Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2009
Legislation annual reports 2008-09 (continued)
Operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (continued)
1. Protecting the environment
This section reports on the operation of the EPBC Act in protecting matters of national environmental significance. It also reports on significant actions on Commonwealth land or by Commonwealth agencies.
- On 17 June 2009 the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, the Hon Peter Garrett AM MP, announced the heritage Finalised Priority Assessment Lists for 2009-10, which set out the places to be assessed for possible inclusion in the National Heritage and Commonwealth Heritage lists.
- The minister added three places to the National Heritage List bringing the total number of places on the list to 82.
- The minister made 71 decisions involving species and ecological communities.
- 763 conservation advices were completed, fulfilling the department's obligation to have a conservation advice in place by 31 December 2008 for those listed species and ecological communities that were not already covered by a recovery plan.
- One new threat abatement plan and 30 recovery plans were made or adopted for species listed under the EPBC Act, which brought the total to 883 nationally threatened species and ecological communities now having recovery plans in place or in preparation.
World, National and Commonwealth Heritage protection
The Australian Government's heritage system provides protection under the EPBC Act for World Heritage List and National Heritage List places, including natural, historic and Indigenous places, as matters of national environmental significance. The EPBC Act also contains provisions for listing and protecting Commonwealth owned or controlled heritage places. Under the EPBC Act the minister's approval must be obtained before any action takes place that could have a significant impact on the heritage values of a listed place.
This section outlines the roles of the various heritage advisory groups and the significant achievements concerned with heritage listing and management.
Heritage advisory groups
The Australian World Heritage Advisory Committee was established in November 2008 to: provide Australian Government and state heritage ministers with advice on national and cross-cutting issues affecting Australia's World Heritage properties; give Australia's World Heritage property managers a forum in which to share information on best-practice management; and improve protection of World Heritage properties. The minister opened the committee's inaugural meeting on 3 April 2009 at the Sydney Opera House.
In November 2008 ministers agreed to the membership and terms of reference for the newly formed Australian World Heritage Advisory Committee and to World Heritage funding and management principles. The principles are to be incorporated into the roles and responsibilities established under an intergovernmental agreement on the management of Australia's World Heritage properties scheduled to be completed by early 2010.
In November 2008 the minister established the Heritage Working Group to provide expert advice to improve the protection, conservation, promotion and awareness of Australia's heritage. The Heritage Working Group is examining ways to: build community awareness of the value of heritage; increase the economic and social benefits of heritage, through tourism; and increase private and public investment in conserving heritage assets.
The first meeting of the group was held in Sydney on 16 February 2009, with subsequent meetings in March, May and June. The group has also provided advice on how best to use the heritage component of the Australian Government's Jobs Fund to achieve optimum long term heritage and economic outcomes for Australia.
The Australian Heritage Council, established by the Australian Heritage Council Act 2003, is the Australian Government's principal advisory body on heritage matters. Under the EPBC Act the council is responsible for assessing the heritage values of places for the National Heritage List and the Commonwealth Heritage List. The council provides its assessments to the minister, who decides whether to list the places.
The council held four meetings in 2008-09, three in Canberra and one in Alice Springs. It also passed an out-of-session resolution in June 2009 relating to a public notice. The council provided the minister with five assessments for the National Heritage List and one for the Commonwealth Heritage List. It considered issues of consistency between national, state/territory and local government jurisdictions, heritage criteria and thresholds, and raising the profile of the National Heritage List.
Listing and managing World Heritage places
There are currently 17 Australian properties inscribed on the World Heritage List. There are places in all states, the Northern Territory and the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands. Only the Australian Government can nominate an Australian place for entry on the World Heritage List. Nominations are developed by the relevant state/territory in close consultation with the Australian Government. No Australian places were inscribed on the list in 2008-09.
Under the EPBC Act the Australian Government must make a written plan for managing a property that is entirely within one or more Commonwealth areas. Where a property is in a state or self-governing territory, the Australian Government must use its best endeavours to ensure that a plan is prepared and implemented in cooperation with the relevant state or territory. The plan must be consistent with Australia's obligations under the World Heritage Convention and the Australian World Heritage management principles for managing a World Heritage property.
The Australian Government cooperates closely with state authorities to ensure the protection and promotion of state-managed World Heritage properties is consistent with its World Heritage undertaking. It also ensures that management arrangements take into consideration state/territory management responsibilities, while preserving the Australian Government's responsibilities under the World Heritage Convention. The Environment Protection and Heritage Council, made up of Australian Government, state, territory, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea Government ministers, is reviewing World Heritage area governance arrangements.
All 17 Australian properties inscribed on the World Heritage List have management plans. As plans fell due for renewal under state statutory timeframes and processes, during 2008-09, the department worked to align the plans with EPBC Act requirements. Work included:
- a review of the existing management plans for the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens
- an interim review of the 1999 Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area Management Plan. The review has completed its public comment phase and will be finalised for ministerial endorsement in the latter half of 2009
- a review of the management plan for the Willandra Lakes Region
- ongoing development of a new management plan for Purnululu
- a review of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Plan, due for completion in 2009. Revisions to the zoning regime are being considered as part of the review
- development, in conjunction with the New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change, of a strategic plan for the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. The minister, the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area Management Committee, and relevant New South Wales Government ministers approved the new strategic plan, which was released on 5 June 2009.
The department provided communication support and media management during and after the World Heritage Committee meeting in July 2008. At the time of the Pacific Island World Heritage Workshop in October 2008, the minister announced funding of $10 million for Australia's World Heritage properties under Caring for our Country and $2.5 million to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for World Heritage projects internationally, with a focus on the Asia-Pacific region. On World Heritage Day, 18 April 2009, the minister announced additional funding for World Heritage properties and released a study into the economic activity of Australia's World Heritage properties.
The department established a World Heritage education program which will be rolled out in schools across Australia from June 2009, following support from teachers for the UNESCO World Heritage storyboard competition.
Listing and managing National Heritage places
Australia's national heritage comprises places that contribute to Australia's national identity. The National Heritage List has been established to list places of outstanding heritage significance to Australia. Places in the list are protected under the EPBC Act.
Under the EPBC Act the minister makes an annual call for public nominations for the National and Commonwealth Heritage lists and decides on Finalised Priority Assessment Lists of places, which the Australian Heritage Council will begin to assess in the next financial year.
During 2008-09 the minister added three new places to the National Heritage List:
- the Australian Alps National Parks and Reserves, New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory
- the Adelaide Park Lands and City Layout, South Australia
- the QANTAS Hangar, Longreach, Queensland.
At 30 June 2009 there were 82 places in the National Heritage List.
In 2008-09 the Australian Heritage Council completed five assessments and continued assessing the National Heritage values of 21 other places. A further 40 public nominations for the National Heritage List were received for the minister to consider under the 2009-10 work plan, including several places renominated after earlier nominations had lapsed.
Under the EPBC Act the minister may include in the National Heritage List a place that the minister believes may have National Heritage values which are under imminent threat. In 2008-09 the minister received requests to include seven places in the National Heritage List under the emergency provisions of the EPBC Act. These were:
- Cairns Yacht Club, Queensland
- Catherine Hill Bay Conservation Area, New South Wales
- Keyline Farming Development Site, Richmond, New South Wales
- Blacksmith Workshop, Eveleigh, New South Wales
- Jervis Bay and Surrounding Area, Nowra, New South Wales
- the Dog on the Tuckerbox, Gundagai, New South Wales
- The Cliffe, Peppermint Grove, Western Australia.
All seven requests were rejected (The Cliffe in early July 2009), either because there was no evidence that the places possessed National Heritage values or because there were no significant, likely and imminent threats to National Heritage values.
To ensure the protection of a National Heritage place, the EPBC Act provides for the preparation of management plans setting out ways to best conserve a site's national significance. Where a National Heritage place is in a state or territory, the Australian Government must use its best endeavours to ensure that a management plan is prepared and implemented in cooperation with the relevant state or territory government. The minister is responsible for preparing management plans for National Heritage places in Commonwealth areas.
Most National Heritage places have a management plan in place. However, many plans pre-date the heritage amendments to the EPBC Act and require revision to meet the Act's requirements. Sometimes there are several owners and/or legislative requirements involved and multiple plans for the same place. While management plans prepared under state or territory legislation may not fully satisfy the requirements of the EPBC Act, they generally satisfy the need to protect the National Heritage values.
The department is working with state authorities and owners on management plans for the following National Heritage List places:
- the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, Victoria (also on the World Heritage List)
- the Batavia Shipwreck Site and Survivor Camps Area 1629 - Houtman Abrolhos; and the Dirk Hartog Landing Site 1616 - Cape Inscription, Western Australia
- Brewarrina Aboriginal Fish Traps (Baiames Ngunnhu), New South Wales.
In 2008-09 the department reviewed and commented on draft management plans for the:
- Australian War Memorial, Australian Capital Territory
- former ICI Building and former High Court of Australia, Victoria
- Richmond Bridge, Tasmania.
The government provided financial assistance to help develop a management plan for Eureka Stockade Gardens in Victoria.
Management plans addressing the requirements of the EPBC Act for the Point Nepean Defence Sites and Quarantine Station Area in Victoria were completed in mid-2008. The department was also involved in consultations over the development of a plan for the Adelaide Park Lands and City Layout in South Australia.
One of the objectives of the National Heritage List is to increase public awareness and understanding of Australia's heritage and its importance to Australia's national identity. The department and the Australian Heritage Council continued a branding framework and four-year communication strategy to help the long-term protection of listed places by increasing public involvement in, understanding of, and commitment to, Australia's heritage.
Ministerial heritage announcements and events generated extensive media coverage. This included coverage of the first projects funded under the $60 million heritage component of the Australian Government's Jobs Fund and the inclusion of three new places in the National Heritage List.
There was a good take-up of new National Heritage List interpretive products, including plinths, posts, plaques and brochures. More than 25 per cent of all listed sites have now installed one or more of these products.
Partnerships with corporate organisations and cultural institutions continued to be successful. Ten mini-documentaries on National Heritage List places were filmed in partnership with Screen Australia, and will be screened on ABC Television as part of its National Treasures program in late 2009.
Listing and managing Commonwealth Heritage places
The Commonwealth Heritage List, established under the EPBC Act, comprises natural, Indigenous and historic heritage places which are either entirely within a Commonwealth area, or outside the Australian jurisdiction but owned or leased by the Commonwealth or a Commonwealth authority, and which the minister is satisfied have one or more Commonwealth Heritage values. Places on the list are protected under the provisions of the EPBC Act.
Anyone can nominate an eligible place to the Commonwealth Heritage List. The Australian Heritage Council assesses places that the minister has included in its work plan, the Finalised Priority Assessment List for the Commonwealth Heritage List. The council provides the minister with its assessment of the places with Commonwealth Heritage values, and the minister makes the listing decision. Five public nominations were received for possible inclusion in the 2009-10 Finalised Priority Assessment List.
At 30 June 2009 the Commonwealth Heritage List included 339 places. Three places were removed in 2008-09 following their disposal by the Commonwealth:
- Fort Scratchley Group, Newcastle, New South Wales
- Fort Scratchley Above Ground Buildings, New South Wales
- Commonwealth Naval Stores Building (former), Pyrmont, New South Wales.
The sale condition associated with the sale of Fort Scratchley required the places to be protected by state and local heritage listings.
Provisions in the EPBC Act enable the minister to include a place in the Commonwealth Heritage List when the minister believes the place may have Commonwealth Heritage values that are under threat. In 2008-09 there were no such emergency listing requests.
In 2008-09 the Australian Heritage Council completed and sent one assessment to the minister, covering the RAAF Williams Laverton - Eastern Hangars and West Workshops Precincts.
The department continued to work with Australian Government agencies on their responsibilities for the preparation of management plans for Commonwealth Heritage places under their ownership or control. Before an agency finalises a plan it must invite members of the public, Indigenous people with rights and interests in the place and, where relevant, a state or territory government, to comment on the draft plan.
In 2008-09 the minister advised the responsible Australian Government agencies that management plans satisfying Commonwealth Heritage management principles were made for:
- Lennox House, the York Park Oak Plantation, the Carillon and Aspen Island, and the Reserve Bank, Australian Capital Territory
- Cockatoo Island and the Reserve Bank, New South Wales
- Point Nepean Quarantine Station, Victoria
- Kingston and Arthurs Vale Historic Area, Norfolk Island
- Lady Elliott Lightstation, Queensland.
The department consulted with Australian Government agencies on draft management plans for Brisbane Post Office in Queensland, the Australian War Memorial and Parliament House Vista in the Australian Capital Territory, Villawood Hostel in New South Wales, and Mawson Station in Antarctica.
Australian Government agencies that own or control places with Commonwealth Heritage values must prepare a heritage strategy addressing the matters set out in the Regulations under the EPBC Act. The principal objective of the strategy is for agencies to outline their approach to manage effectively the long-term protection and conservation of the place's Commonwealth Heritage values. Before developing its heritage strategy, an agency is required to consult the Australian Heritage Council and take its advice into account.
In 2008-09 the Australian War Memorial completed its heritage strategy. The Australian Heritage Council provided advice on heritage strategies for the Attorney-General's Department. Fourteen agency heritage strategies have now been completed. The department is aware of another 17 agencies that have commenced preparation of a heritage strategy.
Indigenous places in the National and Commonwealth Heritage lists
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage is an important part of Australian heritage. Indigenous heritage is of continuing significance, maintaining continuous links between the people and the land. Indigenous places of outstanding heritage value to the nation are listed in the National Heritage List; Commonwealth places with importance as part of Indigenous tradition are listed in the Commonwealth Heritage List.
When a place is nominated for inclusion in the National or Commonwealth Heritage lists, and the Australian Heritage Council (which, under its enabling legislation, must include two Indigenous experts) considers that the place may have Indigenous heritage values, the council must endeavour to identify the Indigenous people with rights and interests in the place, and invite their views on whether it should be included in the list. The minister takes those submissions into account when making a decision about listing the place.
Indigenous Australians are involved in developing management plans for places with Indigenous heritage significance on the National or Commonwealth Heritage lists. National Heritage List places on Indigenous land can be managed through conservation agreements, which operate in the same way as Indigenous protected areas.
The EPBC Act has numerous measures to ensure transparency in the heritage listing and management processes. Listings involve calls for public nominations, the opportunity for the public to comment on places under assessment and for input from owners and lessees for places that the Australian Heritage Council has found might have heritage values.
Public databases provide information on all nominations and listings and any extensions agreed by the minister on assessments or listing decisions.
General information on the heritage provisions of the EPBC Act, on heritage publications and on access to heritage databases is available at: www.environment.gov.au/heritage/index.html.
Heritage assessments by the Australian Heritage Council are available to the public on request once the minister has made a listing decision.
The Ramsar Convention encourages the designation of sites containing representative, rare or unique wetlands, or wetlands that are important for conserving biological diversity. In designating a wetland as a Ramsar site, countries agree to manage it to ensure that its ecological character is maintained.
In October 2008 an Australian delegation attended the tenth conference of the contracting parties to the Ramsar Convention in Changwon, Republic of Korea.
In the context of the EPBC Act, the resolutions of Ramsar Conferences of the Parties can affect implementation of the Convention in Australia, for example: by instituting revised definitions of 'ecological character'; and by agreeing on changes to the information that is required in Ramsar Information Sheets. The conference agreed on a work plan for the Ramsar Scientific and Technical Review Panel that includes developing guidance on setting the limits of acceptable change when preparing a description of the ecological character of a Ramsar wetland. Such guidance may influence how actions referred under the EPBC Act are assessed for their potential to impact significantly on the ecological character of Ramsar wetlands and the acceptability of actions requiring approval.
Wetlands and Waterbirds Taskforce
The Wetlands and Waterbirds Taskforce, consisting of wetland experts from Australian and New Zealand state and territory government agencies, continued to advise the Natural Resource Management Standing Committee (NRMSC) on the implementation of the Ramsar Convention and migratory bird agreements. The NRMSC is a standing committee of the NRM Ministerial Council.
The department, in conjunction with the taskforce, is developing national guidelines for Ramsar wetlands that will provide a more coherent framework for Ramsar implementation in Australia. Work is progressing on three additional guidelines: an introductory module; guidelines on developing Ramsar management plans; and nominating Ramsar sites.
The guidelines for developing Ramsar management plans will help ensure that plans are consistent with the Australian Ramsar management principles (defined in Schedule 6 of the EPBC Regulations 2000).
The EPBC Act establishes a framework for managing Ramsar wetlands, which is in accordance with the Ramsar Convention, through the Australian Ramsar management principles. These principles have been set out in regulations and cover matters relevant to the preparation of management plans, environment assessment of actions that may affect the site, and the community consultation process.
A management plan for a Ramsar wetland cannot be accredited unless it is in accordance with these principles. The principles may also be used for the management of any wetland throughout Australia.
Under section 336 of the EPBC Act, the Australian Government can provide financial or other assistance for protecting declared Ramsar wetlands. The Australian Government continues to provide substantial funding support for wetland restoration and management across Australia through programs such as Water for the Future and Caring for our Country and the New South Wales Wetland Recovery Program. Further details on these programs can be found in this section and in Volume 1 of the department's annual report.
Rolling review of the status of Australia's Ramsar sites
The department is implementing a review, based on ecological character descriptions, to assess threats to the ecological character of Australia's 65 Ramsar sites.
The first stage of the review has commenced with the commissioning of consultants to develop site specific status forms for Ramsar sites and to pilot the review of 20 Ramsar sites across Australia. The review is expected to be completed by May 2010.
Improved Ramsar site documentation
In 2008-09, the Australian Government continued to assist in the development and review of management plans for Ramsar sites across Australia. Under the EPBC Act, all Ramsar sites in Commonwealth areas are required to have, and do have, management plans. In 2008-09 the department provided funding to develop management plans for three Ramsar wetlands: Riverland, in South Australia; Ginini Flats Wetland Complex in the Australian Capital Territory; and The Coorong and Lakes Alexandrina and Albert Wetland in South Australia.
The department reviewed and commented on two other management plans.
The department provided funding to start development of an additional 18 Ramsar site ecological character descriptions, and to update another six descriptions so that they meet the requirements of the national guidelines. Eleven ecological character descriptions and six management plans funded by the Australian Government in previous years were completed during 2008-09, or are in the last stages of completion.
Ecological character descriptions will assist in implementation of the EPBC Act by:
- providing the baseline description of the ecological character of Ramsar wetlands
- improving assessment of the likely impacts of proposed actions on the ecological character of Ramsar wetlands
- guiding the development of management plans
- providing a basis for evaluating the results of monitoring.
Macquarie Marshes joint agency compliance project
The Macquarie Marshes Ramsar wetland is protected under state legislation and under the EPBC Act.
During 2008-09 the department worked with three New South Wales Government agencies to examine the legality and impacts of water diversion structures in the wetland, such as dams or weirs, that impact on the delivery and effectiveness of environmental flows.
The joint compliance project was led by the New South Wales Department of Water and Energy. The other participating agencies were the Department of Environment and Climate Change and the Department of Primary Industries. The project was funded under the New South Wales Wetlands Recovery Program. The Australian Government, through Water for the Future, is providing half of the $26.8 million cost of the Wetlands Recovery Program.
Four field operations were undertaken over a 10-month period to determine the impacts of the structures, and, where applicable, determine the impacts of removal or modification of the structures. Enforcement action has been commenced by state agencies under relevant legislation. None of the structures inspected during the project were considered to individually constitute a significant impact on the Macquarie Marshes and warrant enforcement action under the EPBC Act.
World Wetlands Day
The Wetlands Australia: National Wetlands Update is produced annually and released to coincide with World Wetlands Day on 2 February. The update brings together information from across Australia relating to wetlands conservation, management and education.
The international theme for World Wetlands Day 2009 was 'Upstream-Downstream: Wetlands connect us all', recognising the interconnections within river basins and the impact that activities upstream have on the lower parts of a river catchment.
A workshop for non-government organisations was held in September 2008 to share information about Australian Government objectives and priorities for wetland management, including how Ramsar wetlands are protected under the EPBC Act.
Wetland Recovery Program
The Australian Government has provided funding of $13.4 million to the New South Wales Wetland Recovery Program, $6.156 million of this was spent in 2007-08 and a further $5.43 million in 2008-09. This program aims to improve the health of the internationally significant Macquarie Marshes and Gwydir Wetlands, parts of which are listed under the Ramsar Convention. The Macquarie Marshes and Gwydir Wetlands are under ecological stress as a result of drought and land and water management practices.
A significant component of the Program is the development of Adaptive Environmental Management Plans (AEMPs) for the Macquarie Marshes and the Gwydir Wetlands. The objectives of the AEMPs are to: define specific ecological assets for protection; define desired ecological outcomes; identify environmental water requirements; establish benchmarks for the conditions of resources; determine other land and water management practices required to achieve the best adaptive management and ecological outcomes; and identify water purchase and efficiency projects.
Key achievements of the Wetland Recovery Program include: studies into grazing impacts and guidelines developed for sustainable grazing in the Macquarie Marshes; detailed design work to improve the Marebone Weir that is a barrier to fish movement, a better fishway will allow fish to move along 100 km of the Macquarie River, including the Macquarie Marshes; downstream of Marebone, willows have been removed from a 70 km stretch of the Macquarie River to improve water quality and biodiversity; significant research for control of the weed lippia; and a strategic compliance initiative to identify structures impacting on delivery of environmental flows.
Coorong and Lower Lakes
The Australian Government has committed up to $200 million to South Australia to support an enduring response to the environmental problems facing the Coorong and Lower Lakes.
This includes $10 million for a feasibility study of long-term options to manage this important site. This work is well under way and the first draft of a discussion paper was released for community consultation on 6 May 2009.
In 2008-09 the Australian Government also committed $10 million for additional bioremediation and revegetation projects around the Lower Lakes, which will commence in 2009-10.
Living Murray initiative
As part of the Living Murray initiative, administered by the Murray Darling Basin Authority, 6.7 billion litres of environmental water was allocated in 2008-09 for the environment, some of which was provided to Ramsar sites along the Murray River. The water was used to provide critical drought refuges to help protect threatened species at the Chowilla Lindsay-Wallpolla, Gunbower, Barmah-Millewa Forrest, Hattah Lakes, Koondrook and Lower Lakes sites.
Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder
Under the Water Act 2007, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) is responsible for managing the Commonwealth's environmental water holdings and using those holdings to protect and restore environmental assets to give effect to relevant international agreements.
In 2008-09, the CEWH directed the use of 10.9 billion litres of environmental water to wetlands and other environmental assets in the Murray-Darling Basin. These included two Ramsar sites, the Chowilla Floodplain and Hattah Lakes, and other sites providing drought refuge for species including those listed under the EPBC Act, such as the Murray Hardyhead. The annual report of the CEWH is contained in this volume of the department's annual report.
Threatened species, ecological communities and migratory species
The EPBC Act matters of national environmental significance include threatened species, ecological communities and migratory species. The EPBC Act protects Australia's native species and ecological communities by providing for:
- identification and listing of threatened species and ecological communities
- development of conservation advice and recovery plans for listed species and ecological communities
- a register of critical habitat
- recognition of key threatening processes and, where appropriate, reducing the impacts of these processes through threat abatement plans
- permits to be issued for certain actions involving protected species.
Threatened fauna and flora may be listed in categories defined by the EPBC Act. Species which are listed as extinct in the wild, critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable are matters of national environmental significance.
Ecological communities are unique and naturally occurring groups of plants and animals. Their presence can be determined by factors such as soil type, position in the landscape, climate and water availability.
Once a species or ecological community is listed under the EPBC Act, its recovery is promoted using conservation advice, recovery plans, and the EPBC Act's assessment and approval provisions.
Listed threatened species and ecological communities
The Threatened Species Scientific Committee under the EPBC Act advises the minister on amending and updating lists of threatened species, threatened ecological communities, and key threatening processes. It also advises on the development or adoption of threat abatement plans.
Each year the minister invites nominations for a new assessment cycle commencing on 1 October. The Threatened Species Scientific Committee then prepares a Proposed Priority Assessment List for the minister's consideration.
The minister considers, and can make changes to, the list before publishing the Finalised Priority Assessment List on the department's website. Comments from the public, as well as experts, are invited on the Finalised Priority Assessment List before it is assessed by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee. Final recommendations are put forward to the minister, who decides whether the species, ecological community or key threatening process is eligible for listing under the EPBC Act.
The Threatened Species Scientific Committee met four times in 2008-09. The committee assessed the conservation status of species, ecological communities and key threatening processes on the Finalised Priority Assessment List for the assessment period commencing 1 October 2008. It continued its work on aligning lists of threatened species at national, state and territory levels.
The committee considered a number of conservation advices for species and ecological communities already listed as threatened under the EPBC Act, as well as a number of recovery plans and threat abatement plans. In December 2008, 763 conservation advices were published on the department's website, fulfilling its obligation to have a conservation advice in place by 31 December 2009 for those listed species and ecological communities identified as not yet having a recovery plan. The committee continues to discuss national monitoring and reporting on significant species and ecological communities. In June 2009 it prioritised public nominations received and determined its proposed priority assessment list for consideration by the minister. The finalised list will be made public in the first quarter of 2009-10.
The minister nominated a conservation theme for listing nominations. The new theme was 'terrestrial, estuarine and near-shore environments of Australia's coast'. The minister also decided to continue the previous year's theme of 'rivers, wetlands and groundwater dependent species and ecosystems of inland Australia'. Nominations were received for 39 species, one key threatening process and nine ecological communities. The department then undertook a second round of assessments focusing on species and ecological communities in greatest need of protection, providing clearly defined assessment timeframes, and more open public nomination and consultation processes. The key aspect of the process was the development of a Finalised Priority Assessment List for the Threatened Species Scientific Committee, approved by the minister. The list relates to the assessment of species, ecological communities and key threatening processes. Assessments of five marine species started in 2008-09. Four of these species interact with commercial fisheries managed by the Australian Government. In January 2009 the minister listed eastern gemfish and school shark as conservation dependent, while a decision not to list the Patagonian toothfish was made in May 2009 because the minister was satisfied that it was being managed sustainably.
The minister made decisions following assessments of 71 species and nine ecological communities. Twenty-nine species were from the Finalised Priority Assessment List and 42 were under the Species Information Partnerships to align state and national lists. There were 12 transfers to revised status, 53 new listings, two were delisted, two were deemed ineligible and two had no change of status. The Tasmanian Devil's status was changed from vulnerable to endangered in response to the threat posed by the devil facial tumour disease.
For all new listings, conservation advices were prepared and published on the department's website.
Eight threatened ecological communities were listed and extensive information was published on distribution, key diagnostic characteristics, condition, relationship to state vegetation classifications, and threats. Priority conservation actions were also published for each. The ecological communities listed were:
- Littoral Rainforest and Coastal Vine Thickets of Eastern Australia
- Weeping Myall Woodlands
- Alpine Sphagnum Bogs and Associated Fens
- Gippsland Red Gum (Eucalyptus tereticornis subsp. mediana) Grassy Woodland and Associated Native Grassland
- Grassy Eucalypt Woodland of the Victorian Volcanic Plain
- Lowland Native Grasslands of Tasmania
- Natural Grasslands of the Queensland Central Highlands and the Northern Fitzroy Basin
- Natural Grasslands on Basalt and Fine-textured Alluvial Plains of Northern New South Wales and Southern Queensland.
Listing will raise awareness of these ecological communities, the threats to them, and the plants and animals for which they provide habitat. Listing also triggers the protection mechanisms of the EPBC Act and makes the communities a priority for funding and management to assist with their recovery and conservation.
Aligning ecological community lists
Over 1600 ecological communities and regional ecosystems listed or recognised by states and territories were identified and examined during 2008-09. More than 130 of these were found to be part of the 46 ecological communities listed under the EPBC Act or under assessment for listing. This is because many ecological communities listed at the national level either cross state boundaries or cover many more smaller communities or regional ecosystems that receive varying levels of protection by the states and territories. Listing advices for ecological communities at the national level now all contain clear links to state and territory vegetation systems and listed ecological communities (or regional ecosystems in Queensland).
A process has been finalised, and endorsed by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee, for determining priority state and territory endemic ecological communities for future potential national listing. The department held preliminary discussions with all relevant state and territory governments to outline the prioritisation process. The next step is to refine the priority list and progress the listing of priority state ecological communities.
Inventories of listed species on Commonwealth land
Work continued to develop comprehensive and accurate inventories of species in Commonwealth terrestrial reserves. The work focused on investigating the feasibility of adapting an existing departmental database to provide an integrated species inventory covering the six Commonwealth national parks.
Species Information Partnerships
The Australian Government has partnerships in place with the governments of South Australia, Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Tasmania and Victoria to provide information on threatened species listed under state and territory legislation. The Species Information Partnerships aim to achieve consistency between the lists held by the Australian Government and those held by the states and territories, and to increase exchange of information on the listing and recovery of threatened species.
The Threatened Species Scientific Committee is using the information provided by states and territories as the basis for its assessment of species for listing under the EPBC Act. At its June 2009 meeting the committee endorsed a streamlined approach to such assessments which the department anticipates will considerably increase productivity. Discussions are expected to result in new Species Information Partnerships with all states and territories, including Queensland and New South Wales for the first time.
In 2008-09 information provided by the states and territories under the partnerships supported listing decisions for 24 Western Australian species, 17 Tasmanian species and one Victorian species.
Key threatening processes
The EPBC Act provides for listing of key threatening processes. The Threatened Species Scientific Committee advises the minister on key threatening processes and whether a threat abatement plan is required.
Threat abatement plans set out the research, management and other actions needed to abate key threatening processes.
One new threat abatement plan was made for a terrestrial species: a plan to reduce the impacts of exotic rodents on biodiversity on offshore islands of less than 100,000 hectares. Additionally, a new threat abatement plan was made for the impact of marine debris on vertebrate marine life.
Following a review of the threat abatement plan for dieback caused by the root-rot fungus Phytophthora cinnamomi, a revised plan was made for disease in natural ecosystems caused by P. cinnamomi. Revised threat abatement plans were also made for cats, foxes, rabbits and goats.
Approximately $2 million was invested in threat abatement research studies, including:
- further development of a feline-specific cat toxin
- prioritising high biodiversity conservation areas threatened by vertebrate pests
- research into the chytrid fungus, which is causing decline in frog populations.
The decision not to have a threat abatement plan for one key threatening process, incidental catch (bycatch) of sea turtle during coastal otter-trawling operations within Australian waters north of 28 degrees south, was reviewed. This occurred outside the statutory timeframe due to administrative delays. The decision not to have a threat abatement plan was maintained.
A full list of key threatening processes and threat abatement plans is at Appendix D.
Managing threatened species and ecological communities
The EPBC Act provides for the making or adopting of recovery plans and conservation advices when a species is listed.
Recovery plans set out the research and management actions necessary to stop the decline, and support the recovery, of listed threatened species or threatened ecological communities.
The department, together with the relevant state and territory environment agencies, continued to make substantial investment in recovering threatened species and ecological communities through developing and implementing recovery plans. A total of 883 nationally threatened species and ecological communities now have recovery plans in place or in preparation. In 2008-09, 30 recovery plans, covering 30 terrestrial threatened species, were made or adopted under the EPBC Act. These comprised five fauna recovery plans - for the helmeted honeyeater, smoky mouse, yellow chat, Muir's corella and the boggomoss snail - and 25 plant recovery plans.
As the EPBC Act has now been in operation for ten years, an increasing number of recovery plans are due for review. Of the 22 recovery plans due for review in 2008-09, ten individual reviews commenced for nine single species and one is a multi species plan covering seven species. As part of the department's consideration of a more strategic landscape approach to recovery planning, the other 12 plans are to be reviewed during 2009-10 as part of a larger project identifying potential new regions for recovery plans.
The Great White Shark Recovery Plan was reviewed in December 2008 and the review was tabled at the Threatened Species Scientific Committee meeting. The committee also approved the draft Australian Sea Lion Recovery Plan and Issues Paper for public release.
The department continued to pursue more integrated regional approaches to threatened species recovery. Development of a number of pilot regional recovery plans that adopt a landscape approach to threatened species is progressing well. Regional plans are in preparation for the:
- Border Ranges rainforests (New South Wales/Queensland)
- the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges region (South Australia)
- Northern Rivers region (New South Wales)
- South Coast region (Western Australia)
- King Island (Tasmania)
- Norfolk Island
- Christmas Island.
Implementation of priority actions identified in recovery plans continued. As most actions identified within recovery plans are matters for the states and territories, the Australian Government provided resources to assist habitat restoration and other on-ground management actions, population surveys and monitoring, captive breeding programs, feral pest control and community education.
New funding was also provided to assist the recovery of a number of species, including the western ground parrot, Carnaby's black-cockatoo, central rock-rat, swift parrot and southern bent-wing bat, as well as implementation of new regional recovery plans such as the Lord Howe Island Biodiversity Management Plan.
In 2008 the minister made a decision to develop a recovery plan for albatrosses and giant petrels. The previous recovery plan for these species, made in 2001, lapsed in 2006. A draft plan was developed in consultation with relevant states and territories and other interested parties and was released for public comment in May 2009, with comments due by 31 August 2009.
Australian Antarctic permits
The EPBC Act exempts certain actions from requiring permits under its provisions, where permits have been issued under the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980 (ATEP Act). The EPBC Act, amongst other exceptions, states that where an action is taken in accordance with a permit issued under the ATEP Act, and the permit is in force, certain actions involving listed threatened species and ecological communities, migratory species and listed marine species, are not offences. The department issued a number of permits under the ATEP Act in 2008-09 for activities associated with the Australian Antarctic program.
Where a permit is held under the ATEP Act, a permit under Part 13 of the EPBC Act is not required. However, approval under Part 9 of the EPBC Act may still be needed for the purposes of provisions in Part 3, if the action is likely to have a significant impact on a matter protected by those provisions. No matters were referred by the department under the EPBC Act in 2008-09.
In the Australian Whale Sanctuary and for Australian citizens in waters beyond the sanctuary (international or foreign waters), it is a requirement to obtain a permit from the minister to injure, take, keep, move, and/or interfere with (harass, chase, herd, tag, mark or brand) a cetacean.
The department issued five permits for cetacean research. All five applications were posted on the departmental website and public comments sought, as required under the EPBC Act.
Research authorised under the permits included:
- potential impacts of anthropogenic underwater noise on whales, through non-invasive research techniques
- impacts of current approach distances for whale watching and dolphin watching vessels
- biology, ecology, migrations and genetics of blue whales and other cetacean species
- migration corridors of sperm and humpback whales
- humpback whales annual migration from Antarctica to the Coral Sea.
The species studied include blue, southern right, humpback and sperm whales, as well as Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, bottlenose and snub-fin dolphins and other small coastal cetacean species.
Data collection techniques included collection of biopsy samples, observational still photography and video documentation, and land, vessel and aerial surveys.
Information and communication
The department worked towards increasing community awareness of biodiversity issues through workshops, policy statements, newsletters and additions to the Species Profile and Threats database (SPRAT).
A national workshop to develop the Great White Shark Recovery Plan was held in Canberra on 8 April 2009. The department organised the workshop in partnership with the National Shark Recovery Group.
The department also developed significant impact policy statements for five threatened species and released them for public comment. These were for the western ringtail possum, spiny rice-flower, golden sun moth, growling grass frog, and the spot-tailed quoll (southeastern mainland population) and the use of 1080 baiting. The department also hosted eight expert workshops, with a further nine policy statements in preparation.
The department published Policy Statement 3.9 - Littoral Rainforest and Coastal Vine Thickets of Eastern Australia. The policy statement was distributed widely to land managers, land owners and other stakeholders to assist them with identifying, assessing and managing this threatened ecological community, which provides habitat for over 70 plants and animals listed under the EPBC Act and also provides an important buffer to coastal erosion and wind damage.
The department funded information gathering to strengthen its decision-making on matters of national environmental significance in key regional areas. Studies have provided important information on the presence of the quokka in the Muddy Lakes region of Western Australia, and refining existing matters of national environmental significance mapping for far north Queensland, including for the Mission Beach area. This was part of the department's contribution to developing the state government's Far North Queensland 2025 Statutory Regional Plan.
The department published the Communities for Communities newsletter, which informs the public about threatened ecological communities listed under the EPBC Act or nominated for listing, and other departmental work to conserve biodiversity.
The SPRAT database brings together information about species and ecological communities listed under the EPBC Act. There are 1752 species listed as threatened and a further 515 species that have marine, migratory or cetacean only status under the EPBC Act. Data added or reviewed included:
- 437 species profiles updated (20 per cent of the total of 2267)
- 35 new species profiles added
- 283 species profiles publicly released (12 per cent of total)
- 10 ecological community profiles publicly released.
At the request of the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council, the 1998 National Koala Conservation and Management Strategy was reviewed by a consultant in 2008. The review was overseen by a steering committee comprising the koala range states (Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia), the Australian Koala Foundation and the department, which chaired. The Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council approved the release of the new draft strategy for public comment in June 2009.
Concurrent with the review of the strategy, the koala was placed on the 2008 Finalised Priority Assessment List for consideration of its national conservation status under the EPBC Act. Assessment has commenced and is due by September 2010.
This section reports on the operation of the EPBC Act in regulating the import and export of Australia's native flora and fauna and of species restricted through international trade controls, and the making of wildlife and fisheries conservation and management plans.
- The Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council endorsed three codes of practice to promote animal welfare (two for kangaroos and one for crocodiles).
- The Administrative Appeals Tribunal affirmed the approval of the 2007-2011 New South Wales Kangaroo Management Plan, recognising that the harvest is sustainable and meets the animal welfare requirements of the EPBC Act.
- Wildlife trade management plans were approved for the commercial harvest of crocodiles in Western Australia and for the New South Wales cut flower industry.
- Thirty-seven fisheries were comprehensively assessed - eight Commonwealth-managed fisheries and 29 state-managed fisheries - all within EPBC Act statutory timeframes.
International wildlife trade
As a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Australia regulates the import and export of an agreed list of species that are endangered, or at risk of becoming endangered, due to inadequate controls over trade in them or their products. CITES has established a worldwide system of controls on international trade in threatened wildlife and wildlife products by stipulating that government permits are required for such trade.
In March 2009 the department hosted an Oceania Capacity-Building Workshop with the theme of 'CITES enforcement'. The workshop brought together CITES parties and non-party participants from Australia and the Pacific region.
Guest speakers were invited to present on topics relevant to the theme, ranging from CITES compliance and enforcement obligations, trade in timber, national approaches and priority needs in the region, and the roles of effective networking and education in enforcement. Speakers included representatives from the CITES Secretariat, Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, regional organisations such as the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, the wildlife trade monitoring network (TRAFFIC) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, as well as the department.
The workshop was an effective forum for the exchange of ideas and development of action plans for the region.
The import of live animals into Australia is controlled by the EPBC Act and the Quarantine Act 1908, administered by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service. These laws apply to all importers of live exotic animals.
All species permitted for live import into Australia are included on the live import list. Species not on this list cannot be legally imported into Australia. Anyone, whether a member of the public, a public institution or a commercial enterprise, can apply to the minister to amend the live import list to include a new species.
The department received six applications to amend the live import list. The minister decided to make one addition to the list, the common eggfly butterfly, and rejected two further proposals to import live exotic specimens, the savannah cat and the large earth bumblebee. A number of taxonomic changes were also made to the live import list.
Ornamental Fish Management Implementation Group
The department contributed to implementing the Strategic Approach to the Management of Ornamental Fish in Australia by participating in the Ornamental Fish Management Implementation Group and by contributing funds to help implement the strategic approach.
The Ornamental Fish Management Implementation Group continued its focus on harmonising legislation by having each state and territory commit to reflecting the agreed list of noxious species in their respective legislation. States and territories are expected to legislate the current noxious species list by July 2009. The group also continued the major task of reviewing identified ornamental fish species in Australia, known as the 'grey list', to determine their status as potentially noxious or invasive species in the Australian environment.
Exotic Bird Record-Keeping Scheme
In December 2007 the department implemented the Exotic Bird Record-Keeping Scheme to encourage bird keepers to keep standard records of the exotic birds they hold.
During 2008-09 the scheme was evaluated to assess its effectiveness in minimising illegal trade and reducing the risk of exotic pests and diseases affecting the Australian environment. The independent consultant's report and recommendations were released for a three-month public comment period in June 2009 and the department held a stakeholder workshop to discuss the recommendations. The minister will decide on the future of the scheme following the public comment period.
Sustainable wildlife industries
The international movement of wildlife and wildlife products for commercial purposes is regulated under the EPBC Act. Commercial trade in specimens derived from regulated native species, CITES listed species or the import of regulated live plants and animals for commercial purposes, may be allowed provided the specimens have been derived from an approved captive breeding program, artificial propagation program, aquaculture program, wildlife trade operation, wildlife trade management plan, or accredited wildlife trade management plan (a category of wildlife trade management plans).
The following wildlife programs were approved in 2008-09:
- ten cooperative conservation programs
- two wildlife trade management plans
- five individual wildlife trade operations (non-fisheries)
- eight new and two revised artificial propagation programs
- nine captive breeding programs
- two aquaculture programs.
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal handed down its decision affirming the approval of the 2007-2011 New South Wales Kangaroo Management Plan as a wildlife trade management plan. The decision recognised that the harvest is sustainable and meets the animal welfare requirements of the EPBC Act. However, the tribunal was concerned that the management plan did not include adequate measures to respond to an unusual decline in population numbers and the plan was amended to include trigger points and the actions to be taken when the trigger points are reached.
On 7 November 2008 the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council endorsed the National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes and the National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Non-commercial Purposes. These codes replaced an earlier 1990 code following an extensive review, including a public comment period, by a working group of the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council. The working group included representatives from state and Australian Government agencies, including the department, the kangaroo industry and animal welfare organisations. The codes are an improvement on the 1990 code providing increased guidance to shooters on use of firearms, point of aim and euthanasia methods.
The department is developing a national strategy for the commercial harvest of kangaroos. A consultancy was undertaken in 2008-09, and a draft report was received on 1 June 2009.
The Code of Practice on the Humane Treatment of Wild and Farmed Australian Crocodiles was endorsed by the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council on 21 May 2009. The code is limited to the taking of crocodiles from the wild and crocodile farming. It does not cover the public display of crocodiles in zoos and animal parks. These are generally covered separately by state agency codes of practice.
On 7 January 2009 the New South Wales Cut Flower Management Plan was approved. The plan outlines a system to facilitate and regulate the sustainable harvesting and production of material for the cut flower industry in New South Wales.
On 23 March 2009 a wildlife trade management plan was approved for the commercial harvest of crocodiles in Western Australia.
Fisheries assessment and approvals
Under the EPBC Act the department assesses the environmental performance of fisheries management arrangements to ensure that fisheries are managed in an ecologically sustainable way and to identify areas for improvement. All Commonwealth-managed fisheries and all state and territory fisheries with an export component are required to undergo assessment.
A total of 112 fisheries have been declared as either exempt from the export provisions of the EPBC Act for five years, or as approved wildlife trade operations for periods of up to three years.
In 2008-09, 37 fisheries were comprehensively assessed - eight Commonwealth-managed fisheries and 29 state-managed fisheries - all within statutory timeframes. A full list of assessments can be found in Table 14.
Ten fisheries were exempted from the export provisions of the EPBC Act and 27 were approved as wildlife trade operations while the management arrangements were being negotiated and improved.
As a result of the fisheries assessment process, conditions and recommendations were agreed between the department and fisheries management agencies. They require the agencies to demonstrate improved environmental performance, and enhance the ecologically sustainable management of fisheries in the short to medium term. The outcomes are published in detailed reports on the department's website at www.environment.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/index.html.
Wildlife trade permits
To protect endangered species from uncontrolled trade which can lead to population decline and extinction, Australia regulates the import and export of animals protected under CITES.
In 2008-09 the department issued 1969 permits authorising international wildlife trade, and 15 690 personal accompanied baggage permits.
The department completed 40 assessments involving transfers of live animals for exhibition in zoos. The department ensures that live animals only go to appropriate zoological institutions through an accreditation scheme and facility assessments.
The department developed 10 Cooperative Conservation Programs for species listed in CITES Appendix I. The programs aim to conserve a species and apply best practice to the management of its husbandry, genetics, biology and behavioural needs. The department issued 205 non-commercial wildlife trade permits to zoological institutions and scientific researchers, including 31 multiple consignment permits.
The department reviewed and finalised conditions for the overseas transfer of certain animals including macropods and koalas.
Public awareness and information
To increase wildlife protection awareness, the department:
- delivered CITES awareness training to Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service officers throughout Australia
- hosted information booths at the Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia annual conference, Travel Expo 2009 and the Australasian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association conference
- began a review of international wildlife trade regulation information on the department's website
- advertised in the popular press on wildlife issues and in the Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association magazine on complementary medicines
- advertised in all regional editions of the Pet Directory, a definitive resource for pet owners and suppliers in Australia
- conducted an Australia-wide mail-out of wildlife trade educational material to travel agents for distribution to travellers
- loaned seized specimens to institutions such as zoos and aquaria, universities and museums for education or research purposes. It is a condition of display that these items are referenced as having been seized as illegal imports
- wrote to all current permit holders to tell them that the department is undertaking a review to ensure compliance with permit conditions
- advertised in bird-keeping magazines on the benefits of the Exotic Bird Record-Keeping Scheme and on request, distributed information packs about the scheme.
The EPBC Act provides for the establishment and protection of Commonwealth reserves, including marine and terrestrial areas, through the issuing of permits for a range of activities and development of bioregional plans.
- Australia's 15th biosphere reserve, the Great Sandy Biosphere Reserve, was approved by UNESCO in May 2009.
- The department released profiles for the South-west, North-west and North marine regions and a marine bioregional profile for the East Marine Bioregional Plan.
The Australian Government manages an estate of marine and terrestrial protected areas that are Commonwealth Reserves under the EPBC Act. The Director of National Parks prepares a separate annual report on management of these reserves.
The management plans for the Coringa-Herald and Lihou Reef national nature reserves expired on 4 September 2008. These reserves are now being managed under interim management arrangements while a new management framework is being developed as part of the marine bioregional planning process.
The Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve and Cartier Island Marine Reserve management plans expired on 25 June 2009. The reserves will be managed under interim management arrangements until the development of a new management plan at the conclusion of the marine bioregional planning process for the North-west marine region.
Stakeholder forums were held in May 2009 in relation to the upcoming expiry (on 2 July 2009) of the Ningaloo Marine Park (Commonwealth Waters) management plan. Attendees were advised of changes to the management arrangements in the reserve, in particular that the rules for recreational fishing will be consistent in the state and Commonwealth waters of Ningaloo Marine Park, following expiry of the management plan. Brochures were distributed outlining the changes.
Management plans were also in preparation for the Australian National Botanic Gardens, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Christmas Island National Park and Booderee National Park. These management plans are reported in more detail in the annual report prepared by the Director of National Parks.
A total of 53 permits were issued for Commonwealth marine reserves and 111 approvals, including extensions of existing approvals, were issued for activities in marine reserves managed under interim management arrangements in accordance with the EPBC Act.
The department issued permits and approvals for scientific research in Commonwealth marine and terrestrial reserves, including the following:
- whale and seabird surveys at Ashmore Reef and a whale survey at Mermaid Reef
- a study of the connections between fish and coral at Mermaid Reef and Scott Reef
- genetic sampling at Lihou Reef
- an archaeological survey of the Hive shipwreck survivors' camp
- relationships between sediment geochemistry and infaunal biodiversity (animals living in aquatic sediments) at Booderee National Park
- the trapping and collection of native bees for taxonomic research at the Australian National Botanic Gardens
- automatic video monitoring in the search for the white-breasted white-eye at Norfolk Island National Park
- soil invertebrate sampling for the purposes of determining nutrient levels, rate of litter decomposition and diet of pest species (cats, rats and chickens) at Norfolk Island National Park
- mapping and biological sampling in continental shelf regions of east Tasmanian Commonwealth Marine Reserves.
The department also issued permits for access to biological resources in Commonwealth areas for the purposes of research and development, under Part 8A of the EPBC Regulations 2000, including the following:
- an ecology survey of lanternfish aggregations
- a study of the sensory adaptation mechanisms of deep sea organisms
- a population genetic structure study for the endangered grassland earless dragon.
Marine bioregional plans being established under the EPBC Act provide a clear focus on conservation and sustainable management of the marine environment and offer certainty for stakeholders. The plans will cover Australia's 14 million square kilometre ocean jurisdiction and guide the minister, sectoral managers and industry in making decisions about the conservation issues and priorities in each marine region. The plans are being implemented at a regional scale, with four scheduled for completion in 2010.
Marine bioregional plans are developed in three stages: firstly a marine profile of the region's characteristics is prepared; secondly a draft plan is developed; and finally a marine bioregional plan, which includes an identified network of marine protected areas, is completed.
Following on from the release of profiles for the South-west, North-west and North marine regions, in May 2009 the minister released a bioregional profile for the East Marine Bioregional Plan.
The North-west and North bioregional profiles were released in November 2008. Data gathering and analysis to support the development of a proposed network of marine protected areas and other conservation strategies has advanced in all marine regions and drafting of marine bioregional plans for each of the four planning regions has commenced.
The development of draft marine bioregional plans for the South-west, North, North-west and East regions is nearing completion. Draft plans will be released for statutory public consultation in late 2009 and early 2010.
As part of the East marine bioregional planning process, a Coral Sea Conservation Zone was established in May 2009 to provide interim protection for the Coral Sea while it is being assessed for possible inclusion in one or more Commonwealth marine reserves through the marine bioregional planning process.
A biosphere reserve is a unique concept that includes one or more protected areas and surrounding lands that are managed to combine conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
The EPBC Act allows the minister to cooperate with states and territories on biosphere reserves while the EPBC Regulations contain principles for biosphere reserve management.
The Great Sandy Biosphere Reserve, Australia's fifteenth, was approved by the Bureau of the International Coordinating Council of UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme on 26 May 2009. The department provided technical advice to community and other organisations and groups involved in biosphere reserve development.
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