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Joint Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Warren Truss

13 March 2002

Government Extends Natural Heritage Trust Deadlines

Some of the projects funded this financial year under the Government's $2.5 billion Natural Heritage Trust will be allowed a three-month extension to ensure they are completed, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Warren Truss and the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, David Kemp, announced today.

"The first phase of the Natural Heritage Trust ends on 30 June 2002," the Ministers said.

"Now the second phase, with Commonwealth funding of $1 billion over five years and improvements to ensure the Trust supports a wide range of regional and broader-scale projects, can begin operations.

"People and organisations funded this year were initially asked to finalise their projects by September 2002 and to provide final reports by December. However, it now appears that a number will be unable to meet that deadline because of factors beyond their control.

"The Government is aware, for example, that projects in some areas of Australia have been delayed because of adverse climatic conditions, such as droughts, floods and bushfires.

"In circumstances such as these, the Government must act with flexibility and common sense - both in the interests of better natural resource management and in recognition of the significant hard work - much of it voluntary - that has gone into these projects.

"Accordingly, the Federal Government has agreed that projects facing these problems will receive three-month extensions covering both project completion and final reporting.

"An extension might also be warranted if project delays are the result of other causes that are not the fault of proponents, such as staff leaving before it is completed."

The Ministers said where a full three-month extension is granted, the new deadline for finalising projects will be the end of December this year, with final reports due at the end of March 2003.

"Extensions beyond this deadline will only be granted in special cases," they said. "Cases where, for example, it can be clearly demonstrated that this would result in significantly better natural resource management outcomes."

Affected community groups should contact their local, State or Territory Natural Heritage Trust coordinator.

For contact details call the Trust hotline on 1800 065 823 (free-call).

Media Contacts:
Mr Truss's office Tim Langmead (02) 6277 7520 or 0418 221 433
Dr Kemp's office Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia