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Media Release
The Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP
Federal Member for Murray
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister
for the Environment and Heritage

25 February 1999


Land clearing across Australia came under a national spotlight today with the commonwealth and all states and territories meeting in Canberra to formulate a nationally consistent framework.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment and Heritage, Sharman Stone MP, opened the conference, which will formulate the National Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Australia's Native Vegetation to be presented at the next Ministerial Council meeting in June 1999.

"We already have the 'in-principle' agreement of all states and territories to the goals of the National Framework. Development of a formal, nationally consistent approach is vital if we are to repair and sustainably manage our fragile native vegetation for future generations," Sharman Stone said.

Through the Howard Government's $1.25 billion National Heritage Trust, the National Framework aims to reverse the long-term decline in the quality and extent of Australia's native vegetation cover by June 2001.

The Framework will address a range of 'best practice' issues, including:

"The framework being developed today, through the cooperative efforts of all jurisdictions, is an important step forward. It will benchmark a series of common standards and practices that will significantly improve the way we manage and monitor native vegetation."

Land clearing controls differ substantially between jurisdictions. For example, some states have established legislative or regulatory controls; some have detailed mapping, planning or management systems, while others protect public or leasehold land from clearing but not private freehold land.

As much as 70% of Australia's native vegetation has been cleared or modified in the past 200 years, most in the past 50 years. The effects on Australia's biodiversity have been devastating. 20 different mammal, 9 bird and 97 plant species are now extinct.

"Broadscale land clearing contributes to a range of environmental problems including, dry-land salinity, soil erosion, degradation of agricultural land, greenhouse gas emissions and loss of biodiversity. In some regions, the damage to the environment can never be reversed."

"Dry-land salinity is one of the most damaging consequences of indiscriminate of land clearing. Around 2.5 million hectares of land in Australia has been affected by salinity. In dollar terms, that's $243 million a year in lost agricultural production."

For further information please contact:
Nicole Johnston, Assistant Adviser, 02 6277 2016 pr 0419 219 415

Commonwealth of Australia