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 2: Integrating biodiversity Conservation and Natural Resource Management

The Strategy states that the development of integrated policies for major uses of biological resources is necessary to coordinate activities within and between all levels of government.

Progress is being made in several areas on ecologically sustainable development including steps to develop integrated national sectoral-based policies. In some areas such as tourism, policies are still at the planning stages or have yet to be significantly developed.

Both the EPBC Act and the Natural Heritage Trust promote integrated management. To complement these mechanisms, institutional reform of government needs to continue to ensure integration of biodiversity conservation objectives at the Commonwealth, State, Territory and regional levels. Jurisdictions have commenced this by developing specific biodiversity strategies. Other examples include native vegetation management and water management reforms in New South Wales, which have introduced regional planning processes that incorporate biodiversity conservation principles into public and private sector decision making.

Governments must continue to review institutional structures in all jurisdictions to ensure that biodiversity objectives are being met and to pursue opportunities for injecting biodiversity protection principles into public and private sector decision making. There is a need for a fundamental shift in the way Australia does business to fully integrate biodiversity conservation. This should include accreditation, accountability, monitoring and pre-development inventories.

Key results

2.1 National integrated policies

Develop and implement national integrated policies for the ecologically sustainable use of biological resources.

Assessment: Partially achieved

While significant progress has been made in developing a set of integrated policies for the ecologically sustainable use of biological resources, ongoing effort is required to fully implement national integrated policies across all jurisdictions. State and Territory biodiversity strategies are still being developed although with current activity the strategies should be completed by the end of 2001.

Activities
  • New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory have developed biodiversity and nature conservation strategies, with New South Wales currently in the process of preparing an aquatic biodiversity strategy to complement the existing NSW Biodiversity Strategy. Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania are currently developing State biodiversity strategies. South Australia is developing a set of regional strategies and has completed one for its south-east region.
  • Australia's Oceans Policy provides a comprehensive and integrated national policy for marine areas under Commonwealth jurisdiction. The policy will provide the strategic framework for planning, management and ecologically sustainable ocean use, including fisheries, shipping, oil and gas exploration and use of other seabed resources, while conserving the biological base and maintaining the underlying ocean ecosystem process.
  • One of the Trust's objectives is to achieve complementary environmental protection (including biodiversity conservation), sustainable agriculture and natural resource management outcomes, consistent with agreed strategies.
  • A consistent and agreed framework of best practice management and monitoring measures has been developed through the ANZECC National Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Australia's Native Vegetation (1999). Workplans to implement the framework are being developed by all jurisdictions. For forests, the 1998 Ministerial Council on Fisheries, Forestry and Aquaculture (MCFFA) and ANZECC framework of regional level criteria and indicators, provides an agreed basis for monitoring.
  • The Coordinating Working Group on Vegetation aims to ensure an integrated approach to Australia's vegetation, including biodiversity aspects. The working group is a sub-group of the ANZECC Standing Committee on Conservation, the MCFFA Standing Committee on Forestry, and the ARMCANZ Standing Committee on Agriculture and Resource Management.
  • The Productivity Commission reports Review of Ecologically Sustainable Land Management and Implementation of Ecologically Sustainable Development by Commonwealth Departments and Agencies highlighted the requirement for more integrated policies. The Commonwealth Government has not yet responded to these reports.
  • In the period 1993 to 2000, all State Governments participated in the development of national indicators for fisheries.
  • In Queensland progress has been made in developing and implementing regional and catchment strategies which integrate natural resource management and biodiversity conservation objectives. Queensland's 13 Regional Strategy Groups (RSGs) and 37 Catchment Management Committees (CMCs) have made considerable progress in regional and catchment strategy development in the past year. Eight of the regional strategy groups have received interim or full endorsement from the Queensland Committee of Natural Heritage Ministers (QCNHM) and a further four groups submitted draft regional strategy documents for Landcare and Catchment Management Council (LCMC) comment.

    The Southern Gulf and Burnett-Mary groups have commenced developing strategies for their regions. The Lake Eyre Basin group has not commenced developing a regional strategy to date. However the group has produced an issues paper which has been widely distributed for community and government input. Lake Eyre is establishing three sub-regional groups based on the major catchment systems of the Thomson, Georgina and Cooper. They intend using these sub-regional structures to progress the development of strategies for the sub-regions, prior to commencing regional strategy development. This approach is supported because of its relevance to establishing and building a meaningful regional natural resource perspective for the local community. Other regions, such as the Burdekin and the Fitzroy, have found this to be effective.

    Catchment strategy development has continued at a steady pace across the State with coastal catchments in the Mackay-Whitsunday and Burdekin-Dry Tropics regions progressing towards endorsement and moving into the strategy implementation stage.Catchment strategy development has taken lower priority than regional strategy development in recent times. Twenty CMCs have received endorsement for their catchment strategies, and another ten have commenced preparing a strategy or have completed a draft document. The remaining seven CMCs are still to commence the strategy development process.

See also National Forest Policy in the Introduction, Changing Landscapes for Biodiversity Conservation in Australia and the COAG water reforms in this Section under Objective 2.5, Water.

2.2 Agriculture and pastoralism

Achieve the conservation of biological diversity through the adoption of ecologically sustainable agricultural and pastoral management practices.

Assessment: Not achieved

Ecologically sustainable agricultural and pastoral management is not being practised on the majority of properties across Australia. Agricultural and pastoral management has been improved during the Decade of Landcare with significant gains in off-reserve conservation. Dames and Moore (2000), in the Mid-term Review of the National Landcare Program, state that Òthe program has played an important role in stimulating change towards more integrated sustainable agriculture in AustraliaÓ. However, while change has been stimulated, agricultural and pastoral management have not achieved conservation of biological diversity or uniformly adopted ecologically sustainable management.

Activities
  • In May 1999 the Commonwealth, States and Territories (through ARMCANZ and ANZECC) adopted the National Principles and Guidelines for Rangelands Management. Individual States and Territories have adopted rangeland and other land management programs.
  • The Standing Committee on Agricultural Resource Management (SCARM) has considered this issue in Sustainable Agriculture: Assessing Australia's Recent Performance. The report concludes that in the vast arid and semi-arid regions, the impact of agriculture on native vegetation appears minimal. Areas in need of conservation include the semi-arid tropical and sub-tropical plans and intensively cropped areas.
  • The National Landcare Program has made a major contribution to encouraging sustainable agriculture. This has been achieved though promoting land management practices that are environmentally sustainable as well as profitable.
  • Investment has been made in incorporating biodiversity conservation in property management planning training under the National Landcare Program and in farm forestry.

    From July 2001, the Commonwealth Government will commit $167.5 million over four years for its FarmBis – Skilling Farmers for the Future program. The program will provide financial assistance for farmers to improve skills in business and natural resource (including biodiversity) management.
  • Land for Wildlife is a successful program that has engaged primary producers across Australia providing information, support and encouragement through a voluntary program. Community support has been very positive.
  • In the Northern Territory from 1993 to 2000 broadacre agriculture (cotton and sugar) underwent strategic environmental assessment to identify and implement sustainable management practices; a two-tiered monitoring system for pastoral lands was introduced in key pastoral regions; and floodplain grazing was voluntarily restricted to the dry season only in the Mary River area. The Northern Territory has participated in developing the national natural resource management policy.
  • A new rural policy package has been introduced in the Australian Capital Territory to promote a sustainable agriculture sector and secure a high level of nature conservation on leased rural lands. Areas no longer required for urban development have been mapped and lessees have been offered the security of extended lease terms. Transitional concessional arrangements are available including a discounted valuation of land-for-land rental buy out. Farmers that respond to the opportunity to take up long-term leases and move towards a sustainable form of production are required to prepare and regularly review the management of their enterprises. This will be done through land management agreements. The objective is to foster a partnership between government and farmers which results in sustainable use of the land and helps meet community expectations for protection of significant conservation assets across the landscape.
  • The Policy for Sustainable Agriculture in NSW (NSW Government 1998) was developed using a whole-of-government approach. The policy promotes a strong commitment to ecologically sustainable development in agriculture and has specific objectives relating to nature conservation on farms. Under this policy, further policies and strategies are being developed by NSW Agriculture. In New South Wales, a major focus of agricultural extension and research relates to the development and implementation of sustainable agricultural practices, which cover all aspects of agricultural production – soil, water, chemical use, grazing, organic agriculture, trees on farms, pastures, crops and livestock, and pests. NSW Agriculture has established farm forest and water use efficiency advisory units. The preparation and implementation of Ramsar management plans for listed wetlands on private land in New South Wales ensure that productive uses coexist with biodiversity conservation in line with the Ramsar Convention's wise use provisions.
  • In Queensland the Queensland Farmers Federation, Code of Practice of Agriculture and similar codes prepared by cane grower and fruit and vegetable grower organisations have addressed this issue. The concept of 'duty of care' for grazing land in Queensland is also being examined. Leaseholders are encouraged to manage natural resources, including wildlife, on their properties through the adoption of property management plans.
  • Western Australia is developing regional natural resource management partnership agreements between community groups and government to establish a cooperative framework within which to achieve sustainable agricultural management. The Gascoyne-Murchison Strategy places significant importance on property planning activities to put in place environment management systems. In addition the Land Act 1933 has been revised to include a new section on pastoral land tenures that incorporates ecologically sustainable development.

2.3 Fisheries

Achieve the conservation of biological diversity through the adoption of ecologically sustainable fisheries management practices.

Assessment: Not achieved

Progress is being made in the development of ecologically sustainable fisheries management practices. In most cases they are still in the initial stages of being adopted.

Activities

SeaNet is a service to provide the fishing industry with easy access to information and advice about environmental best practice in commercial fisheries. The Trust's Marine Species Protection and Fisheries Action programs fund SeaNet with support from the Australian Seafood Industry Council and State-based seafood industry councils. SeaNet is helping the fishing industry to minimise the catch of non-target species and encourage environmental best practice by the industry. SeaNet is delivered through a network of extension officers who work with the fishing industry.

  • The Australian Fisheries Management Authority implements its national responsibilities to progress achievement of sustainable fisheries management.
  • Australia's Oceans Policy makes a number of commitments relevant to fisheries biodiversity, in particular development of a Commonwealth policy on fisheries bycatch and a national policy on fisheries bycatch. The National Policy on Fisheries Bycatch (MCFFA 1999) was adopted by the Ministerial Council on Forestry, Fisheries and Aquaculture in 1999. The overarching objective of the policy is to ensure bycatch species and populations are maintained at sustainable levels. The policy provides a national framework for developing actions to address bycatch, within which individual jurisdictions have the responsibility for implementing the policy. For example, the Commonwealth has adopted bycatch action plans for two fisheries, and through fisheries management advisory committees is in the process of developing a number of others. The Commonwealth policy on fisheries bycatch was released in June 2000.
  • The EPBC Act also addresses biodiversity in fisheries, through:
    • a requirement that Commonwealth-managed fisheries undergo strategic environmental assessment which provides the opportunity to, among other things, assess all aspects of a fishery's interaction with the general marine environment; and
    • part 13 of the Act makes it an offence to catch listed threatened species, migratory species, cetaceans, and listed marine species in Commonwealth waters. In the case of cetaceans and listed marine species, the Act provides for fisheries management plans to be accredited if the Minister for the Environment and Heritage is satisfied that reasonable steps have been taken to avoid the catch, and that the catch does not adversely affect the conservation status of the species.
  • The Fisheries Action Program (part of Coasts and Clean Seas) is helping restore fishing habitats, and promotes sustainable fishing practices.
  • In the Northern Territory, all fisheries are subject to the Fisheries Act 1996 and associated management plans to ensure resource and biodiversity conservation.
  • During 2000 the Western Australian western rock lobster industry achieved international accreditation for ecological sustainability from the Marine Stewardship Council.
  • In 1999, Western Australia adopted the National Policy on Fisheries Bycatch as the Western Australian Policy on Fisheries Bycatch. The Western Australian policy states that bycatch action plans for all Western Australian fisheries must be prepared by the end of 2003.
  • The Western Australian Minister for Fisheries approved the release for public comment of the Draft Bycatch Action Plan for the Shark Bay prawn trawl fishery. All boats in the fishery trialed bycatch reduction devices during the 2000 season.
  • The use of these devices will become compulsory in the 2001 season. The preparation of bycatch action plans for the Exmouth prawn trawl fishery and Pilbara fish trawl fishery is well advanced and the plans will be released for public comment in the near future.
  • • In New South Wales, steps have been taken to restrict expansion of the commercial sector and arrangements are in place to enhance the security of current stakeholders in the industry. New management structures are now in place and management plans are being developed for each sector, in line with the national framework for ecologically sustainable development reporting developed by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture. When complete these plans and their associated environmental assessments will meet or exceed the requirements of the New South Wales Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, Fisheries Management Act 1994, Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, and the Commonwealth EPBC Act and Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1982.

2.4 Forestry

Achieve the conservation of biological diversity through the adoption of ecologically sustainable forest management practices.

Assessment: Achieved

Progress is well advanced in developing ecologically sustainable forest management practices. The National Forest Policy Statement (1992) and the Regional Forest Agreements are the primary means by which the objectives of the Strategy will be accomplished in forest habitats. As many of these initiatives have only recently commenced implementation, monitoring will be required to determine the extent to which ecologically sustainable forest management practices are achieved.

The initiatives by State Forests NSW in the creation of biodiversity, salinity and carbon markets provide significant potential for progress in the preservation of biodiversity (though development is some way down the track, and only the carbon market currently exists as a commercial reality). This may assist in addressing biodiversity conservation in association with forests and plantations on private lands as well as public lands. The development of private sector philanthropy is also a promising area, which should be further developed.

To achieve ecologically sustainable forest management practices, it is necessary to address biodiversity issues in relation to forests and plantations on private lands as well as public lands. It is particularly necessary to address issues of clearance of native vegetation in order to establish timber plantations.

Ongoing work is required to implement these initiatives and ensure biodiversity conservation is achieved.

Activities
  • Australia's National Forest Policy Statement (1992) outlines agreed objectives and policies for the future of Australia's public and private forests.
  • The Regional Forest Agreement process developed under the National Forest Policy Statement (1992) has largely been completed over the past five years. The Commonwealth has entered into agreements with Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia. These 20-year agreements establish a transparent and coordinated program for ecologically sustainable forest management, monitoring and reporting on ecologically sustainable management of forests and the preservation of biological diversity. The Commonwealth is pursuing the finalisation of several remaining agreements.
  • The commitments contained in Regional Forest Agreements and New South Wales forest agreements will be implemented in the State's forest estate through statutory management plans – Regional Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management Plans. In New South Wale's regulatory controls for forest management activities are contained in Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals. These approvals contain general forest management provisions such as cultural heritage protection, pest and noxious weed control and fuel management activities. They also contain individual licences for the protection of threatened species and their habitats and for the conservation of soil and water resources.
  • New South Wales forest agreements include a number of initiatives concerning indigenous involvement in forest management. These are described under objective 1.8, Biological Diversity and Torres Strait Islander People.
  • In response to the National Forest Policy Statement (1992) most States and Territories have now developed codes of forest practices. These codes have an important role in protecting biodiversity.
  • The Western Australian Government is developing new legislation to provide certainty of harvest in farm forestry. This legislation is designed to promote the development of the farm forestry sector, removing the reliance on native timber and providing an incentive for planting trees on farms.
  • The Framework of Regional (Sub-national) Level Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Forest Management in Australia, endorsed by MCFFA and ANZECC, provides a coordinated approach to monitoring trends in forest conditions and the sustainability of forest management practices at the sub-national level for all forests in Australia. Areas covered by Regional Forest Agreements are included. The framework will improve forest management on all land tenures and avoid duplication in forest-related data collection.
  • State Forests NSW is currently conducting studies into the creation of a market for biodiversity credits. This would allow corporations who wish to improve their environmental profile to do so by purchasing such credits on the open market. Such a mechanism would allow commercial and consumer pressures to be directly harnessed to the preservation of biodiversity. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service is also undertaking a project on biodiversity credits under the NSW Salinity Strategy.
  • New South Wales has created a commercial market in carbon sequestration rights, mainly with the mining sector and electricity companies. Whilst the market is currently limited to commercial plantation timber, it has the potential to extend to native forests. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service is currently investigating the use of carbon credits to address ecosystem rehabilitation rather than just timber volume.
  • The proposal by State Forests NSW to create a salinity credit market (as outlined under Objective 2.5) would also have a positive effect on forest biodiversity.
  • Farm forestry is an emerging industry that, if managed appropriately, could have significant benefits for the conservation of biological diversity through the mitigation of dryland salinity and carbon sequestration. If planted with native understorey, farm forested areas can provide habitat for native animals and act as corridors between complex native ecosystems.
  • The Montreal Process establishes criteria and indicators for guiding and measuring ecologically sustainable forest management. This is a major data collection and monitoring program to which Australia is making a key contribution internationally and at home.
  • In the Northern Territory, all timber harvests are low intensity and involve selective logging. All harvests from native forests and woodlands are subject to the principles and objectives enunciated in A Strategy for Conservation through the Sustainable Use of Wildlife in the Northern Territory of Australia (1997).
  • Under the South East Queensland Forest Agreement, 425 000 hectares of Crown land will contribute to a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system immediately, without further harvest. An additional 500 000 hectares will be phased into the reserve system over the next 25 years following one further harvest. Further gains for biodiversity as a consequence of this agreement could result from significant native hardwood plantation establishment. Research by the Queensland Department of Natural Resources has demonstrated that hardwood plantations can have considerable biodiversity values if planned and managed appropriately. Even 39-year-old hardwood plantation stands can have biodiversity that rivals that of nearby native forests for some vertebrate groups (e.g. rodents).
  • Queensland has developed Forest Management Planning Tools, which can be packaged and applied in a range of circumstances, at different landscape scales and with varying degrees of consultative and analytical effort. Forming the basis of the analytical tool kit is a range of evaluative assessment models, which provide for the consideration of the suite of potential forest values and uses in a sub-regional context. These tools, and an associated decision support framework, enable the full range of site-inherent values such as biodiversity to be identified. These values can then be considered at appropriate scales against a range of criteria to assess compatibility and integration issues during sub-regional land allocation and operational planning.

2.5 Water

Manage water resources in accordance with biological diversity conservation objectives and to satisfy economic, social and community needs.

Assessment: Partially achieved

Progress is being made in wetland conservation, the allocation of environmental flows, and monitoring the quality of Australia's water. Australia faces ongoing challenges such as the growth in demands on limited water resources, pollution and rising salinity levels in inland waterways. Water availability is a key issue in down catchment conservation areas.

The degradation of estuarine environments has also emerged as a significant threat to biodiversity. Estuarine habitats are highly susceptible to a range of short-term and long-term pressures such as algal blooms. It is estimated that 17 percent of Australia's estuaries have been significantly modified with 11 percent in a severe state of degradation.

Activities

In 1994 COAG agreed to a series of reforms, including the establishment of water entitlements for the environment to protect the health of Australian inland waters. A set of national principles was developed for the provision of water for ecosystems with the overall goal to sustain and, where necessary, restore ecological processes and biodiversity of water-dependent ecosystems. Progress made by State and Territory Governments in providing water entitlements for the environment is now subject to independent assessment by the National Competition Council. An assessment occurred in June 1999 and a further assessment is to occur in June 2001. Failure by jurisdictions to make adequate progress in making water available to the environment can lead to significant financial penalties through the Commonwealth Government withholding payments made under the National Competition Policy Agreement of 1995.

  • Environment Australia has developed the Australian Rivers and Catchment Condition Database with data provided by the States and Territories. The database provides information on the environmental status of rivers and will shortly be available on the Internet.
  • Through Waterwatch Australia, communities work to maintain or improve biodiversity in their local waterways. The Waterwatch network regularly monitors at approximately 5000 sites in more than 200 catchments across Australia. Most sites are being monitored for biological diversity and abundance.
  • Under the National River Health Program, Australia has undertaken a national assessment of the health of the nation's inland rivers and streams. The program is also helping identify priorities to protect and repair Australia's unique riverine, floodplain and wetland ecosystems. Crucial research and monitoring are determining how to identify and establish environmental flow requirements for Australia's rivers.
  • In Queensland, major changes have been made to legislation (e.g. the Water Act 2000) and the Water Allocation and Management Planning Process has been introduced.
  • As part of its wild rivers project, the Australian Heritage Commission has developed the Conservation Management Guidelines for Wild River Values. The guidelines outline wild river values, and present principles and a voluntary code for river management for government and non-government land managers.
  • Draft Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality (document 4 of the National Water Quality Management Strategy) are expected to be published in 2001.
  • Ramsar listing is intended to protect important wetlands and to ensure that these ecosystems are considered in water resource use decision-making. Activities within the catchment of Ramsar wetlands, which divert water from the site and impact on its ecological character, have the potential to trigger the provisions of the EPBC Act and require Commonwealth assessment and approval.
  • The major policy initiatives relating to the management of Australia's inland waters are the Wetlands Policy of the Australian Government, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Water Reform Framework, the National Water Quality Management Strategy, the National Wetlands Program and the National Land and Water Resources Audit. The National Landcare Program, Murray-Darling 2001and National Rivercare Program also improves water resource management. These programs can deliver significant benefits for biodiversity.
  • The Commonwealth's National Wetlands Program promotes the conservation of Australia's wetlands through a variety of actions such as surveys, management research, training and awareness raising. More details are given in the Introduction under Changing Landscapes for Biodiversity Conservation in Australia.
  • The Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments are developing the National Water Quality Management Strategy. The strategy incorporates the principles of ecologically sustainable development. It is made up of 22 guidelines of which 16 have been implemented. When fully implemented, the strategy will deliver a nationally consistent approach to water quality management.
  • The Clean Seas Program, part of the Natural Heritage Trust's Coasts and Clean Seas, is providing $51 million in funding to reduce threats to coastal, marine and estuarine water quality from sewage and stormwater pollution, and from maritime and industrial activities. Innovative and integrated projects under the program address opportunities for waste-water re-use, spread the benefits of practical and/or innovative technologies and management techniques, and include other components that benefit the broader community such as community education, public awareness or monitoring of environmental benefits.
  • The Coastal Monitoring Program, also part of the Trust's Coasts and Clean Seas, is providing $4.5 million to identify threats to coastal and marine water quality and habitats. Projects are strongly linked to management planning and decisions to ensure that the results of the monitoring project can be acted upon. Thirty of the 50 funded projects focus on estuarine ecosystems, and identify the impacts contributing to deteriorating habitat and water quality. Projects that examine water quality in estuaries also consider catchment inputs, not just water quality within the estuary. By examining the catchment inputs, impacts such as algal blooms arising from nutrient loading can be reduced.
  • The New South Wales Government has introduced substantial water reforms since the Strategy was adopted, including the establishment of water quality and river flow objectives for each river valley, and the establishment of representative management committees to prepare and implement management plans for rivers, groundwater and wetlands. This process is identified as a priority action of the NSW Biodiversity Strategy (1999). The New South Wales Government has also released the NSW Salinity Strategy.
  • State Forests NSW is currently conducting studies into the creation of a market to trade salinity rights. This could provide a market-based solution to mitigating salinity problems in Australia's inland rivers with favourable outcomes for biodiversity conservation and would satisfy societal, economic and community needs for quality water.
  • In late 1999, New South Wales released a White Paper on a proposed Water Management Act. One of the proposed objectives of the Act is to protect, and where possible restore, aquatic and associated ecosystems, their ecological processes and biodiversity. The NSW Wetlands Management Policy Action Plan 2000-01, implemented by the State Wetlands Action Group, focuses on priority areas for wetland management in New South Wales and coordination of community and government activities relating to wetlands. The State Wetlands Action Program funds wetland rehabilitation, education and protection projects in New South Wales.
  • A range of programs and policies in New South Wales address estuarine issues. Examples include the NSW Coastal Policy; the New South Wales Coastal Council which monitors and reviews the coastal policy; the estuary management planning process undertaken by Estuary Management Committees and overseen by the Department of Land and Water Conservation; the Marine Parks Program that includes bioregional conservation assessments for the Manning Shelf, Twofold Shelf Marine Bioregion, Hawkesbury and Batemans Bay; the Urban Stormwater Management Program; the Acid Sulfate Soils Strategy, and environment protection licensing including load based licensing.
  • In the Northern Territory, a minimum of 80 percent of flow in all rivers is reserved for the environment.
  • In South Australia, the legislative and policy framework for management of wetlands is through the Water Resources Act 1997 and the State Water Plan and associated documents. The Act and plan provide for the sustainable use and management of water resources, a range of measures to manage activities that can affect water resources, and establish Catchment Water Management Boards. A State wetlands management policy document is being prepared to provide information and guidance on the protection and management of the biodiversity of wetlands.
  • The Wetlands Conservation Policy for Western Australia was published in 1997 and is being implemented.
  • In Queensland, the Water Act 2000 provides for Water Resource Plans to advance the sustainable management of water in basins across Queensland. The Water Act identifies sustainable management as management that 'protects the biological diversity and health of natural ecosystems'. It also states that 'the conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity should be a fundamental consideration in decision making'.
  • The Queensland Environment Protection Agency is the lead agency for the Strategy for the Conservation and Management of Queensland's Wetlands. The aim of this strategy is to 'manage wetlands in accordance with the goal, core objectives, and guiding principles set out in the National Strategy for Ecological Sustainable Development'.

2.6 Tourism and recreation

Achieve the conservation of biological diversity through the adoption of ecologically sustainable practices for tourism and recreation.

Assessment: Partially achieved

Progress in this sector is still at the initial stages though there is some promise. In the majority of States and Territories tourism infrastructure has been developed to meet high environmental standards. In most cases proposed tourism developments, particularly in environmentally sensitive areas, are subject to stringent development controls.

Activities
  • Environment Australia has, through its State of the Environment reporting, identified the impacts that tourism and recreation have on the environment and biodiversity. It has produced the publication Two Way Track – Biodiversity Conservation and Ecotourism: an investigation of linkages, mutual benefits and future opportunities, (Preece 1995). This report investigates strengthening the integration of biodiversity conservation requirements with the current and future needs of the nature-based tourism industry.
  • The Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Sustainable Tourism was established in 1997 and brings together industry, academia and government. This CRC is focused on developing a dynamic, internationally competitive and sustainable tourism industry, through delivering innovation and strategic knowledge to business, community and government to enhance the environmental, economic and social sustainability of tourism. The CRC for Sustainable Tourism has produced an array of research reports and publications and was instrumental in organising the Earth Alive Biodiversity Tourism Summit.
  • The Ecotourism Association of Australia has developed a Nature and Ecotourism Accreditation Program. To date close to 300 products have been accredited under the program. This demonstrates the strong commitment of the ecotourism sector to best practice environmental management including conservation of natural areas, cultural sensitivity, commitment to local communities and the provision of quality experiences for tourists.
  • Draft Heritage Tourism Guidelines have been developed in partnership with Tourism Council Australia and the Australian Heritage Commission with funding from the Department of Industry, Science and Resources. The guidelines aim to foster the protection and appropriate promotion of Australia's rich natural, indigenous and historic heritage.
  • The CRC for Sustainable Tourism's website (http://twinshare.crctourism.com.au ) informs industry about developing low environmental-impact tourism accommodation.
  • Tourism Council Australia, the Department of Industry, Science and Resources and Environment Australia funded the development of best practice environmental management guidelines for the tourism industry. The publication Being Green Keeps You Out of the Red (Tourism Council Australia & CRC for Sustainable Tourism 1998) was developed for accommodation providers and managers of tourist attractions, and Being Green is Your Business (Tourism Council Australia & CRC for Sustainable Tourism 1999) is aimed at tour operators, travel agents and tour wholesalers.
  • Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Sport and Recreation Queensland (a division of the Queensland Department of Communication and Information, Local Government Planning and Sport) are co-operatively developing a recreation database – (the Outdoor Recreation Inventory System) – with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and 11 local governments in south-east Queensland. When fully functional, this decision support system should provide an effective means to monitor impacts, including those on biodiversity, of recreation-based activities on all Crown tenures and lands managed by local governments in the State. The system incorporates database and geographic information system capabilities. A code of practice to reduce or prevent the detrimental impacts of recreation in Queensland State forests is also under development.
  • Coastal Tourism: A Manual for Sustainable Development in Coastal Tourism (Department of Environment, Sport and Territories 1997) was developed in partnership by Environment Australia, the Department of Industry, Science and Resources, the Royal Australian Planning Institute, and the Australian Local Government Association. It outlines environmental, social and economic criteria to consider when planning, constructing or operating a tourism venture.
  • The Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and the Department of Tourism and Racing is cooperatively developing a recreation database. This database should provide an effective way to monitor the impacts of recreation-based activities on biodiversity.
  • In the Northern Territory, industry-based accreditation of companies and certification of tour guides is being established. New South Wales has released a Tour Operators Information Kit produced by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Department of Industry, Science and Resources. This includes two videos and a manual providing information on biodiversity and minimum impact practices.

2.7 Utilisation of wildlife

Achieve the conservation of biological diversity through the adoption of other ecologically sustainable wildlife management practices.

Assessment: Achieved

Progress has been made through the development of harvest management plans. Operations based on ranching, such as crocodiles, and wild harvests, such as kangaroos, are more likely to produce financial incentives to retain native habitats and free-ranging populations of wildlife compared to the farming of conventional livestock.

Activities
  • The Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1982, administered by Environment Australia, controls the export of Australian native wildlife and wildlife products, the import of most live animals and plants and the import and export of all wildlife which is recognised internationally as endangered or threatened. The Act covers plants and animals, and defines the requirements that must be satisfied for trade to proceed. The Act is currently being reviewed.
  • Harvest management plans are a Commonwealth requirement to promote the ecologically sustainable management of wildlife. The Commonwealth has been working with States and Territories to improve the quality of the plans and to address transboundary issues. There are currently management programs approved for crocodiles (Northern Territory and Western Australia), kangaroos (Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia), wallabies (Flinders Island), brushtail possums (Tasmania), and mutton-birds (Tasmania). There are also 23 State-approved harvest management plans and several private plans.
  • In the Northern Territory from 1993 to 2000 management programs were implemented for the sustainable use of crocodiles, cycads and red-tailed black cockatoos. Draft management programs were developed for dugong, magpie geese, freshwater turtles, reptiles and species used for timber and didgeridoos through the Strategy for Conservation through the Sustainable Use of Wildlife in the Northern Territory of Australia (Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission 1997).

Ecologically sustainable wildlife management practices in fisheries are outlined under Objective 2.3.

2.8 Access to genetic resources

Ensure that the social and economic benefits of the use of genetic material and products derived from Australia's biological diversity accrue to Australia.

Assessment: Partially achieved

Considerable progress has been made in this area during the development of the ground rules for access in 20004. The realisation of benefits to Australia from the use of its genetic resources is still some way down the track.

Activities
  • Through funding provided under the Government's Biotechnology Australia initiative for 1999-2000 and 2000-01, Environment Australia is accelerating the work begun by the Commonwealth-State Working Group on the establishment of nationally consistent approach to access to biological resources.
  • The report of the Inquiry into Access to Biological Resources in Commonwealth Areas was released in September 2000 and is available on the internet at: http://chm.environment.gov.au/documents/inquiry.doc. The report recommends a scheme that will provide certainty for industry, ensure benefit sharing and protect traditional indigenous knowledge and biodiversity. Implementation will be by way of regulations made under section 301 of the EPBC Act. A Commonwealth and State working group will be involved in further developing a coherent approach across all Australian jurisdictions.
  • In the Northern Territory, contractual procedures ensure appropriate social and economic benefits accrue to Territorians from the use of biological resources; and a permit system is in place to control and monitor the collection of genetic resources for research and other commercial purposes.
  • In Western Australia, agreements with bioprospecting firms have yielded improved data on the State's flora as well as revenue to support the Western Australian Herbarium and threatened flora conservation projects.
  • The botanic gardens, herbaria and museums of Australia have contributed to the preparation of international common policy guidelines for access to genetic resources by custodians of ex-situ living and non-living collections