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Media Release
Senator the Hon. Robert Hill
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

Federal Budget 1999-2000

ENVIRONMENT SPENDING BENEFITS RURAL AUSTRALIA


Rural and regional Australia will benefit from significant increases in spending and the launch of several important new environmental initiatives in the Federal Budget.

Sharman Stone, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment and Heritage, said a major highlight is the promised extension of the Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) - the single largest investment by a Federal Government in the environmental future of Australia.

$320.9 million will be spent on NHT programmes in 1999-2000, with an additional $250 million from the sale of the second tranche of Telstra to extend the program for a further year (to end of June 2002).

"This will see the continuation of NHT programmes such as Landcare, Bushcare and Rivercare which have become household names in regional Australia, as communities have banded together to address long term conservation and land degradation problems," Mrs Stone said.

"Other successful programmes being extended include the National Reserve System, the Murray-Darling Basin 2001 project, the Coasts and Clean Seas programme, the National Wetlands programme, the Farm Forestry programme and the National Weed and Feral Animal control strategies."

Mrs Stone said initiatives such as the National Land and Water Resources Audit will, for the first time, provide reliable information on the status of our natural resource base, ensuring long-term benefits for future generations.

"Old and unwanted hazardous chemicals stored in farm sheds will be removed and safely destroyed with the Federal Government spending $14.4 million on the Chemwatch programme. A database is also being developed to increase the knowledge of pesticide use," she said.

"The agricultural community will also benefit from a $4.8 million boost to the Bureau of Meteorology for 1999-2000, which will provide enhanced services to farmers and provincial centres through field meteorological offices.

"This will ensure the Bureau can provide more accurate forecasts and assist farmers to get better access to information, particularly through the internet," Mrs Stone said.

Media contact: Nicole Johnston    (02) 62 77 2016 or 041 9 219 415

Commonwealth of Australia