Review of the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity

Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council
Environment Australia, 2001
ISBN 0 6425 4734 3

Appendix B: Report on implementation of the priority actions in the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity (1999)

Prepared by the Biodiversity Strategy Executive Group (BSEG)8 for the ANZECC Standing Committee for Conservation.

(a) completed the identification of its biogeographical regions. 1.2.1
1.2.2
1.3.1
This action is well advanced on an Australia-wide basis through development of the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA) and Interim Marine and Coastal Regionalisation for Australia (IMCRA). IBRA was published in March 1995 and has become well established. IMCRA was published in June 1998. This action is well advanced on an Australia-wide basis through development of the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA) and Interim Marine and Coastal Regionalisation for Australia (IMCRA). IBRA was published in March 1995 and has become well established. IMCRA was published in June 1998.
(b) implemented cooperative ethnobiological programs, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples see them to be appropriate, to record and ensure the continuity of ethnobiological knowledge and to ensure that the use of such knowledge within Australia's jurisdiction results in social and economic benefits to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 1.4.2(c)
1.8.1
1.8.2
4.1.8
There has been a significant advance over the last few years in the inclusion of indigenous knowledge and cooperation with indigenous people in land management and cultural heritage activities, especially on sites with significance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. A number of Commonwealth initiatives, while not specifically aimed at addressing this priority action, will contribute to its implementation. These include:
  • support for the management of Indigenous Protected Areas;
  • the establishment of an Indigenous Advisory Committee under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999;
  • the proposed inquiry into access to genetic resources announced by the Commonwealth Environment Minister during debate on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Bill; and
  • the establishment by of an Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property Taskforce.
Overall, however, implementation of cooperative ethnobiological programs is patchy and does not appear to be well coordinated on a wide basis.
Mechanisms are not currently in place to enable this action to be achieved in a comprehensive manner and resources for this purpose need to be identified if this action is to be achieved in the foreseeable future. In particular, there is a need for action on a whole of government level to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people benefit socially and economically from use of their knowledge.
(c) completed the identification and description of major ecosystems in each biogeographic region and developed specific priorities for conservation. 1.1.1
1.2.1
1.3.1
This is an ongoing project in all States and Territories but will not be uniformly achieved by 2000. It is more advanced for terrestrial ecosystems than marine ecosystems. There are State and regional variations in the level of data available and in the establishment of priorities.

Through the Strategic Plan of Action for the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas (ANZECC 1999), ANZECC has agreed to make progress on local-scale ecosystem mapping, including a national overview, by the end of 2000, and to make substantial progress on site-scale mapping by the end of 2001. A list of national priority IMCRA regions for establishing marine protected areas will be developed by December 1999 and interim lists for regional priorities for marine protected area declaration developed by mid-2000.

At its May 1999 meeting, the ANZECC Standing Committee on Conservation agreed that there was now the need for an action plan to cover implementation of the National Reserve System. To this end, Victoria and Tasmania would prepare a paper for the next full meeting of SCC [Standing Committee on Conservation] recommending the best means of developing an action plan, either by a new ANZECC Task Force or by the existing National Reserve System Scientific Task Force'. The action plan could provide for a more coordinated approach to the implementation of this priority action.

Implementation will also be assisted by a proposed Environment Australia-National Land and Water Resources Audit project on 'undertaking landscape health assessments to update the information on Australia's IBRA regions'. As currently proposed, one of the outputs from this project will be 'provision of an information set that includes the ecological condition of each IBRA region, recognised benchmarks for ecosystem performance, and identified priorities for each IBRA across Australia's State and Territory borders'.
While this action will not be achieved by 2000, substantial progress is being made and programs are in place that will see this progress continue. The National Land and Water Resources Audit project on landscape health assessments and the proposed action plan for the National Reserve System should make a significant contribution to achieving this action.
(d) established mechanisms for resourcing the development and implementation of programs and plans for the continuing management of Australia's biological diversity on public and private lands, including lands managed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 1.4.2(d)
1.5.1
3.2.3
3.7.2
7.4.1
1.3.1
The Natural Heritage Trust is addressing this action by providing over $1b in funding for programs addressing land, vegetation, rivers, coasts and marine and biodiversity:
  • establishing a network of indigenous land management and Bushcare facilitators;
  • developing performance indicators to improve vegetation management on Aboriginal lands;
  • setting up regional pilot studies which establish best practice benchmarks for vegetation management; developing a full range of vegetation management tools and options for property managers; and
  • developing ecosystem data sets for each IBRA region.
The Natural Heritage Trust is supported by a range of State and Territory programs. These contribute to achieving this action in a comprehensive manner for public and most private land. The Indigenous Protected Areas Program will contribute to achieving this action on land managed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. However, the focus of the program on conservation means that it will not be appropriate for all such lands. Assisting indigenous people to access funds for land management under the Natural Heritage Trust through the Indigenous Land Management Facilitator will also contribute to this action, but the coverage is likely to be patchy.
While this action should be substantially achieved by 2000 on public and most private land, a more comprehensive approach is needed if it is to be achieved on land managed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
(e) completed development of a nationwide system of protected areas on public land and waters that representative of the major ecosystems in each biogeographical region. 1.4.1
3.6.2
1.3.1
While this will not be achieved by the year 2000, substantial progress will have been made and programs are in place to enable this to be achieved soon after. Funding for the National Reserve System Program will continue to be provided through the Natural Heritage Trust until 200102. Funding is also being provided through the Marine Protected Areas Program for national projects. The development of a national representative system of marine protected areas will be guided by the Strategic Plan of Action for the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas (ANZECC, 1999).

By 2000, this action should be substantially achieved for forest ecosystems in those areas covered by Regional Forest Agreement.

Problems may occur with reserve design where representative samples of major ecosystems are small and fragmented. Landuse management issues and availability of land for purchase could also hinder achievement of this action. It is highly unlikely that this action could ever be achieved on public land alone. A nationwide system will need to include private and indigenous land and this is being addressed through the National Reserve System Program and the Indigenous Protected Areas Program. Six Indigenous Protected Areas have now been declared and a further 4 will be declared by June 2000.
As this action will not be achieved by 2000, resources will need to continue to be made available after that date.
(f) implemented management plans for protected areas identified by the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council as having major conservation significance because of high biological diversity, high endemicity or threatened species. 1.4.2(a)
1.4.2(b)0
3.5.2
3.6.2
1.3.2
Management plans for major protected areas should be in place by 2000.

All States and Territories are progressively implementing management plans for protected areas, but priority is driven by a number of factors in addition to major ecosystems. Some management plans are driven by legislative requirements, e.g. threatened species protection legislation.

To date, ANZECC has not established a process to identify protected areas that have major conservation significance. The ANZECC Standing Committee on Conservation at its May 1999 meeting agreed that Western Australia would prepare for consideration by the standing committee at its next full meeting a proposal for action by ANZECC on this priority action.
Programs currently in place should achieve this action by 2000. Discussion on this issue at the October Standing Committee on Conservation meeting should help to clarify the intent of this action.
(g) established effective mechanisms for providing information to and support for biological diversity conservation projects undertaken by the community. 1.2.1
1.2.2
1.3.1
1.5.1
3.7.2
4.1.9
5.1.1
This is an ongoing action and many programs are in place. Further progress will be facilitated by the delivery mechanisms set up for the Natural Heritage Trust. Funded programs make their own distinct contributions to biological diversity through enhancing the management of the natural and environmental resources and the quality of these resources.

Bushcare
Bushcare facilitators are employed at the State and Territory and regional level.

Best practice examples are disseminated through staff, articles and brochures and through the Council for Sustainable Vegetation Management providing advice on best practice measures and policy instruments.

Environmental education advice and support for sustainable native vegetation management is provided through Greening Australia.

National Reserve System
The community component enables community groups to contribute to setting land acquisition priorities, contributing through land acquisition and through off-reserve conservation measures, e.g. formal voluntary covenants on private and leasehold and indigenous owned and managed lands.

Waterwatch has established a national network of community based water quality & aquatic biodiversity monitoring. There are approximately 1500 Waterwatch groups nationally.

Coasts and Clean Seas programs are contributing significantly in the marine area.

The Community Biodiversity Network continues to be funded by Environment Australia to disseminate information on biodiversity conservation to community groups and to raise awareness of biodiversity conservation. Environment Australia is also implementing a communications strategy, which aims to increase community awareness of biodiversity issues.
While this action will not be achieved by 2000, substantial progress is being made and programs are in place that will see this progress continue. The National Land and Water Resources Audit project on landscape health assessments and the proposed action plan for the National Reserve System should make a significant contribution to achieving this action.
(h) clearly defined elements on the conservation of biological diversity in primary, secondary and tertiary curricula, giving emphasis to inter-relationships between disciplines. 1.3.2
1.8.6
5.2.1
5.2.2
5.2.3
The national curriculum profiles for kindergarten to Year 12, developed cooperatively by the States and Territories, Commonwealth, education institutions, education professionals and the community, recommend an integrated approach to the teaching of the science and society and environment curricula. Biodiversity is specifically included in an interdisciplinary approach. States develop their own curricula but there are indications from New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia that they are integrating the national curriculum profiles.

Tertiary institutions operate autonomously and, as a result, instruction on the conservation of biological diversity is included in curricula in an ad hoc way. There is no doubt that biodiversity conservation is given increasing recognition in tertiary courses, but it is difficult to determine the extent to which this priority action is being achieved.
This action should be achieved at the primary and secondary level, in that biodiversity elements will be included in curricula. However, there is also a need to assess if the elements are being taught and what the professional development opportunities are for teachers to effectively incorporate this information (especially in primary schools where teachers are required to have a very broad knowledge base).

It is difficult to properly assess whether this priority action will be achieved for the tertiary level.
(i) implemented programs consistent with this Strategy designed to encourage local government to play a major role in nature conservation in Australia. 1.2.2
1.3.1
1.5.1
1.5.2(a)
1.5.2(b)
1.5.2(c)
1.5.2(d)
7.2.3
7.3.2
Local councils currently participate in government programs on an ad hoc basis. As the concept of bioregional planning gathers momentum more councils are likely to be drawn into biodiversity conservation and management. The National Local Government Biodiversity Strategy was developed to address local government's increasing role in biodiversity conservation. The Biological Diversity Advisory Council developed the National Local Government Biodiversity Strategy, in consultation with Environment Australia, environment resource officers, CSIRO and the Australian Local Government Association. The National General Assembly of Local Government in November 1998 endorsed the Strategy. The document represents an agreed local government position at the national level on the management of Australia's biodiversity.

The Strategy recognises that conservation and sustainable use of natural resources will only be achieved through local area planning and management, along with community education and participation. The Strategy also acknowledges the willingness of local government across Australia to play a lead role in preventing the loss of biodiversity, and that this will be achieved by a clear and cooperative partnership arrangement between the three spheres of government. The Strategy recommends that local governments are encouraged to cooperate with each other to develop management plans at a regional level, and that biodiversity be recognised as an important function of local government. Training and access to information on biodiversity local government are to be increased, and the Strategy recommends that programs be in place designed to encourage local government to play a major role in nature conservation.

The first stage of implementing the National Local Government Biodiversity Strategy includes a number of actions. A Steering Committee with representation from EA, ALGA, CSIRO, BDAC and s is overseeing the implementation of the Strategy. The Strategy will be printed and distributed by all councils and key stakeholders in October 1999. A series of workshops hosted by State local government associations will be held in October and November 1999 to promote and raise awareness of the National Local Government Strategy. All councils in Australia are to be surveyed during November and December 1999 to assess the level of local government involvement in a range of biodiversity conservation activities. The final report from this survey will be released in March 2000. This will provide a better indication of the extent to which local government plays a role in biodiversity conservation.
The National Local Government Biodiversity Strategy provides a framework for achieving this priority action and the proposed survey of local government involvement in bio diversity conservation will provide a clearer picture of the extent to which the Strategy can currently be implemented. Indications are, however, that a significant increase in funding by local government for biodiversity conservation will be needed if this priority action is to be achieved.
(j) implemented institutional arrangements and programs to ensure and monitor the ecologically sustainable development of Australian industries based on the extraction or use of natural resources. 1.2.1
1.3.1
2.1.1
2.1.2
2.2.1
2.2.2
2.2.3
2.3.1
2.3.2
2.4.1
2.4.2
2.5.1
2.5.3
2.6.1
2.6.2
2.7.1
2.8.3
2.8.4
4.1.3
Major industries- mining, agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and tourism - are involved, as are other industries such as wildlife harvesting, pharmaceutical's, and aquaculture. There are many codes of practice in place, regulating activities by industry. Some codes, for example in forestry, are legally enforceable.

All governments are committed to ecologically sustainable development. The development of institutional arrangements and monitoring is an ongoing process not likely to be completed by 2000. National reports (such as State of the Environment reporting) are seen as important tools in gauging the implementation of this action. Integrated planning is most evident in major problem areas or areas of high conservation significance, e.g. Murray-Darling Basin, Great Barrier Reef, south-east South Australia. The Commonwealth EPBC Act will also be an important mechanism for achieving this action.

Each State has environmental protection agencies regulating pollution, mining and larger development projects. The process of environmental impact assessment and monitoring is ongoing and subject to continual review.

Management plans to improve water quality, fisheries management and wildlife harvesting of native species are in different stages of development in different States. Fisheries management is a priority of Australia's Oceans Policy. Catchment management has been an emphasis of land care programs in the recent past.

The Biological Diversity Advisory Council is developing specific industry strategies as a means of implementing this action. Strategies are currently being developed for the agricultural and seafoods industries. A tourism summit held by the council in September 1999 identified actions that need to be taken by the tourism industry.
Standing Committee on Conservation may wish to request the council to continue its work on specific industry strategies as a way of identifying further action needed to achieve this priority action.
(k) implemented Conservation of Australian Species and Communities Threatened with Extinction – A National Strategy. 1.7.1
1.7.2
1.8.3
1.9.2
3.7.2
The draft was developed in 1993 and ratified by all States, Territories and the Commonwealth by February 1996.

The draft was conveyed by the then Chair of ANZECC to the Prime Minister as Chair of COAG (as required by Schedule 9 of the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment). The strategy has not been endorsed by COAG to date and ANZECC agreed in 1998 not to pursue COAG endorsement but to adopt it as an agreed ANZECC document.

The major actions for implementation of the strategy are being addressed by the Endangered Species Program. Various States have introduced new legislation, management plans and strategies that further protect threatened species in line with the strategy and the 1998 Heads of Agreement on Commonwealth/State Roles and Responsibilities for the Environment. The States, in signing partnership agreements under the Natural Heritage Trust, have committed to ensuring a number of outcomes consistent with the National Strategy.

The EPBC Act, based on the 1998 Heads of Agreement, has completed its passage through Parliament and will replace the Endangered Species Protection Act 1992 in July 2000.

The Australian Network for Plant Conservation continues to be supported by the Endangered Species Program to contribute to this task. The network has produced Germplasm Guidelines for Australia.

The network has also produced Guidelines for the Translocation of Threatened Plants in Australia and ANZECC has endorsed Guidelines for the Translocation of Threatened Vertebrates in Australia.
While substantial progress has been made in implementing Conservation of Australian Species and Communities Threatened with Extinction – A National Strategy, further analysis needs to be undertaken before it can be determined if this priority action will be achieved.
(l) arrested and reversed the decline of remnant native vegetation. 1.2.2
1.3.1
1.5.2(a)
Some States anticipate achieving this objective by 2000, principally Victoria and South Australia. Many programs are in place and will be boosted by Bushcare. The action may not, however, be achieved on an Australian-wide basis if current practices continue.

The national goal of the Bushcare Program of the Natural Heritage Trust is to reverse the decline in the quality and extent of Australia's native vegetation.

The emphasis of the Bushcare program on direct support for on-ground vegetation management has resulted in more than 1300 projects being funded through the Natural Heritage Trust's One Stop Shop. To date, the cost is over $70m for community-based projects that help support diverse, problem-solving initiatives across urban and rural Australia. These include actions to identify and manage high quality biodiversity habitats; revegetate native vegetation remnants at risk, and restore ecological balance to productive land.

In addition to small-scale grants, Bushcare invests further in high priority elements of regional strategies. The 'devolved grant' projects assist regional organisations to directly manage the funding of such regional/local level actions.

To assist the community with technical support, an extensive national network of Bushcare extension staff is in place. The core of the network is State/Territory Coordinators, 50 regional facilitators and 120 support officers (both full and part time) at the local level. Bushcare supports the network of local government environmental resource officers and jointly supports (with Landcare) 12 indigenous facilitators. A national Bushcare Link consultant to help key stakeholder groups and a National Local Government Facilitator are funded by Bushcare.

The first two years of Bushcare project funding have strongly emphasised direct capital investments from the Trust in on-ground vegetation projects, and also the fundamental role of the community in managing native vegetation.

The 'bottom up' approach based on community grants is now being complemented with a greater emphasis on strategic investment to deliver on key priorities such as reducing land clearing, securing the habitats of endangered and threatened species, and targeting key land and water degradation problems.

Large scale investment in on-ground activities is complemented by reforms to institutional arrangements capable of influencing all landholders – through enabling measures such as incentives, and through measures aimed at lifting the bottom line' such as improved regulatory frameworks.

The three key dimensions of the program investment in landscapes, enabling institutional arrangements and community capacity are best integrated at a landscape or regional scale. This is now occurring through larger regional projects, with a focus on key issues and regions where we can make a lasting difference through better native vegetation management.
Progress has been made towards achieving this priority action However, it is unlikely to be achieved on an Australia-wide basis if current practices continue
(m) avoided or limited any further broad-scale clearance of native vegetation, consistent with ecologically sustainable management and bioregional planning, to those instances in which regional biological diversity objectives are not compromised. 3.2.2 The Natural Heritage Trust is founded upon Partnership Agreements between the Commonwealth and all States/Territories. The Bushcare schedule to these agreements commits the States and Territories to prevent any clearing of endangered ecological communities, any clearing which changes the conservation status of a vegetation community, and any clearing which is inconsistent with the sustainable management of biodiversity at a regional scale. Continued Trust funding is contingent on these commitments being progressively implemented.

In addition to this series of bilateral relationships between the Commonwealth and each of the State and Territory Governments, a multilateral process addresses these issues. The draft National Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Australia's Native Vegetation sets out a national approach to the management of Australia's native vegetation and provides a process through which the implementation of Commonwealth, State and Territory commitments can be achieved. It describes what is meant by best practice' measures for native vegetation management, and provides for an independent evaluation process that will report on progress being made by each jurisdiction.

The national framework describes a best practice approach to land clearing regulation would
  • protect native vegetation of high conservation or cultural value
  • provide linkages to other vegetation management mechanisms such as regional planning, management agreements and provision of incentives
  • establish a requirement to seek approval from a government agency
  • define the types of land, vegetation or clearing requiring approval describe a process and criteria for assessing applications to clear include mechanisms for appeals, monitoring and compliance There remain significant gaps in the regulatory net for native vegetation management in Australia. However the national framework developed by ANZECC which sets out the national consensus on best practice arrangements, not just in regulation but in areas such as planning, incentives, monitoring and evaluation has cooperatively established a comprehensive platform for institutional reform.
Comments as for (l) above.
(n) completed species-specific management plans for major introduced pests and implemented effective controls for at least one introduced species of mammal and at least three major introduced plant pests. 3.3.2 Current thinking about pest control focuses on mitigation of impacts rather than control of species as such. In response to the need for improved management of weeds and a recognition of the significant advantages to be gained from improving the coordination of effort on weeds, Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers responsible for agriculture, forestry and the environment endorsed the National Weeds Strategy in June 1997. The coordination and implementation of the National Weeds Strategy is overseen by the National Weeds Strategy Executive Committee and includes representation from ANZECC, ARMCANZ and forestry ministers.

The National Weeds Strategy identifies 20 weeds of national significance signed off by all the States/Territories. Six weeds are classified as primarily a threat to the environment, another five as primarily a threat to primary production systems, and nine weeds have both environmental and primary production impacts. Currently there are national coordination teams being established and individual species management plans being developed for each of the 20 weeds of national significance. There are still some problems with the slowness of implementation due to the need to engage a range of stakeholders at different levels in management plans. The intention of the plans is to move away from the past ad hoc approach to focus on strategic management and on species, which have national priority.

State and Territory weed strategies have been prepared and released by Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales, Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. Drafts have been prepared by South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia. Queensland requires Local Governments to develop and implement weed/pest management plans for all Local Government Areas (LGAs). Queensland aims to lock in all levels of responsibility for weeds of national significance, from States and regional organisations through to local governments and property owners.

The National Weeds Program has funded the development of a Weeds Risk Assessment system by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) and its use to conduct a major revision of the current prohibited plants list. The Weeds Risk Assessment system is now in use by AQIS as a means of assessing the weediness of new plant species coming into Australia.

Species-specific threat abatement plans for four major introduced mammal species (foxes, cats, goats and rabbits) have been approved. Their implementation is within State jurisdiction and there is optimism that effective controls will be in progress if not fully implemented by 2000.

At the State level, Western Australia, through the Western Shield Program, has introduced broad-scale control of foxes across conservation estates. Western Australia is currently investigating the inclusion of private landholders in this program. The Western Shield Program has led to recovery (i..e. translocation or expansion of range) of a number of threatened species in Western Australia, including populations of numbats, woylie, quokka and chuditch. South Australia has introduced broadscale fox, rabbit, goat and cat pest control throughout the Flinders Ranges through the Bounceback Program. South Australia is currently looking at preparing the Flinders Ranges area for translocation of endangered species. The development of areas for translocation has led to the recovery of the vulnerable Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby. Although the State's Bounceback Program started with National Parks in the Flinders Ranges, it has now expanded to include surrounding landowners.

The National Taskforce for the Prevention and Management of Marine Pest Incursions will make recommendations to Ministers by the end of the year on improved national arrangements to control and manage outbreaks of introduced marine pests. This will include both interim and longer term management systems involving measures to prevent pest introductions and spread, early warning systems such as target species lists, monitoring systems and pest mitigation and control measures.

Funding has been allocated under Coasts and Clean Seas for projects that support these arrangements, including development of alert lists for both existing and yet to be introduced high risk exotic marine species and accompanying risk assessment techniques, monitoring techniques to enhance community participation in pest detection, measures for management agencies to address outbreaks of high risk species, techniques to prevent the spread of existing pest populations, and development of a national data system to make information on exotic marine pest identification and control widely available to management agencies, industry and the general community.

Wet Tropics Management Authority commissioned and completed a report on the major environmental weed species of the region. A report on control strategy options for the weeds of greatest concern identified in the previous report has also been completed. The revision process involves a review of risk assessment, prioritisation and control/management effects. Chemical control trials of the weeds of most concern in the wet tropics areas have been supported financially. A program for the eradication of Harungana is ongoing. Although the extent of problem was worse than anticipated, the program has resulted in more than a containment of Harungana. Eradication has been less effective in less accessible areas, follow-up is ongoing.
While this priority action may not be fully achieved by 2000, programs are in place, which should see it, achieved soon after.
(o) implemented a nationally coordinated program for long-term monitoring of the state of Australia's biological diversity and the impact of threatening processes. 1.1.2
1.2.1
1.3.1
3.1.1
3.2.1
3.4.1
3.7.2
4.1.7
Australia has gone some way to achieving a coordinated approach to the long-term monitoring of the nation's biodiversity but it appears unlikely this action will be achieved by 2000.

Long-term monitoring programs are under way at a national level in some types of environments, e.g. coasts, forests and rangelands, but there is a need for nationally coordinated long-term ecological monitoring.

A range of activities are under way on the ground in terms of long term monitoring. Permanent monitoring sites are included under the Regional Forest Agreements and work is being undertaken by CSIRO and the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences. This, however, is not comprehensive enough to be considered sufficient for this objective.

Progress has been made in the use of remote sensing and will continue to be made with the development of new technology. Remote sensing using satellites is a cost-effective but broad-brush tool for monitoring biodiversity and needs to be complemented by on-ground monitoring.

More short term but resource intensive approaches include the National Land and Water Resources Audit. The Audit is a four-year $30 million Natural Heritage Trust program in partnership with States, industry and community groups to provide an independent, objective assessment of the extent of natural resource degradation. It includes an economic analysis of each problem. One of the Audit's objectives is to provide a framework for monitoring Australia's land and water resources in an ongoing and structured way. The Audit will provide a comprehensive stock-take of Australia's natural resources.

The development and implementation of indicators for national State of the Environment reporting is well under way with work being undertaken by the Commonwealth, States and Territories to establish indicators that are consistent across all jurisdictions and consistent with work on sustainability indicators (e.g. Montreal Process indicators for forests). This work is being undertaken through the national State of the Environment reporting process and through the adoption and implementation of the ANZECC core State of the Environment indicators by the Commonwealth Government and State/Territory Governments.
There has been substantial progress in ecological monitoring, but much is taking place on an ad hoc basis without a nationally coordinated approach. There appears to be insufficient information exchange between the research institutes, government jurisdictions and others.

It will require a highly focused co-operative Commonwealth/State and Territory approach to achieve this priority action and it is unlikely to be achieved by the year 2000.
(p) established legislative and administrative mechanisms for control of access to Australia's genetic resources. 1.3.2
2.8.1
2.8.2
2.8.3
2.8.5
A range of legislation in the Commonwealth, States and Territories governs access to Australia's biological resources. A Commonwealth-State Working Group discussion paper, Managing Access to Australia's Biological Resources: Developing a Nationally Consistent Approach, was finalised in October 1996 and released for public comment in early 1997. The working group has received input from most jurisdictions, with the exception of Victoria and the Northern Territory, in preparing a response to the recommendations in the discussion paper for submission to First Ministers. Jurisdictions were also requested in late August 1999 to provide summaries of their positions for inclusion in the response but some States have sought further time to consider the issues.

Biotechnology Australia is also addressing the issue of access to Australia's biological resources. A Working Group on Access has been established to implement the Access Work Program which the Ministerial Council agreed to on 11 August 1999. A significant aspect of the work program, from Environment Australia's perspective, will be the determination of access to biological resources in Commonwealth areas. The Inquiry into Access to Australia's Biological Resources, which the Minister for the Environment and Heritage announced on 22 June 1999, will provide a major consultative mechanism for achieving this outcome.

Biotechnology Australia comprises the following Commonwealth departments: Industry, Science and Resources, Environment Australia, Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry – Australia, Health and Aged Care, and Education, Training and Youth Affairs.
Achievement of this action requires a greater commitment by jurisdictions to the Commonwealth-State Working Group process.

It is now unlikely that the response will be finalised in 1999.

The objective of the $1.6.million program is practical. It will streamline the biotechnology industry's access to Australia's biological resources.
(q) conducted an analysis of existing scientific knowledge about Australia's biological diversity and identified knowledge gaps and research priorities. 1.6.1
3.6.2
4.1.1
At its May 1999 meeting, the ANZECC Standing Committee on Conservation resolved to:
  1. agree that there was a need to determine biodiversity research priorities and strategies on a national basis;
  2. note the relative priority of the key biodiversity issues as defined by national and international instrumentalities;
  3. endorse the proposal that the Biological Diversity Advisory Council form a small working group (with two Standing Committee on Conservation representatives, from Western Australia and South Australia) to review existing mechanisms for determining research priorities;
  4. agree that the Biological Diversity Advisory Council working group develop a framework to enable it to recommend a set of national biodiversity research priorities and strategies; and
  5. request the Biological Diversity Advisory Council working group to prepare a paper on national biodiversity research needs for the next full meeting of Standing Committee on Conservation.
Council has included this task in its work plan. Subject to approval of the plan by the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment and Heritage, this work should be completed in time for consideration by of Standing Committee on Conservation at its first meeting in 2000.
The successful completion of the proposed work by the working group should see this action achieved in the first half of 2000.
(r) fully implemented provisions of those international agreements relating to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity to which Australia is a signatory. 1.3.2
1.6.2
1.6.3
1.6.4
1.6.5
3.8.1
6.1.1
6.2.2
6.3.1
6.3.2
6.3.3
The implementation of this priority action is ongoing, but its intent should be met. Australia is generally amongst the leading countries in the world in implementing international biodiversity agreements. Australia is well placed to achieve this priority action.