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

Chapter 1: Conservation of biological diversity across Australia

The National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity has as its main goal to protect biological diversity and maintain ecological processes and systems. It stresses that high priority must be placed on developing and implementing integrated approaches to conservation that both conserve biological diversity and meet other community expectations.

Since the Strategy was developed, a number of processes have been put in place to address these conservation objectives. These include the Natural Heritage Trust, the Regional Forest Agreement process under the National Forest Policy Statement, the Council of Australian Governments' Water Reform framework and Australia's Oceans Policy. More recently the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the National Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Australia's Native Vegetation (ANZECC 1999) have been developed to strengthen regulatory and institutional mechanisms for managing biodiversity, the quality and extent of Australia's native vegetation and threatening processes. The National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality in Australia is also expected to have a positive impact on biodiversity conservation.

The States and Territories have implemented many programs that address biodiversity conservation as outlined in the following chapters. Most jurisdictions address biodiversity conservation in legislation concerning conservation reserves, wildlife and native vegetation protection, threatened species conservation and fisheries management.

The Natural Heritage Trust has contributed to significant achievements in the protection of native ecosystems and is moving towards a greater emphasis on fewer, larger projects, targeted sectoral regional initiatives and devolved grants. The mid-term review of the Trust identified a need to broaden policy to include alliances with businesses and philanthropic organisations to more effectively deal with the magnitude and complexity of the problems being confronted.

Cooperative programs are needed to ensure that indigenous ethnobiological knowledge is preserved. There is a need to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of ethnobiological knowledge both within the community through education and within government. The Commonwealth, States and Territories and local government are starting to undertake activities to address this issue.

Key Results

1.1 Identification

1.1.1 Identify important biological diversity components

Assessment: Partially achieved

Substantial progress has been made in identifying important biological diversity components (see below for quantification). Greater emphasis should be given to the acquisition of knowledge, gathered through comprehensive biological surveys in marine, estuarine and freshwater habitats and through taxonomic work in herbaria, museums and other institutions. Soil micro-organisms and their ecosystem functions also need to be investigated across a range of habitats. Investment in expanding knowledge of biological components and threatening processes will return significant dividends in terms of future ecosystem health, but is constrained by lack of funding sources for this important work.

Activities
  • The Australian Biological Resources Study is a program of Environment Australia. It was initiated in 1973 by the Commonwealth Government to address the lack of adequate knowledge of the flora and fauna of Australia. The aim of the Australian Biological Resources Study is to provide the underlying taxonomic knowledge necessary for the conservation and sustainable use of Australia's biodiversity.
  • Victoria has nearly completed mapping several hundred ecological vegetation classes at 1:100 000 across the State and 1:25 000 in natural landscapes (parks and reserves), allowing close integration with planning and management activities.
  • New South Wales has funded taxonomic research through the State's Biodiversity Strategy.

See 1.1.2 for further relevant activity.

1.1.2 Identify threatening processes

Assessment: Partially achieved

At the national and state levels, legislative processes have been put in place that allow factors which threaten biodiversity to be identified, and some of the key threatening processes have been listed. It is important to identify the extent of potential threats in order to allow early intervention: for instance, groundwater abstraction and mine dewatering are being increasingly identified as processes threatening to ecosystems. This issue is discussed further in Chapter 3: Managing Threatening Processes.

Activities
  • The National Reserve System Program and the Western Australian Government have funded the updating of vegetation mapping in Western Australia and a series of regional biological surveys, for example in the Gascoyne region. A series of state-wide or regional assessments have also been funded to review the conservation status of flora and fauna, and to identify threatened ecological communities and areas of high conservation significance for possible inclusion in the National Reserve System.
  • Land clearing and salinity were identified as the two most serious threatening processes in Western Australian state of the environment reports that included a survey of wheat-belt conservation reserves. Government policy in Western Australia has effectively reduced land clearing to a few hundred hectares per year. However, this has raised issues of equity between those who have cleared and those prevented from clearing. In recognition of this the Government established a Native Vegetation Working Group to investigate mechanisms to minimise the economic burden carried by individual landholders in the protection and retention of privately owned bushland in agricultural areas.
  • The Regional Forest Agreement process has made a quantum gain in the inventory of a range of biodiversity values in regions covered by the agreements, which include a substantial proportion of south-eastern Australia, south-western Tasmania and south-western Western Australia. The Regional Forest Agreement process included region-wide forest ecosystem mapping, old growth forest mapping, identifying important habitats for rare and threatened flora and fauna, and identifying key threatening processes.
  • The Cape York Peninsula Land Use Strategy (Cape York Regional Advisory Group 1997), a joint initiative between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments, is developing, implementing and evaluating a coordinated strategy for sustainable land use and economic and social development on Cape York Peninsula.
  • The State of the Environment reporting system was developed to report on the state of Australia's biodiversity and evaluate how Australia is managing its environment. Reports are undertaken every five years in consultation with States and Territories, with the next report due in December 2001. The report will provide an indication of the condition of Australia's biodiversity and will identify areas that require additional research. It will draw on a range of sources including remotely sensed imagery held by State and Territory land management agencies, the natural vegetation map from the Atlas of Australian Resources and data held by agencies. Most States and Territories produce their own State of the Environment reports, and in New South Wales, local councils are also required to prepare reports annually. Biodiversity is one of the key themes covered in these reports.
  • The National Land and Water Resources Audit, a Natural Heritage Trust program with funding of $44.4 million over six years, will collate and present Australia-wide data on a range of environmental themes including vegetation. The information system will be able to produce a wide range of reports on, for example, forests, greenhouse, nature conservation and vegetation management.
  • The National Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Australia's Native Vegetation puts in place accounting protocols developed in 1999 with State and Territory Governments to monitor the quality and extent of Australia's native vegetation and progress towards reversing decline.
  • The Trust partnership agreements recognise the impacts of clearing on biodiversity and include key outcomes relating to preventing clearing of threatened ecosystems and habitats for threatened species.
  • The Endangered Species Protection Act 1992 and the EPBC Act require key biological components and threatening processes to be identified. Action plans and conservation overviews are progressively being prepared for this purpose. Action plans review the status of all taxa within discrete taxonomic groups where all taxa are sufficiently well known to make it possible to assess their status and to provide nationally agreed priorities for action. Where the taxa are not sufficiently well known, conservation overviews are prepared. These overviews review what is known about the conservation needs of the group and again provide nationally agreed priorities for action.
  • In the Northern Territory, flora and fauna databases were established and populated between 1993 and 2000; the herbarium database grew significantly; additional databases on coastal wildlife, feral animals and weeds in parks were established; effort was made to survey flora and fauna in poorly known areas; records in biodiversity databases increased by more than 75per cent; and two species of the rare and threatened spear-toothed shark were discovered in Kakadu. Changing fire regimes were identified as a significant threatening process and broad scale, monthly, satellite-based monitoring of bushfires was established.
  • Since 1985, flora and fauna surveys in South Australia have achieved 65 per cent coverage of the State. Within the South Australian rangelands region 85 per cent of pastoral leases have been surveyed and baselines for monitoring site condition established. A Marine and Estuarine Strategy (Marine and Estuarine Steering Committee 1998), released in 1998, has established a framework for protecting the State's marine habitats and their biodiversity by providing direction for sustainable use, improved management and conservation. A first-cut description of marine ecosystems has been completed.
  • The NSW Biodiversity Strategy identifies bioregional conservation assessment and planning as a priority action. In addition to completed regional assessments carried out through the National Reserve System Program and the Regional Forest Agreement process, a range of bioregional conservation assessment programs are being carried out in New South Wales. These include bioregional conservation assessments for the Darling Riverine Plains, for a series of bioregions in western New South Wales through the Western Regional Assessment, and for four marine bioregions (Twofold Shelf, Manning Shelf, Hawkesbury and Batemans Bay). These assessments are still under way.
  • The publication Conservation Status of Queensland's Bioregional Ecosystems (Sattler, Paul & Williams, Rebecca 1999) represents a landmark in the identification of components of biodiversity, not only for providing a comprehensive assessment of Queensland's biodiversity at the ecosystem level, but also in that it establishes a practical taxonomy for the classification and conservation management of biodiversity at the ecosystem level.
  • The Queensland Land Protection Bill is intended to be enacted in 2001. The Bill contains provision for action to be taken against an animal or plant that is not declared under the legislation if it is:
    • in an environmentally significant area;
    • adjacent to a protected area;
    • threatening native wildlife survival in the area, or
    • affecting the area's capacity to sustain natural processes.

Other relevant activities are covered in Chapter 4: Improving our Knowledge.

1.2 Bioregional planning and management

Manage biological diversity on a regional basis, using natural boundaries to facilitate the integration of conservation and production-oriented management.

Assessment: Partially achieved

The Strategy sets the overall directions for a bioregional planning approach through its broad goal of protecting biological diversity and maintaining ecological processes and systems, by encouraging identification of bioregional planning units and the adoption of bioregional plans.

There has been an increase in the awareness of biodiversity issues at planning and development stages combined with significant investment in regional planning and integrated regional projects through the Trust and other initiatives (see examples under activities). New South Wales has regional planning processes embedded in its regional vegetation management and water management planning processes. Victoria has structured its biodiversity strategy along regional lines and South Australia has put in place regional biodiversity plans.

To underpin bioregional planning, biodiversity and other planning, data needs to be able to be retrieved on a regional, catchment and local area basis. However, though bioregional planning was an initiative that pre-existed this Strategy, it has not been taken up at the level of local government.

Activities
  • Identification of biogeographical regions is well advanced Australia-wide through the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA) and The Interim Marine and Coastal Regionalisation for Australia (IMCRA) processes. IBRA was published in March 1995 and has become well established as a land-planning framework. IMCRA, which addresses marine and coastal areas, was published in June 1998. IBRA and IMCRA provide a sound framework for conservation planning and the protection of biodiversity. Conservation assessments for a series of IBRA regions, e.g. the New South Wales Riverina and the Cobar Peneplain, have been funded under the National Reserve System Program to help determine priorities for protection. The National Reserve System Program has also funded additional studies for the refinement of IBRA regions and is currently working with the States to finalise revised boundaries in some areas.
  • The Biodiversity Plan for the South East of South Australia (South Australian Department for Environment, Heritage and Aboriginal Affairs 1999) is the first regional biodiversity plan to be produced in South Australia and has been developed as a model to provide a regional strategy for promoting conservation, restoration and management of the region's biodiversity in the long term. As major dryland salinity and groundwater issues equally threaten biodiversity and agricultural production, the region posed a challenge to develop a comprehensive and meaningful conservation strategy that could be integrated with land management and agricultural goals. Draft plans were prepared for the Murray-Darling Basin in South Australia, Kangaroo Island, northern agricultural districts and Eyre Peninsula.
  • The Urban Forest Biodiversity Program is a community-based program facilitating conservation and restoration of biodiversity within the metropolitan area of Adelaide. A Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative Reserve System Strategy for South Australia is providing a framework for assessing the quality of the current reserve system, developing a method to identify gaps in the reserve system, prioritising land for acquisition to fill gaps in the reserve system, and investigating the biodiversity values of land for protected area management or integrated biodiversity management outside the formal reserve system.
  • Under the EPBC Act, the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment and Heritage may prepare a bioregional plan for a Commonwealth area. Subject to the Act, the Minister must have regard to a bioregional plan in making any decisions under the Act to which the plan is relevant. This will be likely to raise the profile of bioregional planning as a way of dealing with ecological concerns.
  • The National Local Government Biodiversity Strategy promotes regional partnerships and planning across local government. The strategy recognises that biodiversity management is fundamentally about building regional partnerships.
  • Victoria's Biodiversity, the Victorian State biodiversity strategy, is based on bioregions developed from and integrated with IBRA and IMCRA. These bioregions have been used when evaluating status and actions for threatened species and communities.
  • The Soil and Land Conservation Council, established by the Western Australian Government, is playing an integral role in coordinating the development of regional strategies. Furthermore, the Western Australian Natural Resource Management Framework was endorsed in December 1999 to assist in achieving sustainable natural resource management. The chairs of five key regional natural resource management groups in the agricultural region and four government agencies with natural resource management responsibilities jointly developed the framework. In addition, the Western Australian Landcare Trust provides a mechanism by which the community and corporate sector can invest in natural resource management.
  • The IBRA framework has become widely accepted as the analysis and reporting framework for conservation planning within the States and as the reporting framework for a range of Commonwealth projects such as Australian Greenhouse Office projects, State of the Environment reporting and activities of the National Land and Water Resources Audit.
  • In the Northern Territory from 1993 to 2000 biogeographic regions were established and agreed nationally; preliminary marine biogeographic regions were established; three bioregional conservation planning exercises were begun for Daly Basin, Sturt Plateau and Finke; two major catchment conservation planning exercises were initiated for Mary River and Arafura Swamp; and a major habitat conservation planning exercise was initiated for cracking clay systems.
  • In New South Wales, the information obtained from bioregional conservation assessment programs will be used in a range of regional planning processes. For example, the Native Vegetation Conservation Act 1997 establishes regional vegetation management committees, which develop regional vegetation management plans. A group of councils in the Lower Hunter and Central Coast are developing a Regional Environmental Management Strategy and a Regional Biodiversity Conservation Strategy. The marine bioregional assessment will provide an information base for establishment of a comprehensive, adequate and representative system of marine protected areas covering all marine bioregions in New South Wales.
  • The discussion paper Managing Natural Resources in Rural Australia for a Sustainable Future (Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Australia 1999), which was released for public comment in December 1999, concluded that regional approaches provide a means of considering environmental, social and economic problems in an integrated way. The paper discussed ways of promoting synergies between production and the environment and proposed that appropriate institutional arrangements for decision making at the regional level be established. Possible actions for investing strategically at the regional scale were also discussed, including the following proposals:
    • regional bodies should be encouraged and supported by governments to develop and implement innovative mixes of activities and incentives tailored to each region's social, economic and environmental circumstances;
    • to achieve long-term improvements in natural resource management greater emphasis should be placed on investing in larger scale regional projects in strategically important areas;
    • regions should seek support for implementing regional strategies from many different sources, among them landholders, community and industry groups, philanthropists, and government; and
    • partnership agreements should set clear outcomes, targets and milestones, which would be reported on an agreed regular basis to investors and stakeholders. Public comments on the paper indicated strong support for regional approaches to natural resource management. Governments are currently considering the proposals in the discussion paper and the comments received.
  • Queensland has commenced stage one of a State Biodiversity Conservation and Natural Resource Management Statement, with a situation statement providing an analysis of key issues, an information base collated by regions/catchments, and a better understanding of current investment in this area. Regional pest management planning has been initiated in Queensland. This is particularly pertinent in the case of weeds, which largely spread within catchments. Further details can be found in Weed Management Planning – The Queensland Approach (Wilson, Lazzarini and Cummings 1999), a paper presented at the 12th Australian Weeds Conference, Hobart, 1999.

1.3 Management for conservation

Improve the standards of management and protection of Australia's biological diversity by encouraging the implementation of integrated management techniques.

Assessment: Achieved

The Strategy emphasises the need to integrate biodiversity conservation with other natural resource objectives in managing land and marine areas. Integrated management has been actively encouraged by Commonwealth, State, Territory, regional and local government agencies.

A range of processes and programs, such as the National Weeds Strategy (ANZECC, ARMCANZ 1997), have incorporated integrated management principles. Ongoing effort is required to ensure that integrated management techniques are implemented and adapted to maintain best practice (see discussion under objectives 1.2 and 2.1 to 2.7).

Activities
  • Shifting the emphasis to targeted regional initiatives and streamlining the Natural Heritage Trust (i.e. supporting more integrated approaches to natural resource management) will strengthen investment in ecologically sustainable management of land, water, and marine resources and environments.
  • Regional marine planning is a central aspect of Australia's Oceans Policy. Regional plans, based on large marine ecosystems, will be binding on all Commonwealth agencies. The regional marine plan for the south-eastern region of Australia's exclusive economic zone is currently being prepared.
  • The National Weeds Strategy was endorsed by ARMCANZ, ANZECC and forestry Ministers in 1997. The Strategy sets in place an integrated, coordinated national approach involving all levels of government in establishing appropriate legislation, educational and coordination frameworks in partnership with industry, landholders and the community to reduce the detrimental impact of weeds on Australia's productive capacity and natural ecosystems.
  • The Murray-Darling 2001 Program aims to ensure progress towards rehabilitation of natural resources inside the Murray-Darling Basin to achieve a sustainable future for the Basin. The key element of this approach is the delivery of all natural resource management activities through an integrated catchment management framework, consistent with the agreed priorities of the Basin Sustainability Program of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission.
  • In the Northern Territory from 1993 to 2000, collaborative management arrangements were established with the Department of Defence for fire and biodiversity management in the Bradshaw Field Training Area; collaborative fire management and monitoring was implemented with Environment Australia and traditional owners of Kakadu, Litchfield, Nitmiluk and Gregory National Parks and in western Arnhem Land; development of a strategy was initiated for the conservation of marine biodiversity in the Northern Territory; a cooperative program was established with Western Australia for conservation of the Mala; and the Mary River Integrated Catchment Plan was developed and implemented.
  • In 1996, Victoria combined the Departments of Agriculture, Minerals and Petroleum, and Conservation and Natural Resources to form the Department of Natural Resources and Environment. For the first time, all Victorian State Government departments with natural resource management roles are in the one corporate structure and reporting to the one Secretary. In 2000, biodiversity conservation became one of the three key outcomes for the Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
  • South Australia is developing a process to promote and facilitate integrated and sustainable management of natural resources on a regional basis through the establishment of regional natural resource management committees. A regional network of Natural Heritage Trust facilitators, Bush Management Advisers and regional ecologists was established to assist the community with integrated natural resource management projects and to provide information and advice on management.
  • New South Wales is proposing additional wetlands for listing under the Ramsar Convention and is preparing management plans for listed wetlands which fit within the existing regional and catchment-based natural resource management-planning framework. Collaborative management arrangements have also been established to implement the plans and ensure that the ecological integrity of these wetlands is maintained and protected. New South Wales programs referred to under Objective 1.5 should also be noted.
  • A Draft Queensland Pest Animals Strategy and a Draft Queensland Weeds Strategy have just been released for public comment. A desired outcome of the Draft Queensland Pest Animals Strategy is: 'Integrated systems for managing the impacts of pest animals are developed and widely implementedÓ. A strategic action within the Draft Queensland Weeds Strategy is: ÒDevelop integrated management systems for different suites of weeds across land uses, natural ecosystems and climatic zones.'
  • The briefing paper Philanthropy Sustaining the Land (unpublished Binning, Carl & Young, Mike 1999) sets out ways that the private sector can contribute to biodiversity conservation by rehabilitating, managing and conserving remnant vegetation. It makes the case for providing taxation incentives for contributions and the establishment of private land conservation trusts.
  • In Queensland, land use planning processes and management to encompass the protection of biodiversity in State forests should be given recognition. See the explanation of Queensland's enhanced forest planning process under Objective 2.4.

1.4 Protected areas

Establish and manage a comprehensive, adequate and representative system of protected areas covering Australia's biological diversity.

Assessment: Partially achieved

A comprehensive, adequate and representative system of protected areas covering Australia's biological diversity is being established. Significant progress has been made through Commonwealth, State and Territory programs, including Trust programs, often in cooperation. Further work is required to include marine, freshwater and grassland ecosystems which are currently under-represented.

Problems may occur with reserve design where representative samples of major ecosystems are small and fragmented. Land-use/management issues and availability of land for purchase could also hinder achievement of this objective. It is highly unlikely that this objective could ever be achieved on public land alone. A nationwide system will need to include private and indigenous-owned land and this is being addressed through the National Reserve System Program and the Indigenous Protected Areas Program.

Activities
  • The National Reserve System Program was established in 1996 as one of the five capital programs of the Natural Heritage Trust. The objectives of the program are to establish and manage new ecologically significant protected areas for addition to Australia's terrestrial National Reserve System; to provide incentives for indigenous people to participate in the reserve system; to provide incentives for landholders (both private landholders and leaseholders) to strategically enhance the reserve system; and to develop and implement best practice standards for the management of Australia's reserve system. As at 30 September 2000, a total of 4.1 million hectares had been purchased or approved for purchase under the program. Funding for the program will continue to be provided through the Trust until 2001-02. It is a requirement for funding under the program that management plans are prepared for new protected areas.
  • The Indigenous Protected Areas Program was established under the Trust for the establishment and management of protected areas on indigenous lands and the establishment of cooperative management arrangements over government-owned protected areas. Through the program 12 indigenous protected areas have been declared.
  • Funding is 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.
  • Australia's National Forest Policy Statement (Commonwealth of Australia 1992) initiated a program of regional assessments for the creation of a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system, and a value-adding and ecologically sustainable forest industry. The process has resulted in numerous additions to the National Reserve System. For example, in New South Wales 417 000 hectares have been added to reserve systems in the north coast and Eden regions, and 324 000 hectares have been committed to the reserve system in the southern region. In addition over 400 000 hectares of formal and informal reserves and 'areas reserved by prescription' have been created within the State's forest estate.
  • The New South Wales forest agreements include a number of initiatives concerning involvement of indigenous people in forest management. These include an agreement to hand back Biamanga National Park to its traditional owners and transfer certain areas to indigenous freehold, and employment of indigenous cultural heritage officers.
  • The Queensland Governments South-east Queensland State Forest Agreement will contribute 425 000 hectares to the reserve system in the first instance and an additional 500 000 hectares will be phased in over the next 25 years.
  • Approximately 53 percent of the Australian Capital Territory is reserved for conservation and comprises the Territory's nature conservation estate.
  • Victoria's Environment Conservation Council recently released for comment a draft document, Box-Ironbark Forests and Woodlands Investigation, that proposes increasing reserved land for this poorly represented vegetation type from 8.6 percent to 20.5 percent of public land. The Government will soon announce several new marine reserves in State waters, based on a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system.
  • In the Northern Territory from 1993 to 2000 the Northern Territory Parks Masterplan (Parks and Wildlife Commission Northern Territory 1997) was developed and implemented; priorities were established for enlarging the system of parks and reserves once indigenous land claims and native title are resolved; some 1.8 million hectares of land across seven biogeographic regions were designated for the conservation of biodiversity; the rate of implementation of plans of management for parks and reserves was accelerated; 75 percent of ranger positions in indigenous owned parks were held by indigenous people; and all parks and reserves were classified according to IUCN1 classifications.
  • By November 1997, South Australia had 312 reserves covering 21 056 109 hectares or 21.4 percent of the State. Approximately half of this area is within single purpose dedicated reserves and the remaining area is contained within multiple use regional reserves, which allow for a range of different land uses consistent with (IUCN category 62). South Australia has two indigenous protected areas (IPA's) (Nantawarrina and Yalata) and others are under consideration. The total current area covered by IPAs in South Australia is 5000 km2.
  • There are 27 marine protected areas covering 270 900 hectares of State waters and another 94 terrestrial reserves established under the National Parks and Wildlife Act covering 210 000 hectares, including some off-shore islands.
  • In Queensland, land use planning processes and management to encompass the protection of biodiversity in State forests should be given recognition. See the explanation of Queensland's enhanced forest planning process under Objective 2.4.

1.5 Conservation outside protected areas

Strengthen off-reserve conservation of biological diversity.

Assessment: Partially achieved

Off-reserve conservation of biological diversity has been significantly strengthened since the release of the Strategy. Ongoing effort is required to ensure biodiversity conservation is taken into account in land use and marine area planning and management. Land clearing, and its impact on vegetation levels, have reduced the impact of off-reserve conservation activities.

The conservation of biodiversity outside reserves is a key objective of the Natural Heritage Trust. It is also being achieved through voluntary conservation agreements and other initiatives in the States.

Activities

The Commonwealth Government has made a significant investment to pursue conservation of biodiversity outside reserves through the Bushcare and Landcare programs. Bushcare projects are expected to protect a total of 1.2 million hectares of land outside protected areas by the end of 2001-02. Much of this land will be under management agreements or conservation covenants.

  • The emphasis of Bushcare is on direct support for on-ground vegetation management. In addition Bushcare also invests in high priority elements of regional strategies. The 'devolved grant' projects allow regional organisations to directly manage the funding of regional/local level actions.
  • The Bushcare program is promoting new incentive mechanisms for conservation management on private land including philanthropy, revolving funds and local government rate incentive schemes. Such measures could significantly improve the levels of protection for biodiversity values, particularly in highly fragmented landscapes. See also section on Bushcare in Introduction under Changing Landscapes for Biological Diversity Conservation in Australia.
  • The 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 Trust for Nature (Victoria) protects native habitat on private land throughout Victoria by voluntary conservation convenants registered on the land title. The convenants are provided for under the Victorian Conservation Act 1972 and exist in perpetuity. A total of 330 convenants protecting 13 330 hectares currently apply. (Nature Conservation on Private Land, University of Melbourne, Milkins, J. 1997).
  • Institutional reform is being proposed through the ANZECC National Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Australia's Native Vegetation (1999) to achieve off-reserve conservation.
  • Regional Forest Agreements establish a transparent and coordinated program for ecologically sustainable forest management, monitoring and reporting. The commitments contained in these agreements will be implemented through statutory management plans. In response to the National Forest Policy Statement (1999), most States and Territories have now developed codes of forest practices, which have an important role in protecting biodiversity.
  • In New South Wale's regulatory controls for forest management activities are contained in Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals. The approvals contain general forest management provisions such as cultural heritage protection, pest and noxious weed control and fuel management. They also contain individual licences for the protection of threatened species and their habitats, and for the conservation of soil and water resources. Queensland has in place measures to protect from disturbance specific forest areas, e.g. scientific areas, feature protection areas, rainforest, and habitat for the marbled frogmouth in the Conondale Ranges.
  • The ANZECC Working Group on Conservation on Private Land targets research and policy development in off-reserve conservation.
  • A financial assistance scheme for off-reserve conservation of biodiversity has been introduced in the Australian Capital Territory. The Rural Conservation Fund will help offset some of the costs of protecting and managing nature conservation assets on leased rural land. The Rural Conservation Fund complements other incentive schemes for protection and enhancement of those elements of the biodiversity of the Territory that lie outside protected areas.
  • Queensland provided for controls over vegetation clearing with the Land Act 1962, which contained 'nature conservation' (the terminology of the time) as a criterion against which applications to clear on leasehold land would be judged. Increased emphasis on the protection of biodiversity was achieved in more recent legislation (Land Act 1994), and largely implemented by 1996. The Water Resources Act 1989 imposes controls over the clearing of watercourse beds and banks and in the vicinity of reservoirs. The Vegetation Management Act 1999, which limits clearing on freehold and leasehold tenures, was proclaimed in September 2000. This Act amends the Integrated Planning Act 1997 to make clearing on freehold land a form of assessable development for which approval is required. It also amends the Land Act to enable consistency in the approval process for clearing vegetation on freehold and leasehold land. In addition to legislative measures to protect biodiversity, the Queensland Department of Natural Resources reserves particular areas of forest from disturbance on the basis of biological diversity, e.g. some scientific areas and feature protection areas, rainforest and prime habitat for the marbled frogmouth in the Conandale Ranges. Although these measures predate the Strategy they are components of a significant contribution to the protection of biodiversity in Queensland.
  • In Queensland, land use planning processes and management to encompass the protection of biodiversity in State forests should be given recognition. See the explanation of Queensland's enhanced forest planning process under Objective 2.4.
  • The Victorian Land for Wildlife program encourages private landholders to become active participants in conservation activities on their own land. The number of properties involved in this program recently passed 5000 in Victoria, protecting 150 000 hectares of significant vegetation. The program has been exported to several other States.
  • Victoria is systematically completing roadside management plans, providing ecologically based management regimes for significant remnants on linear reserves.
  • In the Northern Territory from 1993 to 2000 A Strategy for Conservation through the Sustainable Use of Wildlife in the Northern Territory of Australia (1997) was developed and implemented as a means of providing incentives to landholders to conserve natural habitat; a cooperative management agreement and program was established with traditional owners of the Purta Aboriginal Land Trust for conservation of their land; a cooperative management arrangement was established with a pastoral lessee for management of an area of land for the Gouldian finch; a memorandum of understanding for biodiversity management was established with the Department of Defence for parts of the Bradshaw Field Training Area; a strategy for conservation on pastoral lands in central Australia was in preparation; and a mangrove management plan was initiated for the Territory.
  • In South Australia, approximately 1100 heritage agreements protect native vegetation on private land covering around 550 000 hectares. Assistance for fencing and the management of these areas is provided through a grant scheme.
  • A range of protection mechanisms are currently operating within New South Wales. State-based incentive schemes include voluntary conservation agreements which place management requirements on current and future landholders to manage for conservation in perpetuity; the Land for Wildlife program which provides a property registration scheme and a network of landholders who are managing for conservation; and incentives to conservation through financial and non-financial support for landholders and through rate exemptions. New South Wales has been successful in attracting Bushcare funding to establish a revolving fund. An independent conservation trust is being established to manage the revolving fund.
  • In New South Wales, wetlands across a range of land tenures including private land holdings have been listed under the Ramsar Convention. The New South Wales Native Vegetation Act 1998 provides for the control of clearing; the preparation of regional vegetation management plans as the principal instrument for vegetation management; and the preparation of a Native Vegetation Conservation Strategy. New South Wales has also increased its commitment to monitor and map vegetation to support the management and planning processes.
  • In Western Australia, Land for Wildlife commenced in 1997 and has attracted well over 500 landholder applications. The Remnant Vegetation Protection Program has been operating since 1988 and has protected 67 187 hectares. The State Revegetation Program is a six-year program concluding in 2000-01 and has funded 1263 kilometres of fencing, 310 kilograms of seed and over 2 million seedlings. In addition, the Regional Enterprise Scheme was initiated to stimulate regional enterprises that would address barriers to achieving wide-scale adoption of perennial vegetation on farms. This three-year scheme provided $506 500 in funding for nine projects. The Gascoyne-Murchison Strategy aims to incorporate off-reserve conservation action on pastoral leases. In addition, a revolving fund is being developed as a partnership between private groups and government agencies.

1.6 Wildlife conservation

Ensure the maintenance of, and where necessary strengthen, existing arrangements to conserve Australia's native wildlife.

Assessment: Achieved, ongoing effort required3

A range of measures are in place to conserve Australia's native wildlife (see activities). The EPBC Act will enhance these mechanisms. Wildlife conservation requires ongoing action, for example, listing threatened species and key threatening processes and implementing recovery plans and threat abatement plans.

Activities
  • Legislation and policy measures are now in place in the Commonwealth and all States and Territories to conserve Australia's native wildlife.
  • The EPBC Act recognises that nationally threatened species and ecological communities are matters of national environmental significance. Under the Act, the Commonwealth's contribution to the protection of nationally threatened species and ecological communities will be enhanced.
  • The Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1982 is currently being reviewed with the aim of improving ecologically sustainable wildlife management practices.
  • Environment Australia has completed a threat abatement plan for the incidental catch (bycatch) of seabirds during oceanic longline fishing operations with the aim of reducing seabird bycatch in all Australian fishing areas, seasons or fisheries by up to 90 per cent. Environment Australia has also completed a draft Recovery Plan for Albatrosses and Giant Petrels to minimise threats due to human activity to albatrosses and giant petrels to ensure their recovery in the wild.
  • In the Northern Territory from 1993 to 2000 a survey was completed of all Northern Territory coastal areas for marine turtle nesting areas, sea bird colonies and roosting and feeding sites of migratory waders; all international exports of crocodile products were in accordance with the Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1982; and the now 15-year-long monitoring program was continued for dugong in Northern Territory waters.
  • The New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and Fisheries Management Act 1994 establish processes for the identification and listing of threatened species and key threatening processes in New South Wales, as well as the preparation of recovery plans and threat abatement plans also see activities under Objective 1.7 on conservation of threatened biological diversity.
  • The Queensland Rural Lands Protection Board (an advisory body of the Minister for Environment and Heritage and Natural Resources) has recommended that feral pigs be added to the existing list of four threatening processes on the grounds of predation, habitat loss and competition.
  • The Australian Weeds Committee is developing national incursion management plans for incursions of new weeds into Australia.

1.7 Threatened biological diversity

Enable Australia's species and ecological communities threatened with extinction to survive and thrive in their natural habitats and to retain their genetic diversity and potential for evolutionary development, and prevent additional species and ecological communities becoming threatened.

Assessment: Partially achieved, ongoing effort required

There has been a major effort to better protect Australia's threatened species and ecological communities through a range of programs and strategic, regulatory and legislative measures, together with increased cooperative efforts between all levels of government and the wider community. Although many habitats have not yet been comprehensively surveyed to clarify whether nationally threatened species and ecological communities are present or not, for instance with groundwater ecosystems, our knowledge of the occurrence and needs of nationally threatened taxa and ecological communities has rapidly expanded.

Whilst considerable progress has been made in addressing the threat posed by some threatening processes such as invasive species and by certain fishing practices, the nature and extent of impact of many threats remain uncertain. The cumulative impact of widespread ongoing land clearing and habitat degradation, together with other threats such as inappropriate water and fire management practices, salinity and disease, have led to the extinction of some species and continue to threaten many other species and ecological communities with the same fate. The protection of threatened species and communities will continue to be an ongoing task requiring a long-term commitment by all levels of government and the wider community.

Activities
  • The major actions under the Strategy are being addressed at the Commonwealth level by Environment Australia's Endangered Species Program. The program was established in 1989, with the aims of preventing further extinctions of Australian flora and fauna, and restoring endangered species and ecological communities to a secure status in the wild.
  • The program supports the Threatened Species Network, Threatened Bird Network, Frognet and the Australian Network for Plant Conservation. The Threatened Species Network facilitates information exchange within and between States and Territories and cooperation between government and community organisations and individuals, and administers the Threatened Species Network Community Grants program for the Endangered Species Program.
  • Conservation of Australian Species and Communities Threatened with Extinction – a National Strategy was adopted by ANZECC in 1998. The objectives of the strategy are:
    • to identify the additional measures needed to ensure the survival of endangered and vulnerable Australian plants, animals and ecological communities;
    • to define overall aims and objectives for a program to save Australia's endangered and vulnerable species and ecological communities; and
    • to outline the steps required to achieve the strategy's objectives, including the scope for Commonwealth action under its Endangered Species Program.
  • The Commonwealth Endangered Species Protection Act 1992 was replaced by the EPBC Act in July 2000. See the Introduction 'Changing Landscapes for Biodiversity Conservation in Australia', Objective 1.12 'Identify threatening processes', Objective 3.2 'Clearing of native vegetation' and Objective 3.8 'Environmental Assessment'.
  • Various States and Territories 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 and State Roles and Responsibilities for the Environment. For example, the Australian Capital Territory Nature Conservation Act 1980 establishes a formal process for the identification and declaration of threatened species and ecological communities. A conservation action plan must be prepared as a management response to each declaration. There are 14 species and communities declared endangered under Australian Capital Territory legislation and ten species declared vulnerable. Action plans have been prepared and are being implemented for all declared species and communities.
  • Under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988, Victoria has listed over 350 threatened species and communities and threatening processes. Action statements, detailing on-ground management actions and obligations for all government agencies, have been prepared for over 100 species, communities and processes.
  • The Regional Forest Agreement process addressed the status of threatened flora and fauna in Australia's forest regions and included specific provisions for the protection of rare and threatened species and forest ecosystems.
  • In the Northern Territory there appears to have been a significant decline in the range/abundances of some species of small mammal and the status of one ecological community.
  • The decline in small mammals is particularly noted for Conilurus pennicillatus, but may be occurring for other species, e.g. Dasyurus hallucatus and Rattus tunneyi.
  • The sandstone heaths of the Arnhem Land escarpment are in decline because of frequent, hot wildfires in the late dry season.
  • Petrogale lateralis is continuing to disappear at the periphery of its range.
  • There has been an improvement however in the Northern Territory in the abundance of Ptychosperma bleeseri, Acacia peuce, centralian rock-rat and mala (in in situ enclosures). Nine programs have been established (for the golden bandicoot, centralian Rock-rat, carpentarian rock-rat, flat-headed frog, ghost bat, bilby, mala, golden-backed tree-rat and banteng). Also the Northern Territory has:
    • implemented A Strategy for the Conservation of Species and Ecological Communities Threatened with Extinction in the Northern Territory of Australia (1998);
    • implemented management programs for bilbies and Ptychosperma bleeseri; and
    • undertaken research and planning for management programs for the following threatened species: carpentarian rock-rat, centralian rock-rat, mala, Gouldian finch, Acacia undoolyana, lilac-crowned wren, marine turtles, dugong.
  • The New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 establish a process for the identification and listing of threatened species and key threatening processes in New South Wales. A parallel, almost identical, scheme is in place for fish and marine vegetation following 1997 amendments to the Fisheries Management Act 1994 which is administered by NSW Fisheries. A recovery plan is required for each species listed as 'endangered' or 'vulnerable' under these Acts. The aim of a recovery plan is to evaluate key threats to the species and to recommend measures to counteract these threats.

    Since the inception of the Threatened Species Conservation Act, the Minister for the Environment has approved seven recovery plans. Eleven recovery plans have been completed to final draft stage and either are currently on draft public exhibition, or are undergoing alterations following draft public exhibition. An additional 30 recovery plans have been drafted and 107 are in preparation.

    Under the Fisheries Management Act, five species have been listed as 'endangered' and six as 'vulnerable'. One draft recovery plan has been publicly exhibited and two are in preparation. A threat abatement plan is required for each key threatening process listed under the two Acts. New South Wales has listed six threatening processes and has commenced preparation of threat abatement plans for fox predation, Gambusia predation and bitou bush. The Threatened Species Conservation Act, Fisheries Management Act and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 require that a species impact statement be prepared for any development that is likely to significantly affect threatened species, populations and ecological communities. The concurrence of the Director-General of National Parks and Wildlife Service or the Director of Fisheries (as appropriate) must be obtained before consent can be granted.
  • In Western Australia the Western Shield program to control feral predators and recover threatened fauna has resulted in the removal in recent years of three species (the woylie, quenda and tammar) from statutory threatened fauna lists as a consequence of successful fox control.
  • The South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 lists endangered, vulnerable and rare species of flora and fauna and provides for a regular review of their conservation status. Recovery plans/programs are being developed and implemented for a number of species.

Other relevant activities are covered in Chapter 3: Managing Threatening Processes.

1.8 Biological diversity and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Recognise and ensure the continuity of the contribution of the ethnobiological knowledge of Australia's indigenous peoples to the conservation of Australia's biological diversity.

Assessment: Not achieved

There has been some 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.

There is still a need to ensure that ethnobiological knowledge is preserved within indigenous communities. To date cooperative ethnobiological programs are limited and do not appear well-coordinated Australia-wide. Concerns have been raised about the lack of protection that would be given to indigenous people's intellectual property rights were they to offer information. There is a need to respect indigenous people's knowledge as an expression of a way of life and cultural identity as well as a tool for biodiversity conservation.

Activities
  • The Commonwealth has recently approved a project that aims to ensure the continuity of ethnobiological knowledge of Australia's indigenous people and conservation of Australia's biological diversity. The project will record and facilitate the transmission of indigenous knowledge of biodiversity from older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to younger generations in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area of Queensland and in the Nantawarrina Indigenous Protected Area in the northern Flinders Ranges of South Australia. The project would also involve the preparation of an inventory of the knowledge held by the indigenous communities.
  • Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Kakadu national parks in the Northern Territory and Booderee National Park in New South Wales, are on land leased to the Commonwealth Government by the traditional indigenous owners to be managed cooperatively as national parks. In these parks, indigenous culture is a primary management consideration and the benefits to all of cooperative management are recognised.
  • The Indigenous Protected Areas Program was established to support and expand indigenous involvement in the control and management of Australia's protected area estate through support for establishment and management of protected areas in indigenous estates; and support for cooperative management of national parks, protected areas and other areas of significance to indigenous people.
  • The Marine Protected Areas Program continues the work of the Ocean Rescue 2000 Program in conserving and managing Australia's marine environment. Indigenous projects funded under this program have included a Northern Land Council project in the Arafura Sea and another in the Torres Strait.
  • An Indigenous Advisory Committee has been established under the EPBC Act to advise the Minister for the Environment and Heritage on the operation of the Act, taking into account indigenous people's knowledge of land management and the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. The Biological Diversity Advisory Committee to be established under the EPBC Act will include an indigenous representative.
  • In the Northern Territory from 1993 to 2000 the ethnobiology of 11 Aboriginal language groups and an Indonesian group were researched and published in collaboration with the traditional owners of the knowledge; traditional plant knowledge was promoted through the production of posters, identikits, larger thematic books and plant use walks; seven posters on plant use themes were produced; four identikits relating to bush tucker and medicine were produced; projects were initiated with 15 language groups; and a database was developed to store ethnobiological data. Cooperative management of six parks and protected areas involved employing a majority of indigenous staff. Training camps involving traditional owners were used to share traditional and scientific knowledge. Indigenous knowledge and views were incorporated in a bioregional assessment of the Daly Basin, Arafura Swamp and Sturt Plateau.
  • In South Australia, the Sustainable Resource Management Strategy for Aboriginal Managed Lands in South Australia (Strategy for Aboriginal Managed Lands in South Australia Project Steering Committee, 2000) was prepared with Natural Heritage Trust funding to promote the sustainable management of Aboriginal freehold and leasehold lands and to support the priorities of Aboriginal people for the sound management of land, vegetation and water resources.
  • South Australia started a biological survey of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands (AP Lands) in 1991. This survey has been a joint effort between departmental biologists and traditional Aboriginal owners, along with representatives of AP Land management. South Australia has also conducted biological surveys on other lands with Aboriginal interest and/or ownership including areas in the flinders Ranges (e.g. Nepabunna, Mount Searle), and portions of the State's Stony Deserts.
  • The Victorian Department of Natural Resources and Environment has been working in conjunction with the Victorian Aboriginal Languages Corporation to compile a vocabulary of Aboriginal words relevant to biodiversity. Many of these are also related to place names. Various sources were searched, including old records lodged in the archives of the Department. Over 3000 words across most groups and bioregions were found. This new and more publicly accessible information represents a major contribution to the ethnobiology of Victoria.
  • The New South Wales forest agreements include a number of initiatives concerning indigenous involvement in forest management. These include an agreement to hand back Biamanga National Park to its traditional owners and transfer certain areas to indigenous freehold; employment of indigenous cultural heritage officers within State Forests NSW and the National Parks and Wildlife Service; and a commitment to prepare a joint strategy between the National Parks and Wildlife Service and State Forests NSW to support indigenous involvement in forest management at the regional level.
  • Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service regularly liaises with indigenous people in relation to the traditional use of native wildlife, principally for the hunting of marine species such as turtles and dugong.
  • In New South Wales, the introduction of the National Parks and Wildlife (Aboriginal Ownership) Amendment Act 1996 has enabled Aboriginal ownership of culturally significant lands within the protected area system. The National Parks and Wildlife Service and a board of management, which has a majority of indigenous representatives, then lease the lands back for management. Mutawintji National Park, Mutawintji Historic Site and Mutawintji Nature Reserve, in far-west New South Wales, are the first lands to be returned to their traditional owners under this legislation and more are being considered. Aboriginal communities are involved in the New South Wales native vegetation management and water reform processes through representation on the native vegetation management committees and river management committees. Aboriginal people are involved in developing the plan of management for Peery National Park and the management of 11 Aboriginal-owned areas in New South Wales.
  • In September 2000 the report of the Inquiry into Access to Australia's Biological Resources in Commonwealth Areas was released. The inquiry was the major consultative mechanism on access issues under the Access Work Program of Biotechnology Australia. The inquiry advised on a scheme that will be implemented through regulations under section 301 of the EPBC Act to provide for the control of access to biological resources in Commonwealth areas. The report is located on the internet at: http://chm.environment.gov.au/documents/inquiry.doc

1.9 Ex-situ conservation

To complement in-situ measures, establish and maintain facilities for ex-situ research into and conservation of plants, animals and micro-organisms, particularly those identified by action taken in accordance with Objective 1.1.

Assessment: Achieved

Australia has established and is maintaining a wide range of measures and facilities for ex-situ conservation through Commonwealth, State and Territory agencies, tertiary institutions and scientific organisations. Ex-situ conservation facilities include zoos, aquaria, botanic gardens, seed banks and collections of tissue cultures and micro-organisms. The current measures are sufficient to meet the objective of complementing in-situ measures for the conservation of plants, animals and micro-organisms. However, they may not be sufficient to protect against unpredictable events that may threaten specific species or rare genotypes. Ongoing effort is required to maintain Australia's ex-situ collections, both in terms of maintaining living specimens and also the information held about the items in the collections.

Activities
  • The Australian Network for Plant Conservation, a network of organisations and individuals involved in plant conservation funded through Environment Australia's Endangered Species Program, has established the National Endangered Flora Collection to provide information on endangered plants being grown by members. The collection is used for recovery projects, research, education, display and general horticulture. The network provides guidance and practical training for ex-situ conservation of plants.
  • The Council of Heads of Australian Botanic Gardens consists of the directors of the major national and State botanic gardens in Australia. The purposes of the council are, inter alia, to foster the study and cultivation of plants and to act as an advocate for botany, horticulture and plant conservation. The council is strongly committed to the International Agenda for Botanic Gardens in Conservation, which includes a strong ex-situ role.
  • A State seedbank was established in 1999 at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney. A collection program has commenced to include all high priority rare and threatened species in New South Wales.
  • In the Northern Territory from 1993 to 2000 a breeding facility was established at the Territory Wildlife Park for threatened animal species; the Alice Springs Desert Park was established and includes captive breeding and propagation facilities for endangered animal and plant species; and propagation of threatened plant species commenced at the Darwin Botanic Gardens.
  • In Western Australia a Threatened Flora Seed Centre has been established to provide ex-situ preservation of threatened flora, and a range of captive breeding programs are in place to provide animals for threatened fauna reintroduction's where feral predator control is under way.

Footnotes:

1. Consistency in comparing protected areas across Australia is achieved by the allocation and use of an internationally defined set of management categories known as IUCN (international Union for the Conservation of Nature) categories.

2. Managed Resource Protected Areas: Protected Area managed mainly for the sustainable use of natural ecosystems.

3. Existing arrangements to conserve Australia's native wildlife and other institutional arrangements (referred to in this document) will need to be subject to continuous improvement.