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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

21 September 2001

ENVIRONMENT MINISTERS COMMIT TO BIODIVERSITY TARGETS


Most of Australia's environment ministers have, for the first time, endorsed specific national biodiversity conservation targets.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill today publicly released the targets saying the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and the ACT ministers had all committed themselves to implementing the national objectives and targets.

"The protection and conservation of Australia's biodiversity is one of the Howard Government's major environmental priorities," Senator Hill said.

"State and Territory governments are now committing themselves to a range of challenging biodiversity targets in a significant step forward in the conservation of our biodiversity. It is disappointing that Queensland is the only mainland state to refuse to support this historic agreement.

"Those states which have supported the agreement will work together to achieve these targets over the next five years while recognising regional variations will mean some variation in the timing of their implementation.

"Our work will continue to be strategically focused on areas that include reversing the decline of native vegetation, improving the quality of protected areas, promoting recovery of threatened species and combating non-native species. While together we always need to do more, these national objectives are a step in the right direction and I commend those governments who have had the courage to commit to a national response. "

The national biodiversity targets have been developed in response to a review of both the successes and failures of Australia's 1996 national strategy to conserve biological diversity.

The review, part of a suite of documents released at the meeting of Australia's environment Ministers, highlights existing problems, particularly over-clearing of native vegetation. It also acknowledges the significant achievements of the Natural Heritage Trust.

"The Government is working closely with the States and Territories to address some of the key issues identified in the review; particularly to reduce the national land clearing rate and to provide more protection for areas of high quality native vegetation.

"Once again, our efforts are being thwarted by the Queensland Government continually refusing to accept their responsibility and cap land clearing," Senator Hill said.

"As home to some 10 per cent of the world's known species of flora and fauna, 80 per cent of which exist nowhere else on earth, Australia has a special responsibility, which we do not take lightly. This commitment to action across Australia will help protect and conserve our unique and valuable biodiversity."

The National Objectives and Targets for Biodiversity Conservation can be found at www.ea.gov.au/biodiversity/publications/objectives/index.html

September 21, 2001

Media contact
Belinda Huppatz (08) 8237 7920 or 0419 258 364

Commonwealth of Australia