage obligations. Briefings, reports and associated items of correspondence on World Heritage matters were provided to the Minister, including reports on policy and international World Heritage matters.

The Minister was advised on significant development proposals within and adjacent to World Heritage properties including the proposed Naturelink cable car in the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves (Australia) and the proposed aircraft landing sites and Planter Beach ecotourism development (Tasmanian Wilderness).

Advice was provided to other areas of Environment Australia on relevant matters, including the Basslink proposal (Tasmanian Wilderness) and a proposed telecommunications tower adjacent to the Greater Blue Mountains nominated area in New South Wales. The World Heritage strategic monitoring framework was updated and restructured. Extensive preparations were made for the implementation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Detailed tables of the World Heritage values of each World Heritage area were prepared.

Strategic policy coordination

Environment Australia worked on a national approach to promoting Local Agenda 21 and published a resource guide, Our Community Our Future: A Guide to Local Agenda 21. The guide was sent on request to more than 300 councils. Another manual Localising Agenda 21: A Guide to Sustainable Development in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Region was written for countries in the region. A national forum, Local Leaders in Sustainability, was established to improve the quantity and quality of local government participation in Local Agenda 21. Funding was provided to assist in the delivery of training in Local Agenda 21 in each State and the Northern Territory.

Input was given to the development of the environmental indicators to be used in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's economic review of Australia, the 2000 Ministers' meeting and the second cycle of environmental performance reviews. Australia's national report was provided to the 8th meeting of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. This activity ensured that the global community understands Australia's unique environmental conditions and problems and that our environmental performance is judged by standards relevant to Australia's particular circumstances.

A draft national set of headline sustainability indicators was developed in cooperation with other State and Commonwealth agencies. The indicators will provide a mechanism for all governments, industries and the Australian community to assess national progress towards sustainability.

The Productivity Commission report on its inquiry into the implementation of ecologically sustainable development by Commonwealth agencies was tabled in Parliament. A response to the recommendations of the inquiry is being prepared.

The National Environment Consultative Forum meeting provided an arena to build relationships between the Government and peak environment groups, identify environmental concerns and interests and discuss how to deal with them.

Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council

Environment Australia contributed to the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council by providing briefings, preparing databases and providing secretariat support.

Two ministerial meetings were serviced as well as several standing committee meetings. The secretariat provided services to members and their departments for all of these meetings and related out-of-session matters.

The priority issues were environmental and conservation matters identified by the council as being of national significance: water management, oceans policy, waste management, native vegetation and global warming.

Biotechnology

Environment Australia participated in the development of a national gene technology regulation system, including contributing to the Gene Technology Bill 2000. As a portfolio member of Biotechnology Australia, Environment Australia has ensured the Government's environmental priorities are reflected in the National Biotechnology Strategy.

Environmental measures contained in the National Biotechnology Strategy were developed in collaboration with the Department of Health and Aged Care and other portfolios. Measures include a regulatory system, which will provide for protection of the environment, the raising of community awareness regarding biotechnology issues, development programmes for the biotechnology industry and an environmental risk project in collaboration with CSIRO.

A discussion paper, Developing Australia's Biotechnology Future, published in August 1999, was prepared by departments including Environment Australia. Two documents, Australian Biotechnology - A National Strategy and Progress and Achievements, were published as part of the National Biotechnology Strategy.

A detailed submission was prepared for the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Primary Industries and Regional Services Inquiry into Primary Producer Access to Gene Technology. Environment protection policy advice was prepared for the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Resource Management plant industry taskforce on the integration of herbicide tolerant crops and pastures into farming systems.

Secretariat services were provided and a detailed submission was made to an inquiry into access to biological resources in Commonwealth areas. The inquiry was asked to advise on a scheme for controlling access to biological resources that could be implemented through regulations under section 301 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Uranium mining

The Supervising Scientist advised the Minister on the protection of the environment from the potential impacts of uranium mining. Eleven reports on the environmental performance of uranium mining and the activities of the Supervising Scientist were provided to the Alligator Rivers Region Advisory Committee, the Alligator Rivers Region Technical Committee and the Northern Land Council and Aboriginal associations to ensure that key stakeholders were kept informed on environmental protection.

In response to a request by the World Heritage Committee, the Supervising Scientist prepared a report addressing the scientific uncertainties of the Jabiluka mine project. This report concluded that Kakadu National Park was not at risk from the development of the Jabiluka mine project subject to several recommendations being implemented. The World Heritage Committee at its meeting in July 1999 resolved not to place Kakadu National Park on the World Heritage in Danger list and asked that the Independent Science Panel of the International Council of Science continue to work with the Supervising Scientist to resolve any outstanding scientific issues. The panel provided a preliminary review of the Supervising Scientist's response report in May 2000 and reported on progress to the June 2000 meeting of the bureau of the World Heritage Committee. The Supervising Scientist helped the Independent Science Panel prepare to visit Kakadu National Park and Jabiluka in July 2000.

The Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist participated in the National River Health Programme to develop water quality guidelines for the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council and the Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand, producing four reports including the final report.

Science

Environment Australia provided advice to the Minister on items discussed at the Coordination Committee for Science and Technology and the Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council.

International

Objective

Provide timely and effective advice on international environment issues including the development and implementation of Australian initiatives, proposals by other governments, multilateral meetings and negotiations, and bilateral and regional relationships through lobbying, briefing, intelligence gathering, analysis and reporting.

Result

In Asia and the Pacific, Environment Australia identified key relationships to be developed and sustained at a high level including relations with Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, with whom Australia shares ecosystems and natural resources, and with Japan and China, two major players in the region.

Relations with New Zealand are coordinated through the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council, in which Papua New Guinea also participates. Environment Australia works with Pacific island countries primarily through the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

Environment Australia participated in meetings of the Standing Committee and Scientific and Technical Review Panel to the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran 1971) and prepared a national report for Australia's delegation to the consultative meetings of the China Australia Migratory Birds Agreement and Japan-Australia Migratory Birds Agreement.

Environment Australia participated in several meetings under the Convention on Biological Diversity including an extraordinary meeting of the conference of the parties to negotiate a protocol on biosafety, a meeting of the subsidiary body on scientific, technical and technological advice and the 5th conference of the parties to the convention. Australia also participated in a biosafety workshop in the South Pacific.

Beyond the Asia-Pacific region, key relationships continue to be developed with the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada, the European Commission and South Africa.

Briefings were prepared for the 6th conference of parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals and the 11th conference of parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Briefings were prepared for Australian delegations to the eighth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, a United Nations Environment Programme high level committee of ministers and officials, the first United Nations Environment Programme global ministerial environment forum, the 14th and 15th meetings of the Council of the Global Environment Facility, and two meetings of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Environment Policy Committee.

Briefings targeted at furthering Australia's interests were prepared for bilateral meetings on environmental issues with other countries, at ministerial and senior official level. Bilateral meetings were undertaken with Spain, Portugal, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada, the European Community, Indonesia and China, and organisations including the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the United Nations Environment Programme, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Commission for Sustainable Development.

An environmental cooperation action plan was signed with China in May 2000.

Environment Australia hosted a ministerial roundtable, a seminar on trade and the environment, and a seminar on environmental issues in connection with the visit of a delegation from the European Commission.

Regular briefings were provided to Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council ministers and officials on international environment issues and strategy.

Briefings, advice and information were provided to the Minister, the Parliamentary Secretary, senior officials, other Commonwealth and State and Territory agencies, committees of the Parliament, industry and conservation peak bodies and the Australian public on international environment issues.

State of the environment

Objective

Develop a reporting system for the national 2001 State of the Environment Report and implement key environmental indicators. Submit state of the environment core environmental indicators to the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council.

Results

Four reports were prepared on the implementation of key environmental indicators for the Australian State of the Environment Committee.

The Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council State of the Environment Task Force published the core environmental indicators for reporting on the state of the environment.

Three technical papers were completed on climate extremes, interaction between habitat conditions, ecosystem processes and biodiversity, and the distribution of pest species.

The Australian State of the Environment Committee began work on the 2001 State of the Environment Report.

Corporate reform

Objective

Advise on the corporate plan reform agenda, including evaluations and audits strategically supporting reform issues including new environmental legislation and reform of internal audit procedures. The broader departmental and government reform agendas are supported by providing economic and environmental information on issues such as land degradation, water quality and urban air quality through publications, advice and analysis.

Result

A rigorous and comprehensive corporate reform agenda, as part of a process of performance improvement, was undertaken, using a number of mechanisms including output pricing reviews and market testing. Stage 1 of the output pricing review was completed, and stage 2 has started. As a result of stage 1, a comprehensive process of market testing of corporate services is being undertaken as well as action to streamline grant administration processes. In conjunction with these initiatives, revision of the corporate plan and the outcomes-outputs structure was undertaken.

Thirteen audits and 23 evaluations were completed. The latter consisted mostly of the Natural Heritage Trust mid-term reviews.

Support and advice to the Executive has made possible effective analysis, implementation and management of portfolio and public sector wide reform.

Projects undertaken (that encompassed economic information and analysis, and instruments contributing to positive environmental, social and economic outcomes) included the successful revision of taxation measures to encourage philanthropy for nature conservation, the development of incentive measures for oil recycling, and the convening of a trade and environment ministerial roundtable. Economic analysis of the costs of clearing of vegetation on private land was completed.

Full details of corporate reform are contained in the Corporate Governance section of this report.

Programme administration

Details of programme administration have been included in the previous section reporting on programmes.

Strategies

Protecting and conserving the environment is consolidated by Environment Australia making agreements with stakeholders including State and Territory Governments, the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council, and industry. If these arrangements are managed successfully then effectiveness increases.

Environment protection agreements

Objective

In consultation with industry, complete agreements on National Environment Protection Measures and voluntary industry agreements.

Result

Environment Australia took over responsibility for the National Halon Bank on 1 July 1999. In February 2000 the Australian Halon Management Strategy was released. This foresees the development of the bank as a regional environmental management facility.

Environment Australia has instituted a review of contracts and management arrangements associated with the bank to improve its efficiency and capacity to service the global market.

More than 95 per cent of outstanding long-term debt inherited with the bank has been recovered. The Government has decided that all revenue from the National Halon Bank will be directed to ozone protection.

In partnership with the members of the Drycleaning Institute of Australia, Environment Australia implemented a vapour recovery code of practice for the drycleaning industry in January 2000. More than 1200 copies of the standards and the associated booklet were distributed and a freecall hotline and web site were established. The code will help reduce harmful vapour emissions from solvents used by the industry.

A vapour recovery code of practice and environmental management plan was also developed with the Australian Flexo-graphic Technical Association to reduce solvent emissions for the printing industry.

Agreement was reached with all States and Territories except the Australian Capital Territory to commence the ChemCollect programme. This is a national, three-year programme under the Living Cities initiative, for the collection and destruction of unwanted pesticides (particularly persistent organochlorines) in rural areas. The programme is jointly funded by the Commonwealth, the States and the Northern Territory. The Australian Capital Territory has completed a similar programme. Financial agreements were signed with the South Australian, Queensland and Western Australian Governments with other jurisdictions expected to sign shortly.

The memorandum of understanding between all States and Territories and the Commonwealth for the National Pollutant Inventory National Environment Protection Measure was implemented effectively, resulting in public access to information on emissions of certain listed pollutants across Australia, and emissions into priority airsheds and water catchments.

Two partnership agreements have been developed or administered this year. These voluntary agreements with industry associations - the Australian Food and Grocery Council and the Housing Industry Association - promote improved environmental performance and eco efficiency approaches to association members. No outcomes have occurred yet from the Australian Food and Grocery Council agreement as it was signed only in June, but the Housing Industry Association agreement has been running for a year. Changes in its members' views of the importance of environmental performance to long term economic performance have been marked.

The positive relationship between Environment Australia and the Housing Industry Association has led to a programme of voluntary eco-efficiency agreements with other industry associations, to begin in 2000-2001.

Regional forest agreements

Objective

Enhance biological diversity conservation and natural and cultural heritage protection and ensure ecologically sustainable forest management within those forest regions where wood production is the predominant resource use.

Result

Regional forest agreements have now been completed for 10 of the 12 major forested regions in Australia, with southern New South Wales and south-east Queensland not completed. The regional forest agreements have been undertaken in accordance with the objectives of the National Forest Policy Statement. They provide for the protection, both on and off reserve, of environmental and heritage values, while giving industry the certainty needed to encourage investment, add value and increase employment.

Key environment and heritage outcomes of the completed regional forest agreements include:

Australian Greenhouse Office

Objective

Meet the challenge of climate change by funding the Australian Greenhouse Office in accordance with the agreement.

Result

Environment Australia paid $21.775 million to the Australian Greenhouse Office, in accordance with the agreement between the two organisations. Full details are contained in the annual report of the Australian Greenhouse Office.

National Oceans Office

Objective

Establish the National Oceans Office as an important milestone in implementing Australia's Oceans Policy and as a major step towards achieving the conservation, sustainable use and management of Australia's marine resources.

Result

The National Oceans Office was established in Hobart in December 1999. Full details are contained in the separate annual report of the National Oceans Office.

National system of marine protected areas

Objective

Obtain agreement from the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council, the Standing Committee on Conservation, or the Taskforce on Marine Protected Areas to reports and recommendations from the strategic plan of action for the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. Issue notices of intent for marine protected areas in Commonwealth waters.

Result

The establishment of a national system of marine protected areas involves Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments and other primary stakeholders working together to expand the existing system of marine parks and reserves. Protected areas are declared following statutory and consultative procedures.

The Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council endorsed a strategic plan of action in July to assist in creating the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. The plan includes a range of projects and prescriptions relating to protected area declaration to be implemented by the council's Standing Committee on Conservation and the Taskforce on Marine Protected Areas.

The work programme for the first stage of the strategic plan involves 14 actions. Three reports relating to five of the 14 actions have been accepted: the application of comprehensive, adequate and representative principles; benthic habitat mapping coverage; and ecosystem mapping methodologies.

Two notices of intent for marine protected areas in Commonwealth waters were issued, leading to the declaration of Lord Howe Island Marine Park and Cartier Island Marine Reserve. Macquarie Island Marine Park was also declared. Primary stakeholders, including industry and conservation groups, were consulted closely on the declaration process.

The Commonwealth currently manages 12 marine protected areas outside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Of these, six are adjacent to parks declared under State legislation and are managed cooperatively with the relevant State Government and stakeholders such as the fishing, tourism and petroleum industries.

Industry agreements for marine conservation

Objective

Reach marine conservation agreements in consultation with the fishing industry and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association.

Result

Effective processes are in place to reach marine conservation agreements with industry. Discussions with the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association and member companies progressed on a conservation agreement (under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act) covering the Commonwealth waters around the Montebello Islands off Western Australia. These discussions build on the 1998 memorandum of understanding between Environment Australia and the association.

Cooperative arrangements progressed with fishers for the collection of baseline data to assist in the management of the Great Australian Bight Marine Park. A fisheries liaison officer, funded by the Commonwealth, the South Australian Government and industry, was appointed.

Coordination to reduce marine pests

Objective

Gain endorsement by the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council on a national coordination process for managing introduced marine pests, and provide funding for projects that contribute to that process.

Result

A National Taskforce for the Prevention and Management of Marine Pest Incursions was established under the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council and the Ministerial Council for Forestry, Fisheries and Aquaculture. The final report of the taskforce contained 57 significant recommendations on the establishment of national emergency management arrangements for marine pest outbreaks. The Commonwealth has endorsed the substance of the report and provided up to $2.5 million for emergency responses. The Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council has endorsed the report in principle, subject to financial considerations.

Four of the seven projects approved under the Coasts and Clean Seas Introduced Marine Pests Programme directly contribute to emergency response arrangements. This includes the development of detection kits for community based monitoring of marine pest incursions.

Marine protection codes and agreements

Objective

Reduce ship-based marine waste and identify needs for marine waste reception at selected ports, marinas and boat harbours.

Result

The Marine Waste Reception Facilities Programme supports the installation of best practice facilities for receiving shipping and boating wastes at ports, marinas and boat harbours. Seventy-seven needs analysis assessments of ports, harbours and marinas around the country were carried out to identify demonstration projects.

World Heritage properties agreements

Objective

Develop intergovernmental consultative arrangements and facilitate the production of management plans consistent with World Heritage Convention requirements.

Result

Total funding of $8 million was provided for almost 70 projects addressing a wide range of priority programmes identified in property management plans and by consultative and advisory bodies. World Heritage management grant proposals were assessed and advice provided to the Minister on funding priorities under the Natural Heritage Trust.

Consultative and advisory arrangements began for the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves (Australia) and Macquarie Island World Heritage properties.

Strategic management plans progressed for the Lord Howe Island Group, the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves (Australia) and the Riversleigh component of the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites.

The Minister was advised on significant development proposals within and adjacent to World Heritage properties including the proposed Naturelink cable car in the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves (Australia), and the proposed helicopter/floatplane landing sites and Planter Beach ecotourism development in the Tasmanian Wilderness.

National Heritage agreement

Objective

Reach agreement with all State and Territory Governments on the preparation of a National Heritage Places Strategy.

Result

Environment Australia entered into detailed discussions with the States and Territories to develop a cooperative national heritage places strategy. It was not possible to reach a common position and Environment Australia, on behalf of the Commonwealth, decided to proceed with a new Commonwealth heritage reform plan focusing on protecting places of national significance, increasing Commonwealth compliance with State laws, and protecting heritage in Commonwealth lands and waters.

Environmental science communication

Objective

Provide an effective communications link with scientific agencies.

Result

The science carried out within Environment Australia was showcased by monthly science seminars. Memorandums of understanding were established with the National Science and Technology Centre, the Bureau of Rural Sciences and the Australian Academy of Science.

International participation

International activities are undertaken in Environment Australia as an adjunct to domestic environment policies and programmes. Actions by other countries, particularly our neighbours and the world's larger economies, affect environmental outcomes in Australia. A range of other factors, including assessments of Australia's broader national interests, foreign policy objectives and commercial opportunities, guides strategic engagement in international affairs. Positive bilateral relationships reinforce these approaches and provide direct opportunities for the achievement of better environmental results.

Australia has much to offer and much to gain from participating internationally in environmental issues. In particular, Environment Australia has sought a renewed focus on international cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.

Biological diversity

IUCN - the World Conservation Union

Objective

Present Australia's perspectives through IUCN and its commissions. IUCN aims to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable. Administer Australia's obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Result

Environment Australia is the Australian member for IUCN and its commissions. An Environment Australia officer continued in the role of vice-chair for the Australian and New Zealand Region of the World Commission on Protected Areas. In conjunction with its partner agencies, the commission has continued the task of developing guidelines on the best management practice for protected areas and on sustainable financing of protected areas.

Environment Australia represented Australia and New Zealand at a meeting of the steering committee in Moscow. At that meeting the first steps were taken for the World Parks Congress to be held in South Africa in 2002.

The Director of National Parks and Wildlife attended the World Commission on Protected Areas World Protected Area Leadership Forum held in Washington to discuss emerging issues in park management and preparations for the World Parks Congress. The United States National Parks Service sponsored the meeting.

Staff from Environment Australia attended the second World Commission on Protected Areas Oceania regional members' meeting in March 2000. Staff are members of a number of Species Survival Commission working groups, which come under the auspices of the World Commission on Protected Areas.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora regulates international trade (export, transit and import) in specimens of wild fauna and flora to protect and conserve endangered and threatened species of terrestrial and marine animals and plants from over-exploitation through international trade. An officer chaired the Animals Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Australia was elected at the 11th conference of parties to represent the Oceania region on the standing committee.

Convention on Biological Diversity and National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity

Objective

Improve biological diversity conservation by promoting the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity. This includes engaging in the development, financing and delivery of the work programme under the convention and its subsidiary technical bodies.

Result

Environment Australia provided Australia's assessed payment for 2000 of $185 000 to the Convention on Biological Diversity. It led the Australian delegations to and coordinated preparation of policy briefs for the 5th meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity's Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice and the 5th meeting of the conference of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

This culminated in agreed work plans for the global taxonomy initiative for dry and sub humid land ecosystems; interim guiding principles for the management of alien species; improvements to the functioning of the Convention on Biological Diversity and work on access to genetic resources and indigenous knowledge. Environment Australia also part-funded a programme officer position within the Convention on Biological Diversity secretariat to advance the global taxonomy initiative.

International negotiations were conducted on the Cartagena (Biosafety) Protocol under the Convention on Biological Diversity. Environment Australia part-funded a South Pacific Regional Environment Programme workshop on biosafety issues held in Fiji.

Secretariat services and policy support were provided for meetings of the Biodiversity Strategy Executive Group of the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council and for four meetings of the Biological Diversity Advisory Council. Secretariat support was also provided to the Inquiry into Access to Biological Resources in Commonwealth Areas.

Australia's Internet biological diversity clearing house was established with a link to a similar Convention on Biological Diversity web site. The clearing-house provides information on how Australia is meeting its obligations and implementing the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity.

Ramsar Convention

Objective

Participate in the implementation of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran 1971) to achieve its broad aim of halting the worldwide loss of wetlands and to conserve those that remain through wise use.

Result

Environment Australia upholds the implementation of the Convention on Wetlands at the international level, representing the Oceania region on the Ramsar standing committee and the scientific and technical review panel. Australia's delegate to the standing committee also chairs the committee. The Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist also has a delegate on the scientific and technical review panel.

The Wetlands Policy of the Commonwealth Government provides the framework for implementation of the Ramsar Convention in Australia. National coordination is achieved through the Wetlands and Migratory Shorebirds Taskforce, representing State, Territory and Commonwealth nature conservation agencies. Environment Australia convenes the taskforce.

Environment protection

Objective

Take an active role in international negotiations that cover treaties and protocols on environmental protection in which Australia has an interest.

Result

Environment Australia participated in negotiations in Geneva in September 1999 and Bonn in March 2000 to develop a binding international treaty on persistent organic pollutants. These are chemical substances that persist in the environment, accumulate through the food web and pose a risk of having adverse effects on human health and the environment. With the evidence of long-range transport of these substances to regions where they have never been used or produced, the international community has been working to develop a legally binding treaty to reduce emissions of persistent organic pollutants.

Negotiations were conducted to further activity on the Rotterdam Convention on procedures for certain hazardous chemicals in international trade. Australia signed the Rotterdam Convention in July 1999 and is participating in the interim prior informed consent procedure that will be in operation until the convention enters into force. This will occur when 50 countries have ratified it.

Environment Australia is Australia's designated national authority for industrial chemicals and represents Australia at international negotiating committee meetings, liaising with other parties and the secretariat on prior informed consent-related industrial chemicals matters. The Australian delegation to the first session of the Interim Chemical Review Committee was briefed.

Australia chaired the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development chemicals programme meetings. These focused on development of agreed test guidelines and biotechnology policies. Environment Australia is Australia's national coordinating authority for the guidelines, which are a collection of the most relevant methods used by governments, industry and independent laboratories for testing the safety of new and existing chemicals as well as chemical preparations such as pesticides, pharmaceuticals and food additives.

Environment Australia co-hosted, with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, a technical workshop on pollutant release and transfer registers in Canberra in December 1999 and made presentations to Chinese and Indonesian delegations in Australia on Australia's pollutant release and transfer programme.

Delegates attended four Basel Convention and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development meetings on hazardous waste. The major outcomes in Basel were the adoption of the protocol on liability and compensation, and the setting of the agenda for the next decade for promoting environmentally sound management of hazardous waste. New rules governing waste shipments within member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development were also negotiated.

In 1999 Australia was elected to chair the principal working group of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. This placed Australia in a strategic position to raise the profile of its achievements in ozone layer protection. Australia also became an executive member of the United Nations Multilateral Fund which will disburse close to US$500 million over 2000-2002 to ozone protection activities in developing countries.

During the year, Australia was among the first nations to ratify the Montreal amendment to the protocol (bringing forward phase out dates on methyl bromide). Environment Australia hosted the main meeting of the United Nations Environment Programme South east Asia-Pacific Ozone Officers Network and held a Regional Ozone Symposium (funded by Epson Australia).

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and Environment Australia ran an eco-efficiency workshop in Sydney. Progress reports on case studies have been supplied to assist in development of a policy paper on mechanisms to promote eco efficiency. Officers attended two meetings of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Working Party on Pollution Prevention and Control in Paris at which countries exchanged information on policies and programmes to prevent pollution. This information resulted in revamping of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development policy paper on promoting eco-efficiency.

Reports were prepared for the United Nations Environment Programme on Australia's activities in support of the International Declaration on Cleaner Production.

Environment Australia was at the forefront of those rebuilding business relationships with Indonesia. In April, three secretaries-general from the marine, environment and infrastructure portfolios were funded to visit Australia. They attended the Enviro2000 conference where Australian environment industry capabilities were showcased.

The Minister led an 18-member environment business delegation to China in May 2000. The visit built on Environment Australia's cooperation with China's State Environmental Protection Administration to improve industry links between the two countries. The highlights of the visit were the signing of an environmental cooperation action plan with China, the signing of contracts by Australian environment industry companies and the raising of the profile of Australia's capabilities.

Forest conservation

Objective

Achieve greater forest conservation and increase the area of forests under sustainable forest management both globally and in the Asia-Pacific region. Establish a partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature/World Bank Global Forest Alliance to advance forest protection in the Asia-Pacific region. Ensure a favourable outcome for Australia from the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests.

Result

Environment Australia's participation in the United Nations Intergovernmental Forum on Forests contributed to international arrangements for the management, conservation and sustainable development of forests. These reflected Australia's preference for a non legally binding outcome.

Environment Australia, in consultation with Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry - Australia, provided funding for a South Pacific consultative meeting on future international arrangements on forests and on priority regional forest actions.

Proposals for action identified in Environment Australia's international discussion paper for the forum on international forest conservation protected areas were included in the final proposals for action as endorsed by the Commission on Sustainable Development.

Funding and policy advice were provided for the East Asia-Pacific consultations on the World Bank's Forest Policy Review and Implementation Strategy. This ensured a regional input to the Bank's new global forest strategy.

Policy advice was provided to multilateral and regional meetings on forests: the International Tropical Timbers Organisation and the meetings associated with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Environment Australia had substantial influence on the direction of the forest work programme of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

On behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organisation Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission's ad hoc working group on sustainable forest management, funding was provided for the preparation of a draft implementation strategy for the code of practice for forest harvesting in the Asia-Pacific region.

Australia's commitment to protecting international forests in the Asia-Pacific region focused on bilateral initiatives. Sustainable forest management projects were supported both on a regional basis and in selected countries - Western Samoa, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and China.

Funding was provided for a code of practice for forest harvesting in Samoa.

The Vanuatu Biodiversity Mapping and Training Project was based around the Australian Government developed EcoPlan software planning tools. Australian experts provided training to officers of two Vanuatu government departments. The project also provided essential hardware to ensure effective use of the planning tools.

Liaison with AusAID and the World Bank affected the design of forest management projects being developed by both organisations.

Visits by Environment Australia officers to China prepared for future project work using the EcoPlan tools. The Chinese State Academy of Forests invited Australia to assist in a forest management planning project in the Hainan province.

Staff of Environment Australia were actively involved in Indonesia's preliminary work on a national forest programme. Australia is supporting the preparation of a national strategy study on the clean development mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol. As part of the visit of Indonesia's Minister for Sea Exploration and Fisheries, Environment Australia identified an opportunity for cooperation on the application of biotechnology to mangrove and coral reef rehabilitation and use.

Marine

Objective

Protect the marine environment through participation and influence in international forums.

Result

Through participation in international forums on the marine environment, Environment Australia achieved significant objectives in relation to international cooperation and coordination of oceans issues; marine biological diversity conservation; the reduction and control of marine pollution; and the improvement of bilateral relationships in the region.

Australia hosted:

Environment Australia has gained results in a number of international forums. One result is agreement to develop a regional oceans policy in the South Pacific. Environment Australia placed on the international agenda the conservation of marine biodiversity on the high seas, including through the establishment of marine protected areas, at the first meeting of the United Nations informal consultative process on oceans and the law of the sea. Environment Australia chaired the 14th meeting of the United Nations Environment Programme Coordinating Body for the Seas of East Asia.

Support was sought for a proposal to establish a South Pacific whale sanctuary and to end ‘scientific' whaling. Australia hosted a regional meeting of Indian Ocean and South-east Asian countries in Perth in October 1999 where agreement was reached on the need for regional cooperation. Australia was asked to prepare a draft agreement for discussion at the next meeting.

In international marine pollution issues, a draft treaty to control harmful antifoulants (including tributyl tin) was prepared, the global programme of action for the protection of the marine environment from land-based activities was reviewed and draft training sets on sea dumping were completed.

Environment Australia contributed to the development of an environmental vulnerability index for small island states, and endorsement by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation marine resource conservation working group of two cooperative projects: the development of a regional risk management framework for the control and prevention of introduced marine pests; and a workshop on integrated oceans management in the region. Marine protected area training and capacity building was also provided in South-east Asia.

Environment Australia submitted resolutions for consideration at the 11th Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora conference of parties to clarify the interpretation of the term ‘introduction from the sea' and to improve the conservation of seahorses. Proposals to list the great white shark and change the status of the dugong were also prepared.

Heritage

Objective

Protect Australia's interests in World Heritage matters through the implementation of the World Heritage Convention, and representing Australia's positions to the World Heritage Bureau and the World Heritage Committee. Protect historic shipwrecks and underwater cultural heritage.

Result

Environment Australia represented Australia's interests in World Heritage matters through participation in two meetings of the World Heritage Bureau, two meetings of the World Heritage Committee, a meeting of the general assembly and several meetings associated with World Heritage Committee reform processes. Australia paid its $85 984 contribution to the World Heritage Fund of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

This active participation in the World Heritage process resulted in Australia being elected to the World Heritage Bureau, being chosen to host the World Heritage Committee meeting in late 2000, and chairing the World Heritage Committee for 12 months from that time. At a special meeting in July 1999 the World Heritage Committee recognised the extensive information and analysis provided by Australia and declined to place Kakadu National Park on the list of World Heritage in Danger.

Environment Australia helped the Australian Committee of IUCN produce monitoring reports for a number of Australian World Heritage properties, two of which have been completed to the satisfaction of the World Heritage Committee. As a member of the World Heritage Bureau and rapporteur of two special working groups, Environment Australia contributed to the committee's reform process. An Asia-Pacific focal point for World Heritage managers was established to promote the convention.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation is preparing a convention on the protection of underwater cultural heritage. Australia's position on the draft convention text was prepared and Australia participated in two international meetings.

The existing agreement between the Netherlands and Australia on Dutch shipwrecks was reviewed and an agreement with the United Kingdom regarding Admiralty wrecks in Australian waters was pursued. Letters and faxes were prepared on issues relating to historic shipwrecks and administration of the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976.

Science

Objective

Present Australia's and the Supervising Scientist's scientific views, research programmes and performance at international science forums.

Result

Environment Australia delivered 11 scientific papers and presentations at international forums: at the Ramsar Convention Scientific and Technical Review Panel meeting, advice was provided on inventory, assessment and monitoring of wetlands; at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a contribution was made to the third assessment report sections on Australia and New Zealand; the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the International Atomic Energy Agency working group meetings on environmental restoration of uranium mining and milling facilities; and the International Atomic Energy Agency working group to develop a safety guide for the management of waste from the mining and milling of uranium and thorium ores.

Other topics presented at international forums were the rehabilitation of uranium mines; environmental risk management; best practice tailings management; ecological risk assessment of a herbicide and of Mimosa pigra; and wetland planning and research.

A paper was presented at the intergovernmental meeting of the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research, held in Japan.

 

Information

The collection of information and the preparation of databases support management decisions and policy directions. Such information has been vital to the introduction of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, Australia's Oceans Policy, the National Pollutant Inventory, the Register of the National Estate, national land and water audits, regional forest agreements, the regulation of trade in endangered species, the management of national parks, reserves and areas of international environmental significance.

Environment Australia has raised the level of community awareness on environmental issues by communicating information on all aspects of the environment. Through community information liaison almost a quarter of a million items of information were sent out, an almost four-fold increase on the previous year; and 24 900 inquiries were answered.

The United Nations Environment Programme World Environment Day in June 2000 was hosted for the first time by Australia. Adelaide was the host city for the presentation of the nominations to the Global 500 Roll of Honour for Environmental Achievement. Three Australian winners were the Australian Trust for Conservation Volunteers, Fuji-Xerox Australia and the Adnyamathanha Nepabunna people.

The Prime Minister presented 10 environment awards to Australians chosen from 400 entries in nine categories. Winners included Professor Ian Lowe, Bovis Lend Lease, for their work on sustainability in the construction industry, Charlie Carp, for producing fertiliser made from the European carp, and Mount Thomas Primary School, for the participation of their students in conservation activities.

Other activities included the Global 500 Forum, a meeting of non government environment organisations with the Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, a formal luncheon with the Lord Mayor of Adelaide, a meeting of the Australian Youth Parliament for the Environment, Olympic Landcare tree planting, Smogbusters air quality awareness raising activities, features on Channel 10's Totally Wild television programme, and an industry leaders meeting. A total of 11 500 information kits were distributed and 100 000 copies of an environmental tips booklet were distributed in video stores.

In June 2000 Environment Australia assisted in the promotion of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park during the arrival in Australia of the Olympic flame. The national park is jointly managed by its Anangu traditional owners and Parks Australia. It contains two of Australia's foremost icons, Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Senior Anangu participated in the lighting ceremony with the first torchbearer, Aboriginal Olympian Nova Peris Kneebone, carrying the torch through the park, past its unique cultural centre, towards Uluru. Over 250 members of the news media, representing more than 75 organisations, covered the event.

The number of Australian schools participating in the GLOBE programme rose to 308. GLOBE allows school students to transmit measured environmental information via the Internet and receive back vivid environmental images.

Other major communication campaigns included Biodiversity Month in September 1999, the Natural Heritage Trust grants promotion, and Breathe the Benefits, a television campaign to reduce woodsmoke. The Community Biodiversity Network received a grant to promote the conservation of biological diversity - particularly the use of local provenance native vegetation to restore landscape productivity - using community service announcements on radio and television.

Waterwatch Australia data was collected by the community from nearly 5000 monitoring sites on waterways across Australia. Environment Australia continued to maintain the Waterwatch database system, ensuring a uniform approach to recording data across Australia and enabling Waterwatch Australia data to be easily used and interpreted by the broader community. Information collected through regional community-based monitoring programmes was shared between catchments and made available to the public on the network of Waterwatch Australia web sites.

Environmental Resources Information Network

Objective

Provide improved access to environmental information for the community, industry and governments through the Environment Australia web site and databases. Improve environmental outcomes by developing and managing a comprehensive, accurate and accessible information base for the government's environmental decisions and for community use. Support the collation, storage, analysis and presentation of information. Ensure the integrity and security of data.

Result

The Environmental Resources Information Network provided general environmental information management and analysis services to Environment Australia, the Australian Greenhouse Office and the National Oceans Office.

Databases and online systems were designed and developed to support implementation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Species and other data were obtained and distribution maps were prepared. Information from these systems will be made available to the public using online mapping systems.

An expert online interview and associated administrative databases were built to assist industry and to inform the public on referrals under the Act.

The network supported Environment Australia's other key initiatives, including the National Pollutant Inventory database which was released to the public ahead of schedule; and mapping support for six comprehensive regional forest assessments, which led to five regional forest agreements and data agreements with two States.

The network also helped the National Land and Water Resources Audit develop a vegetation classification scheme and create a data compiler and database for stage 1 of the National Vegetation Information System. These projects were delivered on time and within budget.

The network managed the further development and improvement of the Natural Heritage Trust database. This enhanced the ability of officers from the Trust and other programmes to manage projects. The database has enabled Environment Australia to routinely report on a range of project statistics.

Accessibility and useability of the network's core environmental data was significantly enhanced during the year by moving 95 per cent of Environment Australia's primary spatial data to the Geocentric Datum of Australia, loading more than 500 spatial data layers into the latest spatial data infrastructure, and documenting this data in the Environmental Data Directory. The network coordinated the technical maintenance and provided an upgrade to the Australian Spatial Data Directory in preparation for the transfer of these functions to the Australian Surveying and Land Information Group.

Community and industry access to environmental data was further enhanced through the development of an online data dissemination facility, featuring fully automated legal transaction documents. Over 250 datasets were downloaded using this facility through the year.

Nodes of the Australian Coastal Atlas were established in all States and the Northern Territory to improve access to marine and coastal information. All of the nodes are online, collectively providing access to about 500 data layers and their descriptions. To improve the access to environmental data by Environment Australia staff for use in the analysis of referrals and assessments under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, the Environmental Resources Information Network conducted training for 90 staff with these responsibilities.

Natural Heritage Trust web site

Objective

Provide a web site that is a key tool for rapidly distributing a wide range of information to Natural Heritage Trust clients.

Result

The Natural Heritage Trust web site proved particularly useful for the publication of the mid term review that would otherwise have required printing and extensive distribution. The web site provides links to the wide range of programmes under the Natural Heritage Trust, facilitating communication between individuals, Landcare groups, State agencies and the Commonwealth, and provides information on approved projects and on applying for funding under the Trust.

A Bushcare extension kit was produced to meet the network's need for up-to-date information on best practice techniques for managing native vegetation. An Internet discussion group accessible to all Bushcare network members was established as an efficient means of delivering news and documents.

New Bushcare publications included: Talking to the Taxman about Nature Conservation, Incentives for Sustainable Land Management, Landholder Perceptions of Remnant Vegetation on Private Land in the Box Ironbark Region of Northern Victoria and the proceedings of the grassy landscapes conference, Balancing Conservation and Production in Grassy Landscapes.

The Bushcare home page was launched to provide public access to information and reports about native vegetation management and the Bushcare programme.

The publication series, Biodiversity: Nature's Variety, Our Heritage, Our Future, encouraged better management of remnant vegetation and reductions in vegetation clearance, giving examples of successful activities.

Australian Biological Resources Study

Objective

Ensure that the Australian Biological Resources Study participatory programme grant scheme is efficiently managed and that Australian Biological Resources Study research projects are funded.

Result

Over $1.64 million was approved by the Minister for 73 taxonomic research grants, comprising 41 continuing and 32 new projects. The projects funded will allow scientists to discover, describe and classify a wide range of Australia's flora and fauna, including orchids, microfungi, insects and octopuses.

Other grants included three postgraduate scholarships, two international travel bursaries for postgraduate students, the Australian Botanical Liaison Officer project (to send a taxonomist to the Royal Botanic Gardens in England for 12 months) and plant specimen loan costs incurred at various Australian herbariums. External and internal audits identified the participatory programme as best practice in grants administration within the portfolio.

The Australian Biological Resources Study produced several scientific publications that continued to set world benchmark standards. Rushes of Australia was nominated for two awards, one for printing and design and one for excellence in scientific publishing. The Australian Biological Resources Study also published three volumes of Species Plantarum, a series on world flora. The production of Species Plantarum was allocated to the Australian Biological Resources Study in recognition of its international standing in high quality scientific publications.

Polychaetes and Allies: The Southern Synthesis. Fauna of Australia Vol. 4A Polychaeta, Myzostomida, Pogonophora, Echiura, Sipunula was published. This volume gives the most comprehensive account of polychaetes (segmented marine worms) ever published. Although its focus is Australian, the volume has strong international relevance through the inclusion of 83 per cent of polychaete families. The Australian Biological Resources Study produced other posters and books:

The Australian Biodiversity Information Facility, incorporating the Australian Faunal Directory, an Internet- based facility available to the public, was launched in December 1999. It includes a checklist of Australian fauna to family level (over 5000 taxa) and taxonomic databases to species level for 44 faunal groups (about 11 per cent of the estimated described fauna). Planning for new and existing data for vascular plants, fungi, lichens and algae commenced in June 2000.

Two volumes of the Fauna of Australia series have been adapted to and published on the Internet. Mammalia Volume 1B and Amphibia and Reptilia Volume 2A are presented in chapter format with additional recent references, a full colour picture gallery and an extensive glossary. Also on the Internet site is Calaby's Mammal Bibliography which includes 10 600 mammal literature citations. These electronic publications provide a significant resource for the study of mammals.

Environment protection databases and information tools

Objective

Provide information and databases that will be of use to industry and the community in taking decisions on the protection and conservation of the environment.

Result

The Australian Environmental Impact Assessment Network Internet site provides relevant public information on Commonwealth assessment legislation and notifications about major projects undergoing Commonwealth environmental impact assessment under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974. A separate site has been established to support the full spectrum of the new scheme introduced with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Both sites also provide links to relevant State, Territory and international sites to promote public understanding of environmental impact assessment in Australia and internationally.

The Safe Handling of Organochlorine Pesticides on Farms and Organochlorine Pesticides Waste Management Plan were published on behalf of the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council.

EnviroNET Australia was renamed and redesigned to provide a better focus on and support for the environment business sector. Australia's EnviroNET, the premier gateway to Australian environment industry capabilities, came online in April 2000, following a launch by the Minister at the Enviro2000 conference and trade fair. This included the development of Internet advertising banners, exhibition displays and a CD-ROM.

Australia's EnviroNET's two online databases- the Environment Industry Expertise Database and the Environmental Education Database - were updated through an annual census. A total of 709 environmental education courses from 79 educational institutions, and 940 environment industry organisations were registered on the databases.

Fact sheets, posters, displays and stickers were distributed to publicise Australia's efforts in protecting the ozone layer. The ozone protection web site was redesigned and updated.

A state of knowledge draft report on toxic air pollutants and indoor air quality was released for public comment under the Living Cities - Air Toxics Programme. Environment Australia completed the toxicants, agricultural and physical chemical databases for the water quality guidelines of the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council and the Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand.

The eco-efficiency and cleaner production web site provided a range of information for business and industry with over 100 case studies on the economic and environmental benefits of cleaner production. Six new case studies on environmental management systems were developed. A kit promoting eco-efficiency to industry and a brochure advertising the web site were distributed.

Environment Australia distributed 2000 copies of a National Framework for Public Environmental Reporting, produced in consultation with industry.

Two issues of the newsletter, Envirobusiness update, were distributed, providing information to the environment business sector. The circulation of the second issue doubled to 3500 and was also distributed widely at the Enviro2000 conference in Sydney.

The publication Australia's Leading Edge Environmental Technologies formed part of the kit developed to promote Australia's environment industry capabilities and technological innovations in the lead-up to and during the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

A parallel report, Best Practice Environmental Management in Mining, was published on 61 Australian environmental technologies that have primary applications in the mining sector. The report was released at the 2000 Minerals Council of Australia seminar in Parliament House. The Best Practice Environmental Management in Mining Programme was evaluated by Sinclair Knight & Mertz. The evaluation provided Environment Australia and the Best Practice in Mining Steering Committee with an independent viewpoint as to the cost-effectiveness of the programme and lessons for similar programmes in future.

Environment Australia and the Department of Industry, Science and Resources jointly funded a feasibility study of a framework for market development of the Australian environment industry and of an integrated biennial environment industry conference and trade fair.

In January 2000 the first report of the National Pollutant Inventory database was launched on the Internet. The web site provides information from nearly 1200 industry facilities Australia wide on 67 substances as well as emission estimation information for industry. The inventory provides information on diffuse and mobile sources of pollutants into priority airsheds and on nutrient emissions into 10 major water catchments.

Marine and coastal community education

Objective

Support marine and coastal community education through education and awareness events and products, skills development training courses and workshops for coastal managers, and the maintenance of a marine web site.

Result

Through the capacity building programme, Environment Australia provided the Marine and Coastal Community Network with funding of $2 million over three years. The Marine and Coastal Community Network's primary objective is to assist community involvement in caring for Australia's oceans and coasts. This is done through a variety of media including national and State-based publications (Waves and Ripples), radio shows in some States and a web site. Nearly 8000 individuals, groups and agencies are now participating in the network. Apart from a key role in information dissemination, projects include facilitating community input to the implementation of Australia's Oceans Policy and the coordination of workshops on seagrasses, oil spill response plans, marine protected areas, aquaculture and fisheries.

Recfish Australia, the peak body of State recreational and sport fishing organisations, was funded for the development and implementation of a national environment strategy. The strategy aims to improve environmental performance of recreational and sport fishers by encouraging adherence to a national code of practice and by promoting ecologically sustainable management of the environment by fishers.

Environment Australia facilitated the formation of the Australian Marine Education Alliance, an overarching national body of marine educators. The alliance developed national goals and an innovative action plan for marine education.

Professional development through short courses for coastal and marine managers continued to increase their technical and management expertise in areas such as strategic planning, risk management, information management, communication and consultation. An outcome of the South Australian course was the development of a handbook on marine and environment emergencies, which is being distributed free to seaside councils, governments and community groups.

The marine pages on the Environment Australia web site provided comprehensive coverage of coastal and marine activities and programmes.

‘Have a Coastcare Holiday' was the theme of Coastcare Week held in December 1999. The programme encouraged visitors to the coast to act responsibly and promoted important coastal protection messages. Coastcare Week received a significant amount of media coverage through the involvement of personalities such as whale watcher, Mimi Macpherson. Major corporations such as Pioneer and Uncle Toby's sponsored Coastcare.

In some regions, Coastcare community conferences were held to provide opportunities for Coastcare groups to come together to share experiences and ideas and to provide up to date and useful coastal and marine information. The inaugural Tasmanian Coastcare Festival was held during Coastcare Week 1999 and drew community groups and local and State Government representatives to a three-day forum on Coastcare and associated marine and coastal issues. The Coastcare Festival was successful in communicating important messages and providing delegates with relevant workshops. The festival is planned to run every two years.

The Coastcare ‘Don't Bag the Ocean' message was promoted for World Environment Day 2000. This campaign highlighted the problems created by plastic bags and other debris in the marine environment and the dangers these pose to marine wildlife such as whales, dolphins and turtles.

Heritage Community education

Objective

Make readily accessible information to Australian and international communities about World Heritage in Australia and ensure that the material is accurate, comprehensible and effectively promoted.

Result

Eighteen products on Australian World Heritage areas were produced and distributed, including the Australia's World Heritage booklet and video, a leaflet for each of the 13 Australian World Heritage properties, the draft strategic overview for the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves (Australia) and a new web site for the Asia-Pacific focal point for World Heritage managers.

The World Heritage web site was redesigned and upgraded.

Comprehensive advice on best scientific practice and government commitments for World Heritage assessments and nominations was provided to other governments and to community and other organisations.

To help protect underwater cultural heritage, a brochure, poster, leaflet and a new web site design were produced under the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Programme.

Scientific information

Objective

Ensure that the activities of the Supervising Scientist are reported through the distribution of reports and other forms of information.

Result

The Supervising Scientist published a further nine reports in the Supervising Scientist Report series on aspects of research programmes and environmental assessment including techniques for enhanced wetland inventory and monitoring; a review of mine site revegetation in the wet-dry tropics of northern Australia; the chemistry of Magela Creek; and the investigation into the Ranger tailings water leak.

To enhance the understanding of wetlands conservation in Northern Australia and the research programmes of the Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist, a wetlands module was developed jointly between the institute and the Northern Territory University. To support community interaction in wetlands conservation, a report was prepared on management planning for the Blyth/Liverpool wetlands in Arnhem Land. To improve the way in which the institute exchanges information with Aboriginal communities and associations of the Alligator Rivers region a protocol for communication was developed for staff.

Six information sheets and newsletters were provided to Aboriginal associations. These reported on the Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist research programmes and topical issues. Nine community fact sheets were prepared for the Supervising Scientist web site and one note on aquatic ecotoxicology in the Australian wet-dry tropics was printed in the Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist notes series.

 

Legislation

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act

Objective

Take effective action to support the Minister and the Government in achieving passage of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and preparing supplementary mechanisms and instruments, communication activities and compliance measures. Prepare to effectively implement the Act on commencement.

Result

The year saw major changes in the legislative structure within which Environment Australia operates. The new Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, in particular, represents the most fundamental reform of Commonwealth environment laws since the first environment statutes were enacted in the early 1970s. It is the first comprehensive attempt to define the environmental responsibilities of the Commonwealth.

The Act enables the Commonwealth to join the States and Territories in providing a national scheme of environmental protection and conservation of biological diversity. It does so by providing for Commonwealth leadership, while recognising and respecting the responsibility of the States for managing natural resources. It is user friendly, with predictable, transparent and timely environmental assessment and approval processes.

Following passage of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, Environment Australia undertook work on the development of subordinate legislation and administrative guidelines. To ensure that the Act is administered in the most efficient and effective manner Environment Australia put in place a range of structures and systems, including the establishment of a new division. Pre-commencement trials of these systems were undertaken and fine-tuning carried out as necessary.

Regulations and guidelines supporting the Act have been completed and bilateral agreements to accredit State and Territory environmental assessment processes are well advanced. Information and materials for public audiences and specific client groups were prepared and a comprehensive communication and training programme conducted. An innovative online decision support and information system to assist clients as well as staff was developed. A review of compliance and enforcement activities was undertaken.

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act received Royal Assent on 16 July 1999. Until it comes into effect Environment Australia continues to implement the legislation that the Act will replace: Endangered Species Protection Act 1992; Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974; National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975; Whale Protection Act 1980, and World Heritage Properties Conservation Act 1983.

Environment protection

Objective

Ensure that all actions and decisions are in line with statutory obligations, including timeliness, and that effective standards and regulations are developed.

Result

A total of 314 projects were referred to Environment Australia for assessment under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act. Full details of these projects are at Appendix 2.

Under the Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1982, two existing management programmes were approved to continue. Six annual quota submissions on approved management plans were approved. Nineteen controlled specimen proposals were approved.

A total of 44 001 import and export permits and authorities were issued, an increase of 4435 from the previous year. Eleven captive breeding operations and 11 artificial propagation operations were approved.

The Australian Customs Service seized 4525 illegal wildlife imports and exports at Australian international barriers. Full details are in the report by the Director of National Parks and Wildlife.

Environment Australia undertook a review of the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989 and commenced a review of the Ozone Protection Act 1989.

The Minister granted 17 export and two import permits for hazardous waste. Four permits were refused and there were no variations to existing permits. Seven permits are being processed.

The Minister issued 39 instruments under the Ozone Protection Act and Environment Australia directed the seizure of approximately 1.5 tonnes of refrigerants containing ozone-depleting substances imported without licence.

The Australian Customs Service, in consultation with Environment Australia, implemented amendments to customs regulations conditionally prohibiting the import of non-refillable containers containing hydrofluorocarbons designed for use in the maintenance of refrigerative units. Hydrofluorocarbons do not deplete the ozone layer but do contribute to global warming. This measure encourages the responsible use of hydrofluorocarbons.

New environmental legislation governing the oil production and recycling industries was researched and developed. The legislation was enacted to meet the Prime Minister's commitment, under the Measures for a Better Environment package, to implement product stewardship arrangements for waste oil.

The legislation - encompassing the Product Stewardship (Oil) Act 2000, the Customs Tariff Amendment (Product Stewardship for Waste Oil) Act 2000, the Excise Tariff Amendment (Product Stewardship for Waste Oil) Act 2000 and the Product Stewardship (Oil) (Consequential Amendments) Act 2000 - establishes a 5 cent per litre environmental levy on oils and lubricants, and provides for the levy's distribution to eligible operations involved in the environmentally sustainable recycling of waste oil.

These product stewardship arrangements are designed to encourage increased recovery and recycling of waste oil, reduce the risk of environmental damage from waste oil and ensure that there are sustainable options for the re-use of waste oil. The legislation was passed in June 2000 following extensive research, consultation with oil production and recycling industries, and with assistance from the Australian Taxation Office and the Australian Customs Service. The arrangements will commence on 1 January 2001.

Together with other agencies, Environment Australia formulated the National Environment Protection (Assessment of Contaminated Sites) Measure which was successfully implemented. The measure builds on the foundation laid by the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council guidelines for the assessment and management of contaminated sites and enables a consistent national approach to contaminated site assessment. This agreed common basis will help assessors, environmental auditors, developers and regulators avoid costly duplication in method development.

Amendments were also made to the National Pollutant Inventory Measure.

Uranium mining

Objective

Enhance the protection of the environment by assisting in the revision of regulatory instruments related to uranium mining and nuclear issues, and by providing tools to assess the standard of environmental remediation.

Result

Environment Australia and the Supervising Scientist led the consultative process that produced the revision and upgrade of the environmental requirements for Ranger uranium mine under section 41 of the Atomic Energy Act 1953 and the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978. The process included consultation with the Northern Land Council, the Northern Territory Department of Mines and Energy, the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Science and Resources, and Energy Resources Australia. The new environmental requirements, which came into effect in January 2000, are clear and comprehensive and aim for world's best practice in protecting the environment surrounding the Ranger mine. As a step towards improving the Jabiluka environmental requirements to a standard comparable with the Ranger environmental requirements, a preliminary revision was carried out by the Office of the Supervising Scientist and draft environmental requirements produced that will be subject to stakeholder review.

The Supervising Scientist provided a detailed report on investigations of a tailings water leak at the Ranger uranium mine.

Environment Australia's Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist reviewed the Australian Water Quality Guidelines and provided a final report on this revision to the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council, and the Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand.

Marine

Objective

Enforce statutory requirements for sea dumping and ship based pollution, and harvesting of marine species for export.

Result

Under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981, 39 applications for permits to dump wastes and other matter were received. Thirty permits were issued; in four cases a permit was not required for the proposed activity; one permit application was refused; and four permit applications were still under assessment.

Amendments to the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act were passed by Parliament. These amendments implement the 1996 protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter 1972 (London Convention). The protocol replaces the London Convention with an improved regulatory approach.

Environment Australia provided secretariat support and participated in the Maritime Accidents and Pollution Implementation Group of the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council. This group has carriage of the Strategy to Combat Pollution in the Marine Environment and endeavours to protect the marine environment from ship-sourced pollution. Working groups dealing with the six target areas identified in the strategy have completed five of six projects including a code of practice for antifouling and in water hull cleaning and maintenance, an auditing strategy for waste reception facilities, and communicating with the maritime industry about sea areas sensitive to shipping and boating operations in Australia.

Thirteen assessments were completed on the impact of harvesting on species by commercial fisheries and on other proposals for export approval under the Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act.

The assessments were undertaken to ensure that species exported under the Act were harvested in a sustainable manner. Nine section 10A approvals and four section 44 approvals were granted. A further three proposals received during the year were still undergoing assessment.

Sydney Harbour Federation Trust

Objective

Prepare regulations to ensure compliance with the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust legislation.

Result

The Minister opened the office of the interim Sydney Harbour Federation Trust at Chowder Bay and announced the appointment of an Executive Director.

The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust Bill 1999 was introduced, without changes, in the Senate. The Bill was referred to the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Legislation Committee.

At the committee's invitation, Environment Australia commented on the submissions made before the committee. To take account of committee and community concerns, 41 amendments were drafted to be moved on behalf of the Government. A total of 101 Opposition and Democrats amendments were adopted in the Senate. The amended Bill is expected to be debated in the House of Representatives during the Spring 2000 sittings.

An announcement was made that two further properties, Macquarie Lightstation and Snapper Island, would be transferred to the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust.

Assessments and research Environment Australia recognises that while the overall strategy to protect and conserve the environment is in place, there is a need to assess some activities against objectives and, agreed parameters and to plan future directions with targeted research. Environmental assessments ensure that activities (such as mines and airports) planned with other objectives (commercial and social) do not impinge on the environment in a way that would be unacceptable to the community. Research helps analyse in detail what is actually happening and indicates where objective decisions must override opinion.

Environmental impact assessments

Objective

Meet requirements under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act and the Telecommunications Act by effective, timely and professional environment impact assessments. Environment Australia also seeks to coordinate input to major investment projects under the Government's investment promotion and facilitation initiatives.

Result

A total of 314 projects were referred to Environment Australia for assessment. There were no breaches of the statutory timeframes. Some of the more significant assessments included the following.

Uranium mining: The Honeymoon uranium mine proposal in South Australia involves the in situ leach method of uranium recovery in which uranium-bearing liquor is extracted directly from an ore body using injection and recovery wells, and treated at a surface production plant to produce uranium oxide. The draft environmental impact statement for the proposal was issued for a public review period of eight weeks.

Satellite launch facilities: An environmental impact statement on the proposal to construct and operate a satellite launching facility on Christmas Island, proposed by Asia-Pacific Space Centre Pty Ltd, was prepared. The final statement, which took into account public submissions, was submitted to Environment Australia which requested additional information from Asia-Pacific Space Centre in March 2000. The Minister advised that, provided the recommended conditions were met, the satellite launching facility could proceed with no significant threat to the environment.

Another satellite launching facility has been proposed by United Launch Systems International for Hummock Hill Island off the central Queensland coast. The Minister directed that an environmental impact statement be prepared for the proposal and guidelines were issued for public review.

Coal-fired power stations: The proposed Millmerran and Kogan Creek coal fired power stations in Queensland were examined. In both cases the Queensland authorities had required impact assessment studies (documents equivalent to a Commonwealth environmental impact statement) to be prepared. These were taken into account in the determinations that no further assessments were required in terms of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENTS
ACTIVE AS AT June 2000
Proposals received a
314
Examinations completed
311
Examinations in progress as at 30 June 1999 b
204
Public environment reports - directed
4
Public environment reports - completed
2
Environmental impact statements- directed
5
Environmental impact statements - completed
4
Public inquiries - directed
1
Public inquiries - completed
1

a Comprises proposals formally referred under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act and proposals referred for advice.

b Does not include projects that have been suspended and for which assessment action is currently not required.

Comalco alumina project: The proposal by Comalco to build a new alumina plant in Gladstone was examined by way of an environmental impact statement and Queensland impact assessment studies. Environment Australia was notified of a significant change to the project as originally described. This involved a fall back option to use coal and coal seam methane instead of natural gas that Comalco hopes will be available via the proposed Papua New Guinea-Queensland gas pipeline. The Commonwealth and Queensland authorities agreed that additional environmental assessment with formal public involvement was required to properly examine the fall back coal/coal seam methane alternative. A supplementary report for public review was produced to add to the previous documentation. The final version taking into account public comment was issued five months later. After careful consideration of all the environmental and other relevant matters, the Minister determined that the alternative fuel version of the Comalco proposal could proceed, if the preferred gas fired option cannot be pursued.

Stuart oil shale project: Southern Pacific Petroleum intends to develop shale oil deposits in Gladstone, Queensland. The proposal involves mining shale and processing it at high temperatures to produce a quality petroleum product requiring less refining than crude oil. Stage 1 of the plant has been built and is undergoing commissioning trials. Stage 2 would involve the expansion to commercial production scale. The Minister directed that an environmental impact statement be produced in relation to the expansion proposal in May 1999, and the assessment is being conducted jointly with Queensland authorities. The proposed site is located adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area and would be a significant source of greenhouse emissions. The draft environmental impact statement was issued for public review.

Naval ammunitioning facility at Twofold Bay: The Minister concluded from the final environmental impact statement that there were no environmental reasons preventing the granting of environmental approval for the project.

Basslink 300-megawatt cable interconnection from Tasmania to Victoria: The proposal is being assessed through the preparation of an environmental impact statement in accordance with an agreed joint environmental assessment process between the Commonwealth, Tasmanian and Victorian Governments.

Other major assessments included:

Projects assessed are listed in Appendix 2.

A commission of inquiry was established under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act to examine the environmental aspects of a proposal by Airservices Australia to introduce a precision runway monitor for landings from the north at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. A precision runway monitor is a radar based air traffic control aid that allows landing rates of aircraft to be maintained during periods of bad weather. Environment Australia provided the secretariat to support the Commissioner, Dr DF McMichael CBE.

The commission of inquiry recommended a trial of the precision runway monitor be carried out to determine the full nature and extent of its environmental impacts. The trial will compare the noise effects of aircraft under present instrument procedures as against precision runway monitor operations. The system will be implemented progressively until mid-August 2000 and will be available for use in bad weather during the Olympics.

Major changes in the statutory basis for Commonwealth involvement in the environmental approval of development projects under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act required significant work during the year. This included changes in structures, systems and processes requiring the design, development and implementation of a database and communication system to administer referrals and assessments. Procedural manuals were prepared.

Environment Australia continued to promote cooperative assessment with the States and Territories to streamline environmental assessment processes. These arrangements have provided a smooth progression to the new Commonwealth assessment and approvals regime.

Chemicals, biological products and genetically modified organisms

Environment Australia provided advice on proposals for the release of genetically modified organisms into the environment in field trials, through attendance at release subcommittee meetings of the Genetic Manipulation Advisory Committee. Advice was also given to the committee and the Interim Office of the Gene Technology Regulator on the general release proposal for Roundup ready cotton.

The National Registration Authority was advised on biological product applications and genetically modified organisms for field trials, in particular insect-resistant and herbicide tolerant crops. Environmental assessment advice was prepared on the use of herbicides on herbicide tolerant crops and on rabbit calicivirus bait (leading to a full assessment).

Under the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989 environmental hazard assessment reports for 179 new chemicals were completed and published. The environmental parts of these reports were completed within statutory timeframes. All new industrial chemicals marketed in quantities above 100 kilograms per annum have to be assessed for their environmental impact before their introduction.

Assessments of two existing industrial chemicals were completed, and reports for four others drafted. The latter included the first comprehensive Australian assessment of benzene, which should provide a firm basis for any regulatory action taken on this toxic air pollutant.

Environmental assessment reports were completed and published for 16 new agricultural and veterinary chemicals under the National Registration Scheme of the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code Act 1994. A further 25 assessments were completed on extensions of use of existing agricultural and veterinary chemicals. Several of these were new chemicals or combinations of chemicals for use on cotton and rice, and another was a new rodenticide to control mice plagues in cereals.

Environment Australia's involvement in the registration process ensures that all new agricultural and veterinary chemical proposals undergo a thorough assessment of their likely environmental impact before being placed on the market.

A comprehensive final report for one existing agricultural and veterinary chemical under the National Registration Authority's Existing Chemicals Review Programme was completed. This has resulted in the chemical, a very toxic one with a history of bird kills, being withdrawn from the market and having its registration cancelled. Reports were drafted for a further four chemicals under review and Environment Australia continues to be involved in the negotiations following three reports drafted in 1998-99.

World Heritage assessments and nominations

Objective

Provide accurate independent evidence for all assessments of World Heritage projects using the best available scientific practice.

Result

Environment Australia provided extensive supplementary information on the World Heritage values of the Greater Blue Mountains Area to the World Heritage Centre. The proposed nomination of a series of Australian convict sites was added to Australia's tentative World Heritage list.

Government commitments were identified and addressed in relation to the submission of five World Heritage nominations: the Sydney Opera House, convict sites, the Greater Blue Mountains Area, Purnululu and an extension to the Riversleigh Fossil Mammal Sites.

Advice was provided to governments, organisations and the community on the best scientific practice and on government commitments for World Heritage assessments and nominations.

Detailed technical analysis was provided for the World Heritage Committee's review of procedures and operational guidelines for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention.

Scientific research

Objective

Assess the environmental performance of uranium mines, both existing and rehabilitated, and report to stakeholders. Research is to be carried out on the impact of uranium mining on the environment and on the protection and conservation of wetlands in the Alligator Rivers region. Reports are to be prepared on the research programme of the Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist with findings presented at national forums.

Result

Research provided a factual base for management decisions on the environment, including the environmental impact of mining and the protection and conservation of wetlands.

The National Centre for Tropical Wetlands Research, based in Darwin, established a network of continuous radon and meteorological monitoring stations in the Alligator Rivers region to measure the contribution to radon levels from the Ranger mine and eventually those from the proposed Jabiluka mine; investigated the use of herbicides as a control measure for the wetland weed, Mimosa pigra; reviewed the Australian and New Zealand guidelines for fresh and marine water quality; investigated suspended sediment loads in Swift Creek, downstream of the proposed Jabiluka mine; conducted a review of the environmental management of 11 major mining operations in northern Australia, Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya; and completed an assessment of the impact of the exotic pasture species Paragrass on the ecology of floodplain wetlands.

Three environmental performance reviews were carried out, including reviews of the Ranger, Jabiluka and Nabarlek mines. It was agreed that a report on best practice technology for the use of paste fill for tailings at Ranger be prepared by the mining company, Energy Resources Australia, and that the Supervising Scientist review the findings. The Office of the Supervising Scientist reported at the Alligator Rivers Region Advisory Committee meeting on its participation in the minesite technical committee meetings for Ranger, Jabiluka and Nabarlek mines.

Eighty four reports, including published journals, internal reports and unpublished papers, were prepared as part of the Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist research programmes on the environmental impact of mining and on wetlands ecology and conservation. Fifteen presentations were made at national environmental science forums, including:

Other research activities of Environment Australia are described under the Environmental Resources Information Network and the Australian Biological Resources Study in the earlier section on departmental outputs.