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Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP
Friday, 3 October 2003
Dr Kemp: This reflects the very long period in which life has been evolving in Australia. Not only do we have a lot of species, but about 80 per cent of these species are unique to Australia, so we have a very high level of endemic species in Australia. This makes Australia the most biologically diverse of any OECD country, so we are an industrial developing country in a land which has got an enormous diversity of species and this poses a tremendous challenge to Australia. The Australian Government has been looking at how we can possibly get a focus in our regional development activities on the protection of this biodiversity.
And today I am announcing that the Australian Government is nominating 15 areas of Australia as biodiversity hotspots. These biodiversity hotspots are around Australia, but it is very interesting to note that of the 15 hotspots that are being identified, eight of them are in Western Australia and this reflects the fact that Western Australia is in face one of the world's most biologically diverse areas. It is a unique area that we need to protect.
Now what is the basis of the identification hotspots? Well the hotspots are identified firstly on the basis that they have a very high concentration of unique wildlife and the second basis is that there are real conservation threats to these wildlife in these key areas. So what we've got are hotspots that are identified on the basis of biological diversity and conservation threats and we believe that these 15 areas around Australia are the ones which merit special attention. The biological hotspots, the biodiversity hotspots are being identified in order to assist regions around Australia in their regional priority setting to allocate appropriate protective activities in relation to the wildlife in these areas.
This is a world first. Australia is the first country in the world to identify biological hotspots of this kind and I believe that other countries will take note of this and see that this is a very important step to take to make sure that the world's biodiversity is properly protected.
Question: What exactly is a hotspot and what classifications do each of these areas have?
Dr Kemp: We will be providing information, detailed information about each of these hotspots to the regional planning bodies under the National Action Plan for Salinity and the Natural Heritage Trust, so that they can take this information into account in developing their regional priorities. This will ensure that they will take appropriate action to protect the very unique wild life that we have.
The other important action that is being taken is that around Australia, facilitators - regional facilitators- are being trained to identify the needs of biodiversity protection in these hotspot areas. And they will be working closely with the regional planning bodies to ensure under the Natural Heritage Trust that appropriate action is taken.
Question: So how did you choose the areas to be recognised as biodiversity hotspots?
Dr Kemp: Well there are many areas of course where there are threats to biodiversity of Australia. The key thing about these 15 is first of all that they are areas where there is a unique grouping of wildlife, a very high level of wildlife biodiversity. And secondly that there are real conservation threats in these areas. These threats come from development activities, they can come from feral weeds and feral animals, they can come from salinity. There are a variety of possible threats and what the Threatened Specie Scientific Committee has done is identify these areas as ones of both high biological diversity and also real conservation threats.
Question: Darwin or the Northern Territory has been left out. Is there any particular reason? Is it because that area has a smaller population?
Dr Kemp: Well we have taken into account the level of the threat and what we have sought to do here is to really pick out those areas where we think the first major gains are to be made. That's not to say that there aren't other important areas where biodiversity needs to be protected. And of course right around Australia there are such areas and there are significant biodiversity threats in the Northern Territory, there are significant biodiversity threats in the Murray Darling Basin, there are significant biodiversity threats in our alpine areas. What we have done is to pick out those 15 areas where we have the highest concentrations of unique wildlife and significant threats.
Question: So there is an expiry date on these hotspots or will they receive funding forever?
Dr Kemp: Well, no there is no time frame associated with them but obviously as we go, we will review the activities that are being undertaken by the regional bodies and we will make assessments from time to time as to whether or not the biodiversity in these areas is being properly protected.