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Commonwealth Perspective

Bruce Baird - Federal Member for Cook (Representing the Federal Minister for Environment, Dr David Kemp)

It is good to be here and I obviously approve of the aims and objectives of what today's conference is about. I'm presenting today on behalf of the Minister who will be here in about two months time and we'll be inviting a number of key people to meet him when he comes down.

It was about 60 years ago that my parents bought two acres of land just opposite where we are here on Gunnamatta Bay. It's interesting to think of how Gunnamatta Bay alone has changed so dramatically during that time. And when you were growing up there nobody ever talked about pollution of the waterways. It always seemed fairly pristine at that time, but undoubtedly there was some pollution. People used to operate septic tanks. I think now there's six or seven homes on the two acres, where there was just one single home and of course as we look at all the flats and apartments around that obviously there's a lot of increased pressure. The results are that there are constant comments about what the water quality is like down at Gunnamatta Bay and that just in terms of this small area, the ways in which things have changed and how we need to address this issue.

So in terms of Federal Government responsibility, there's the first caveat which you'd expect from the normal buck-passing that comes from government from the Minister who points out that estuarine management and protection is primarily a State and local government responsibility. However the Commonwealth is committed to working out collaboratively with State, Territory and local governments to protect and enhance our marine and estuarine areas. We hope that they also have greater involvement in the issues of the sandhills and the whole of the Kurnell Peninsula. There is an environment study going on which should have been finished a couple of months ago, but we're looking forward to what the report will say especially in terms of the Australand site where they're planning to put housing in. And certainly we want the Minister to come down, and like Robert Hill who was particularly focussed on the Kurnell Peninsula, we need to get David Kemp focussed as well. So it is doing this collaboratively, by investing in the natural resource management plans and in amelioration of coastal water quality hot spots. It's also supporting the development of guidelines for management of water quality issues, the coastal policy with State and Territory governments, and a range of other initiatives and programs that help protect estuaries.

In terms of the natural resource management, the Commonwealth Government's extension of the Natural Heritage Trust worth more than $1b over five years commences on 1 July 2002. It will fund projects in natural resource management. And it is actually through the NHT that we are hoping to get some funds for the Kurnell Peninsula. Of course it won't be enough to buy it back from the landholders, but certainly to do some work there and there has been a submission by Sutherland Council in that regard. The NHT funds will be delivered at three levels. Firstly, national investments covering priorities and activities that have a national or broad scale outcome. Secondly, regional investments which will become the principal delivery mechanisms of the Trust. Where appropriate, investments will be made through regional NRM plans that specify targets for the maintenance and improvement of the natural resources within these catchments. And thirdly, the local action component, or Envirofund, which will be used to invest in community-based projects up to $30,000. Applications for 2002-03 close on 5 June 2002.

I've got a press release in terms of how it operates but it's about encouraging small-scale projects and it was announced on the 3 April by David Kemp and Warren Truss and its worth $20m. It's a simplified application process, and is going to allow community groups or individuals to apply for funding of up to $30,000 to help protect the conservation values of their local area. The NHT has funded various works. A number of school groups have received funding under the Trust, and other projects include Nature walks etc and others to ease salinity and to create wildlife corridors. There's no reason why this area couldn't apply for one.

More specifically, the Commonwealth Government will provide $103.5m in 2002-03 from the new NHT Coastcare and Rivercare programs to improve the condition of Australia's coasts and waterways. The Commonwealth is currently considering and providing comments on the NSW Catchment Blueprints which are expected to form the basis of NSW regional NRM plans. The Commonwealth is also developing tools to assist groups to set water quality targets for their catchment or region. In relation to coastal water quality hot spots, it's interesting that this area has waterways which are listed in the hot spots. In conjunction with expenditure of the $103m to protect coasts and waterways over 2002-03, the Commonwealth will seek binding agreements with State, Territory and Local governments to implement integrated planning and management for targeted water quality hot spots and these include urban coastal hotspots such as Moreton Bay, Cooks and Georges Rivers which obviously includes us, Parramatta River, Adelaide's Port waterway, the Derwent estuary, Port Phillip Bay and Swan/Canning Rivers as well as other important areas such as the Great Barrier Reef catchment and Victoria's Gippsland Lakes. Reducing nutrient and sediment loads will be a priority in these coastal hotspots. In some areas, focus will be on heavy metals, waste oil and other chemicals.

The Commonwealth has indicated that it will look for the most effective way to cut pollution by integrating stormwater management with sewage disposal and other land management improvements. And then the other areas, which I mentioned in the beginning that the Commonwealth was involved in was guidelines for improving water quality. Commonwealth, State and Territories through the NRM Ministerial Council, and its predecessors, have developed the national water quality management strategy. The strategy aims to achieve sustainable use of our water resources while protecting and enhancing their quality. As part of this strategy a number of guideline documents were released in 2001, including the Australian guidelines for Urban Stormwater Management and Guidelines for sewage systems, use of reclaimed water. Thirdly, the Australian and New Zealand guidelines for fresh and marine water quality and fourthly the Australian Guidelines for Monitoring and Reporting. The guidelines for urban stormwater and reclaimed water were released to help reduce the impact of stormwater and effluent on Australia's inland and coastal waters. The latter two documents provide a nationally consistent approach for managing, monitoring and reporting on water quality. And other Commonwealth Government priorities for coasts and estuaries are: Firstly, working with the State and Territory governments to develop a new national coastal Policy. The new National Coastal Policy will deliver on a coalition election commitment to improve water quality in coastal and estuarine waters, to conserve and restore coastal and estuarine biodiversity, to encourage ecologically sustainable use of coastal and estuarine resources and to bring about better coordination and planning for the coastal zone. Secondly, actively pursuing Australia's Oceans' Policy. The policy sets in place a framework for integrated and ecosystem-based planning and management for all of Australia's marine areas. Thirdly, working cooperatively with State agencies on domestic and international maritime pollution policy and its implementation. Some of the issues currently being addressed include ballast water and introduced marine pest, toxic anti-foulants, land based marine pollution, acid sulphate soils, pollution from shipping operations and marine debris.

So that's the general review of what the Federal Government is doing is these areas.
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