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Greg Hunt MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Flinders
&
Sussan Ley MP
Parliamentary Secretary (Children and Youth Affairs)
Federal Member for Farrer

9 July 2005

Australia’s newest biosphere reserve recognised by UNESCO


Greg Hunt MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage and Sussan Ley MP, Federal Member for Farrer, today announced that UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) in Paris has accepted the Barkindji Biosphere Reserve in New South Wales as part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

"The Barkindji Biosphere Reserve has become Australia's thirteenth such reserve, covering more than 26,000 hectares of floodplains, wetland and open plain country along the Murray River around Wentworth in south western NSW," Mr Hunt said.

"It is the only new Biosphere reserve recognised in Australia and we are delighted that UNESCO has recognised the importance of this project. The partnership between local landowners, local indigenous people, LaTrobe University, the Trust for Nature, Birds Australia, CSIRO and the Myer Foundation and many others demonstrates the project's broad base of support."

"While we welcome the NSW Government's recent support for this initiative, it is disappointing that Victoria continues to distance itself from the project despite strong support from stakeholders in Victoria."

"I particularly thank Sussan Ley for her ongoing support for this nomination. She understands the importance of protecting the unique biodiversity of this region and preserving its values for future generations."

Mrs Ley said she welcomed the announcement as recognition of the combined efforts of communities, governments and the education and research sectors to help protect the local environment.

"I am pleased that this partnership, linking the local community, scientists, the education sector with the support of leading philanthropists and the Australian Government, centres around the significant Murray wetland systems in my electorate," Mrs Ley said.

"Managing these systems in a sustainable way, while protecting their environmental values and maintaining social and economic development through strong community involvement and participation, is a key goal of the Government. Since 2002, the Australian Government has provided $540,000 from the Natural Heritage Trust to support the development of the Barkindji Biosphere."

Mr John Irwin, an architect of the project, said the NHT funding had been critical to starting the project.

"This support helped us with scientific monitoring, community consultation, and education initiatives. Without the vision and support of David Kemp, the former federal Environment Minister, the project would not have got this far," Mr Irwin said.

Biosphere reserves depend on cooperative approaches by all stakeholders. This is the first Biosphere Reserve in Australia conceived with a strong element of local Indigenous culture and community. For more information on Biosphere Reserves see www.deh.gov.au/parks/biosphere

Media enquiries:
Fiona Murphy (Mr Hunt's office) 0423 577 045
Dane Fuller (Mrs Ley's office) 02 6021 3264

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