National Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Australia's Native Vegetation

Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council
Department of Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 642 254775 0

1. Introduction

Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments have committed themselves, through the Natural Heritage Trust, to reverse the long-term decline in the quality and extent of Australia's native vegetation cover by June 2001. The National Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Australia's Native Vegetation, an initiative of the former Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC), provides a vehicle through which to implement this goal in a unified and consistent manner, against an agreed framework of best practice management and monitoring measures.

Primary Industries, Natural Resources, Environment and Water Ministers from across Australia met jointly for the first time in Canberra on 31 August 2001 to consider the way forward on Australia's pressing natural resource management issues. One of the first actions taken by the new Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council (NRMMC) was to adopt the National Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Australia's Native Vegetation.

Three key elements of the Framework are:

Desired Native Vegetation Outcomes A statement of the vision informing the Framework and of the native vegetation outcomes being sought.
Best Practice Management and Monitoring Mechanisms Identifies the administrative and institutional arrangements that comprise policy and program frameworks for native vegetation management.

Identifies nationally comparable monitoring arrangements to evaluate progress towards desired outcomes. Attributes of best practice are described for each management and monitoring mechanism.
Work Plans Work plans for each jurisdiction (Commonwealth, States and Territories) describe actions and timelines designed to achieve the identified best practice management and monitoring arrangements, and the desired native vegetation outcomes.

Work plans will outline commitments and intended actions against which the progress of jurisdictions will be independently evaluated on an ongoing basis. Performance against work plans will be used to monitor implementation of the Framework.

Desired Native Vegetation Outcomes and Best Practice Management and Monitoring Mechanisms are detailed in Sections 3 and 4 of this document. The Commonwealth, States and Territories have each prepared their own Work Plans.

The Framework sets out a national approach to the management and monitoring of Australia's native vegetation and provides a process through which Commonwealth, State and Territory native vegetation commitments can be implemented. The Framework acknowledges that different mixes of management and monitoring mechanisms will be appropriate in different jurisdictions, depending on individual circumstances.

The benefits of improved approaches to native vegetation management and monitoring are not only environmental. Important social and economic benefits are also derived from sustainable native vegetation management.

Environmental benefits include:
  • maintaining biodiversity and ecological processes, including soil formation, nutrient storage and cycling, and providing habitat for fauna;
  • protecting water resources, e.g. vegetation along creeks and streams, trapping nutrients and sediment, and reducing bank erosion;
  • protecting soil from wind and water erosion;
  • breaking down pollution;
  • acting as carbon sinks that absorb greenhouse gases;
  • contributing a vital part of the hydrological cycle including maintaining regional rainfall patterns.
Social benefits include:
  • providing places of scenic beauty;
  • providing sites for tourism and recreation;
  • providing places for research, education and scientific purposes;
  • maintaining the distinctive Australian landscapes.
Economic benefits, particularly for agriculture, include:
  • maintaining or reducing watertable levels and ameliorating or preventing salinity through deep rooted vegetation in catchments;
  • providing shade for stock, thus reducing heat stress and leading to higher weight gains, improved fertility in sheep and improved milk production in dairy cattle;
  • providing stock shelter which reduces lamb and sheep off-shears mortality and improves growth rates;
  • providing shelter and windbreaks for crops and pastures, reducing moisture loss and physical damage to crops;
  • preventing soil erosion and reversing other land degradation;
  • providing habitat for crop pest predators such as insectivorous bats and birds;
  • maintaining water quality and yields;
  • providing timber and timber products;
  • providing genetic resources for future development of pharmaceutical or agricultural products;
  • providing fodder resources, especially in drought;
  • providing a foundation for the apiary industry;
  • providing buffers between agriculture and other land uses, particularly residential areas;
  • providing native pastures which are a very significant fodder resource for fine wool enterprises;
  • providing resources for native plant seed and wildflower harvesting;
  • providing potential gains from the trading of 'carbon credits' if an emissions trading scheme eventuates;
  • maintaining the productive capacity of land.

Native vegetation contributes to the natural values, resources and processes of biodiversity, soil and water resources, hydrology, land productivity, sustainable land use, and climate change. It also contributes to natural and cultural heritage, and indigenous people's interests.

1.1 Context

This Framework is intended to have a broad scope and to apply across the landscape, inclusive of all processes, and to encompass the environmental, social and economic values of native vegetation.

The term 'native vegetation' is used in the Framework to mean all vegetation that is indigenous to Australia, as it is relevant to the objective(s) being sought.

Conservation of native vegetation and fauna is central to biodiversity, greenhouse, land rehabilitation and ecologically sustainable development objectives for Australia. It has been recognised by all Australian governments as a matter of national environmental significance in the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Heads of Agreement on Commonwealth/State Roles and Responsibilities for the Environment (Attachment 1, Part II, Clause 27). It is thus a crucial issue, requiring a coordinated national approach.

The Framework is a joint initiative of the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments, and builds on existing intergovernmental agreements. These include the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development, the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity, the National Greenhouse Strategy, the National Forest Policy Statement, the Decade of Landcare Plan, the Inter-Governmental Agreement on the Environment, and the Natural Heritage Trust Partnership Agreements. The Framework unifies and complements these existing processes with regard to native vegetation management.

An account of the linkages between this Framework and existing national policies and programs is at Appendix A.

The Natural Heritage Trust Partnership Agreements between the Commonwealth and all States and Territories recognise "the need for urgent action to enhance and improve the condition and management of Australia's natural heritage".

The Bushcare program schedule to the Natural Heritage Trust Partnership Agreements is particularly relevant to the Framework. The Bushcare goal, to which Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments have committed themselves, is to reverse the long-term decline in the quality and extent of Australia's native vegetation cover.

The Framework complements the National Forest Policy Statement in considering all native vegetation, as well as forests. Forests mapped by the National Forest Inventory include trees over two metres in height with crowns which cover more than 20 per cent of the ground when viewed from above. The Framework will complement the management processes that are already in place for forests, but will also have relevance to woodland, rangeland and grassland communities. It also describes management and monitoring mechanisms that specifically focus on native vegetation in agricultural and pastoral regions of Australia.

The Framework provides an important strategy to help reduce net greenhouse gas emissions as part of the national response to climate change. The National Greenhouse Strategy (1998) recognises that increasing and protecting vegetation cover is an important means of enhancing Australia's greenhouse gas sink capacity.

The Framework complements the objectives of the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development (the National ESD Strategy) in providing a statement of native vegetation outcomes being sought and the management and monitoring mechanisms that will be used to achieve them, within the broader context of Australia's pursuit of ecologically sustainable development.

The National ESD Strategy sets out what Australia needs to do to ensure that patterns of economic development are compatible with environmental sustainability and the long-term well-being of the community. The goal of the National ESD Strategy is "development that improves the total quality of life, both now and in the future, in a way that maintains the ecological processes on which life depends".

The core objectives of the National ESD Strategy, which this Framework seeks to advance through improved management and monitoring of Australia's native vegetation, are:

  • to enhance individual and community well-being and welfare by following a path of economic development that safeguards the welfare of future generations;
  • to provide for equity within and between generations; and
  • to protect biological diversity and maintain essential ecological processes and life-support systems.