Annual Report 2010-11 - Management and accountability

Lesser noddy - Pulu Keeling National Park

© Director of National Parks, 2011 | ISSN 1443-1238

Corporate governance

The Director of National Parks is responsible, under the EPBC Act, for the management of Commonwealth reserves and conservation zones established over Commonwealth-owned land, Aboriginal land leased to the Director and Commonwealth marine areas. The Director of National Parks corporation is a Commonwealth authority and is subject to the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997. The Director is a corporation sole constituted by the person who holds the office that is also named the Director of National Parks.

The Director is responsible to the Minister with responsibility for administration of the EPBC Act. Until 13 September 2010 that person was the Hon Peter Garrett AM MP. On 14 September 2010 the Hon Tony Burke MP was appointed as Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, with responsibility for administration of the EPBC Act.

Ministerial directions

The EPBC Act requires the Director to perform functions and exercise powers in accordance with any directions given by the Minister, unless the EPBC Act provides otherwise. During 2010-11 no Ministerial directions were given to the Director under the CAC Act and there were no directions continuing from previous years.

The Director is subject to directions given by the Minister responsible for administration of the CAC Act under section 47A of the Act on matters related to the procurement of property or services. The Finance Minister's (CAC Act Procurement) Directions 2009 require the Director to apply the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines when undertaking a procurement covered by the guidelines.

The Minister responsible for the CAC Act may, under section 48 of the CAC Act, make a General Policy Order specifying a general policy of the Australian Government that is to apply to the Director. No General Policy Orders were made during 2010-11 and there were no orders continuing from previous years.

Funding

The EPBC Act makes provision for funding the Director of National Parks. The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities receives the appropriation for the Director of National Parks. In effect, the department purchases services from the Director to manage Commonwealth reserves and to perform the Director's other functions under the EPBC Act, in order to contribute to the department's Outcome 1. The Director is the sole provider of statutory functions and powers for managing Commonwealth reserves under the Act.

The department also has an arrangement to provide corporate services to the Director. The department's Parks Australia division supports the Director's work.

During 2010-11 the department provided $46.4 million to the Director of National Parks under the purchaser-provider arrangement (see the audited financial statements in Chapter 6 of this report). This arrangement was effective, providing the resources that enabled the Director to meet the targets set in the Portfolio Budget Statements 2010-11.

Planning documents

For information about the strategic planning and performance assessment framework, see Chapter 4 of this report.

Executive management

The holder of the office of Director of National Parks and three senior executives provide leadership in Parks Australia (see Chapter 3 of this report). The executive team meets regularly to develop and review policy priorities and strategic and corporate goals.

In addition to the Parks Australia executive team, a senior executive in the department's Marine Division is responsible, under delegation from the Director of National Parks, for managing 25 Commonwealth marine reserves and the Director of the Australian Antarctic Division is responsible for managing one marine reserve.

Parks Australia faces a number of specific administration challenges including widely distributed workplaces in remote areas with many in cross-cultural environments. Coordination between area managers, Canberra-based managers and the executive team is vital. Important communication activities include regular phone link-ups and the annual Parks Australia Forum involving all senior managers.

Staff participate in consultative committees in both regional and Canberra-based workplaces to support internal management.

Boards of management and advisory committees

Kakadu, Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Booderee National Parks are managed jointly by the Director and the traditional Aboriginal owners, in accordance with the EPBC Act. Each park has a board of management established under the Act, with a majority of Indigenous members who are nominated by the traditional owners of land in the park. Membership of the boards also includes the Director, nominees of the Northern Territory Government (for Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Parks) and members representing special interest groups or with particular skills relevant to managing the park. See Chapter 3 of this report for details of board members.

The principal functions of a Commonwealth reserve board of management are to prepare management plans for the reserve in conjunction with the Director and to make decisions about management of the reserve consistent with its management plan. A board, in conjunction with the Director, is also responsible for monitoring management of the reserve and advising the Minister on the reserve's future development.

Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and Pulu Keeling National Parks have non-statutory advisory or consultative bodies which include community representatives and representatives of the Director.

Other consultative mechanisms

The EPBC Act requires public consultation before the declaration of a Commonwealth reserve and in the preparation of reserve management plans.

For Commonwealth reserves that include Aboriginal-owned land, the EPBC Act provides for both consultation with, and involvement of, representatives of the Aboriginal landowners about management of the reserve. The Director must consult with and have regard to the views of the chair of the relevant land council in relation to the performance of the Director's functions and the exercise of the Director's powers in relation to the reserve. The land council chair must be specifically invited to comment on the preparation of management plans.

Additional consultation with traditional Aboriginal owners of Kakadu, Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Booderee National Parks takes place through cultural advisers, Aboriginal staff, community liaison officers, Aboriginal organisations and special consultative committees.

The EPBC Act also requires the Northern Territory Government to be consulted in relation to the performance of the Director's functions and the exercise of the Director's powers in relation to Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Parks, and to be invited to comment on the preparation of management plans for those parks.

Tourism industry interests are taken into account through the tourism consultative committees of the Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta Boards of Management and through ad hoc working groups.

Control arrangements

Director of National Parks Chief Executive Instructions

The Chief Executive Instructions direct Parks Australia staff in assisting the Director to carry out the Director's functions under the EPBC Act and ensure the corporation and its officers meet their obligations under the EPBC Act and the CAC Act. The instructions draw on relevant corporate governance rules and policies and guidelines of the Australian Government. They are supported by policies and procedures subject to regular review.

Audit

An Audit Committee is established for the Director in accordance with the CAC Act. During the year the Audit Committee met four times and addressed corporate governance issues including risk management and financial management.

During 2010-11 internal audits were undertaken on risk management and knowledge management. The committee endorsed the process for preparation of the 2010-11 financial statements.

Members of the committee at 30 June 2011 were:

  • Paul Hickey, independent member and Chair
  • Brian Gilligan, independent member
  • Peter Hoefer, independent member
  • Peter Cochrane, Director of National Parks.

The Assistant Secretaries for Parks Australia and the Director of the Business and Financial Management Section were invited to attend committee meetings. Staff from the Australian National Audit Office, the department's Finance Branch and the internal audit service provider attended meetings as observers.

Risk management

Risk watch lists or risk registers for each reserve or business unit are periodically reviewed in accordance with the Director's Risk Management Policy. Incidents in all workplaces, categorised under key result areas, are reported regularly to the executive team.

The Director has participated in the Comcover Risk Management Benchmarking scheme since 2002-03. The scheme changed again this year, assessing 10 elements of risk management with performance matched against individual agency target risk maturity levels. The Director's risk management system was rated average in 2002-03 and has risen since then. In 2010-11 the Director scored 7.6 out of a possible 10 compared to an average score for all Australian Government agencies of 6.4. For the last six years the Director has consistently scored above the average for all agencies.

One element of risk management is a business continuity plan covering all Parks Australia sites. The plan was not called on during the year. This plan is being reviewed and upgraded to a business continuity and recovery plan for 2011-12.

Figure 4: Risk management benchmarking scores for the Director of National Parks in 2010-11 compared to the average for 134 Australian Government agencies

 Risk management benchmarking scores for the Director of National Parks in 2010–11 compared to the average for 134 Australian Government agencies

Indemnities and insurance

In 2010-11 the Director maintained comprehensive insurance cover for business operations through Comcover, the Australian Government's general insurance fund, including general liability, professional indemnity, and directors' and officers' liability. No incidents generated a major insurance claim during the year.

The Director also manages risk by requiring all commercial operators, contractors and scientific researchers in Commonwealth reserves to indemnify the Director and the Commonwealth and maintain appropriate levels of insurance for their activities.

Fraud control

The Director has a fraud control plan and conducts risk assessments to prevent and manage fraud within the agency, in accordance with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines. In 2010 the Audit Committee endorsed a revised fraud control plan for 2010-11, which was subsequently approved by the Director and made available to all employees.

External review

Judicial decisions and decisions of administrative tribunals

There were no judicial decisions or decisions of administrative tribunals during the year that had, or may have, a significant impact on the Director's operations.

Commonwealth Ombudsman

There were no formal reports from the Commonwealth Ombudsman during the year.

Reports by the Auditor-General

The Auditor-General issued an unqualified audit report for the 2010-11 financial statements of the Director of National Parks.

Occupational health and safety

This section is presented in accordance with the requirements of section 74 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1991. The department's annual report contains more detailed occupational health and safety information.

The Director of National Parks maintains a strong commitment to the health, safety and welfare of Parks Australia staff. Parks Australia was an active participant on the department's Occupational Health and Safety Committee. Occupational health and safety committees in the three mainland national parks, the Christmas Island-Cocos (Keeling) Islands Conservancy, Norfolk Island National Park and at the Australian National Botanic Gardens considered and addressed local issues.

Parks Australia staff face a diverse range of hazards. The main hazards are from fieldwork in remote and arduous locations, plant and machinery, chemicals and hazardous substances, managing and handling unpredictable wildlife, driving vehicles and static posture injuries from using desktop equipment.

ParkSafe, Parks Australia's integrated occupational health and safety management system, has been in place since 2004. It is designed to provide a safe and healthy workplace for all employees and contractors and all relevant policy and procedural information is available electronically. Ongoing revision of the system continued during the year to improve its effectiveness, including further upgrades of hazardous activities registers and job safety analyses. ParkSafe is used as a model for field operations by other divisions of the department.

During 2010-11 Parks Australia recorded 211 occupational health and safety incidents (see Table 9). This was higher than the number recorded last year (189) and included an increase in the number of major injuries for both staff and visitors.

Table 9: Five-year overview of safety incidents in terrestrial reserves

 Five-year overview of safety incidents in terrestrial reserves

More than 60 per cent of the staff incidents were strains, animal threats, bites and scratches and vehicle incidents. Heat stress with associated disorientation, falls and sometimes death remains a predominant issue for visitors to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

The visitor incidents for 2010-11 included visitor fatalities. There were two drownings and a death due to dehydration in Kakadu National Park and a death from heart attack in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. There was also a fatality from a rollover incident on the Arnhem Highway in Kakadu National Park which is not included in the park statistics.

While there are no matters to report under section 29, 46 or 47 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1991 the relationship with Comcare is being strengthened with a series of site inspections by the regulator. There are also plans to establish a cooperative compliance program between the Director and Comcare ahead of the introduction of harmonised Workplace Health and Safety legislation across most Australian jurisdictions in 2012.

Compliance and enforcement under the EPBC Act

Wardens and rangers are appointed under the EPBC Act to exercise enforcement powers in relation to the Act and its regulations. Members of the Australian Federal Police and officers of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service are ex-officio wardens by force of the Act. In accordance with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines and the Australian Government Investigation Standards, Parks Australia's wardens are trained in Certificate IV in Government (Investigations) and rangers are trained in relevant modules of the certificate.

A whole-of-government approach is taken to compliance and enforcement in Commonwealth marine reserves. In addition to the role of Australian Federal Police and Customs officers, officers from other agencies, including the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, state and territory police and fisheries and conservation agencies can be appointed wardens under the EPBC Act after the required training. These arrangements greatly improve the Director's ability to enforce the EPBC Act in remote and infrequently visited Commonwealth reserves.

The following matter was prosecuted and determined by courts during 2010-11:

  • On 2 December 2010, pursuant to section 19B of the Crimes Act 1914, one person was discharged without proceeding to conviction upon entering into a recognisance in the sum of $2,000 on the condition that the person be of good behaviour for a period of 12 months. The charge related to an incident of allowing a dog to enter Kakadu National Park, a Commonwealth reserve, which is an offence under section 354A of the EPBC Act.

Table 10: Compliance and enforcement in terrestrial reserves during 2010-11

 Compliance and enforcement in terrestrial reserves during 2010-11

Although not included in the table, 1,996 notices of charges payable were issued of which 1,858 were issued in Booderee National Park and 138 in Kakadu National Park.

Ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance

All of the Director's activities have an impact on ecologically sustainable development. Commonwealth reserves are managed to conserve and enhance their natural and cultural values for current and future generations. The provisions of the EPBC Act ensure that management plans for Commonwealth reserves properly integrate environmental, economic and social considerations and that appropriate environmental monitoring and reporting regimes are in place.

The Director's statement under section 516A of the Act relating to the organisation's contribution to ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance is at Appendix C.

Social inclusion

Changes to disability reporting in annual reports

Since 1994, Commonwealth departments and agencies have reported on their performance as policy adviser, purchaser, employer, regulator and provider under the Commonwealth Disability Strategy. From 2010-11, departments and agencies are no longer required to report on these functions.

Closing the Gap

A number of the Director's responsibilities contribute to the Government's Closing the Gap objectives. Parks Australia jointly manages three parks with their traditional owners and provides job opportunities for traditional owners and supports Indigenous businesses, especially in sustainable tourism. The Kakadu Indigenous rangers program, funded through the Australian Government's Working on Country program, and the Mutitjulu Community Ranger program funded by the Director are also helping to boost Indigenous job opportunities in the parks by providing salaried and casual job opportunities for Indigenous community rangers. At Booderee outsourcing to the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council continues to provide a range of employment opportunities. The Indigenous Protected Areas program provides training and employment for Aboriginal people on their own country and often in remote areas where business opportunities are limited. Indigenous communities that participate in the program report better health, social cohesion and higher school attendance.

Further details can also be found on pages 56-7 and additional information on portfolio responsibilities for social inclusion is contained in the department's annual report for 2010-11.

Freedom of information

No applications were received relating to the Director's statutory functions under the Freedom of Information Act 1982. The Director's statement under section 8 of the Act is at Appendix D.