Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2009
Outcome 1 - Environment (continued)
The department works with all levels of government, the community and with industry to minimise the impact of human settlement and industrial processes on Australia's environment and biodiversity.
The department helps to protect and improve urban air quality by reducing emissions of major air pollutants. It ensures that chemicals and other hazardous substances are managed safely, to protect the environment and human health. It also works with all levels of government and industry to develop national approaches to the reduction of environmental impacts in priority areas, such as tyres, oil recycling, electronics and packaging.
The department administers the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) which provides a framework for the protection of matters of national environmental significance. The seven matters protected are: World Heritage properties; National Heritage places; wetlands of international importance; listed threatened species and ecological communities; migratory species protected under international agreements; Commonwealth marine areas; and nuclear actions (including uranium mines).
||Environment Quality Division|
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- The Australian Government gained the support of state and territory environment ministers for the development of a national waste policy during 2009.
- At the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Governing Council/Ministerial Environment Forum 25th Regular Session in February 2009, agreement was reached to form an intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC) to develop a global, legally binding, instrument on mercury. Negotiations will commence in 2010 and conclude prior to the UNEP Government Council/Ministerial Forum 27th Regular Session, in 2013.
- At the fourth Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention in May 2009, parties agreed to list nine new chemicals under Annexes A and B, for elimination or severe restriction. This is the first time that chemicals have been added to the Convention since Australia ratified it in 2004.
- A Bill to amend the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000 was introduced into Parliament. The amendments address a number of recommendations from the first statutory review of the Act, including improvements to the process for granting approvals under section 13 of the Act, and more effective and efficient monitoring and enforcement powers.
- The Fuel Standard (Automotive Diesel) Determination 2001 was amended to allow up to 5 per cent biodiesel in diesel supplied in Australia, as a first step in the management of biodiesel blends under the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000.
- The National Action Plan for Education for Sustainability, 'Living Sustainably' was released in April 2009. The Plan sets out how we can equip Australians with the knowledge and skills required to live sustainably.
- The department continued to monitor the concentration of uranium measured in surface water downstream from the Ranger mine and the Jabiluka mineral lease. Work to date indicates that the environment of the Alligator Rivers Region remains protected from the impacts of uranium mining.
- The Australian Government signed the two remaining bilateral assessment agreements, with Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The bilateral agreement with the ACT entered into effect upon signature, on 4 June 2009, while the bilateral agreement with Victoria entered into effect upon signature on 20 June 2009. The completion of these agreements represents the fulfilment of an important commitment by the Council of Australian Governments. It means the Australian Government will have bilateral assessment agreements in place with each of the states and territories, to streamline environmental impact assessment for proponents.
- Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, 763 conservation advices were completed. This fulfilled 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.
- The Australian Government signed agreements with the Victorian and ACT governments to undertake strategic assessments under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The assessments will look at the impacts associated with the revision of Melbourne's urban growth boundary, and the proposed urban development within Molonglo and North Weston, in the ACT.
- An independent Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999, led by Dr Allan Hawke and supported by an expert panel, was announced in October 2008. This is the first review of the Act since its commencement in 2000 and aims to assess its operation and the extent to which its objectives have been achieved. A discussion paper was released on 31 October 2008 and 220 written submissions were received by the Review Panel. An interim report was published on 29 June 2009. The final report is due to be presented to the minister by 31 October 2009.
Pollution prevention strategies
- Provide a cleaner and healthier environment through environmental standards, regulation and monitoring of the management and use of wastes, hazardous substances, air pollutants, ozone depleting substances and synthetic greenhouse gases.
- Ensure Australian Government involvement in the Environment Protection and Heritage Council and the National Environment Protection Council is appropriate, timely and ensures national approaches to environmental and heritage issues are achieved.
Supervision of uranium mining
- To protect the environment of the Alligator Rivers Region from the impacts of uranium mining.
Species listings, recovery plans and information
- Support the Threatened Species Scientific Committee in providing advice to the minister on listing species, ecological communities and key threatening processes, under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
- Develop recovery plans and conservation advices for listed species and ecological communities.
- Maintain up-to-date information on listed species and ecological communities to support quality decision making.
Environmental assessments and approvals
- Protect matters of national environmental significance through assessment of the impact on the environment of proposed developments. Advise the minister on whether or not to approve these proposals, and, if so, under what conditions.
Wildlife protection and management
- Protect Australia's biodiversity, including wildlife species and their habitats, through listings, recovery plans, regulating trade, developing conservation agreements and considering permit applications.
- Protect the marine environment through management of sea dumping in accordance with the London Convention and London Protocol.
- Meet Australia's international obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Compliance and enforcement
- Protect matters of national environmental significance through compliance, audit, enforcement and seizure.
- Australia exceeded its obligations to phase-out the use of ozone depleting substances. Total imports in 2008 were 128.8 ozone-depleting tonnes, a decrease of approximately 84.5 per cent since 1999, when imports peaked at over 800 tonnes. This result was significantly less than our Montreal Protocol obligation of 405.1 tonnes.
- In 2008-09, the department supervised the collection of approximately 2500 kilograms of halon in Australia. In addition, 2.5 tonnes of mixed waste refrigerants were imported from New Zealand for disposal.
- The Second National In-Service Emission Testing program was completed. This study is the most in-depth testing and analysis of in-service emissions from petrol powered vehicles ever undertaken in Australia. It provides evidence of the effectiveness of regulating air quality emissions from these vehicles.
- A New South Wales fuel supplier was convicted of nine offences against the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000. The court ordered $121,000 in fines. Another NSW fuel supplier agreed to an injunction in the Federal Court for offences under the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000. Costs were awarded to the Commonwealth.
- The National Action Plan for Education for Sustainability was released in April 2009. Implementation activities are under way, including the provision of funding of $572,643 for projects under the Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative and $378,800 to support five best-practice projects, which will deliver education, training and capacity building for sustainability.
- During the 2008-09 wet season, the maximum uranium concentration measured downstream from the Ranger mine was 0.370 micrograms per litre, a value consistent with the result from previous years. This value is only 6 per cent of the local ecotoxicologically-derived limit of 6 micrograms per litre, and less than 2 per cent of the 20 micrograms per litre guideline for potable water.
- Under the EPBC Act, the department commenced a strategic audit program, focusing on approved mining projects, commercial and residential projects in coastal areas, and seismic surveys.
- In November 2008, legislation was amended to make the EPBC Act the primary basis for environmental impact assessment in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The amendment established the marine park as a matter of national environmental significance, with effect from 25 November 2009.
- The minister approved the 2008 Finalised Priority Assessment List (FPAL), which commenced 1 October 2008, for assessment of the threatened status of 20 species and seven ecological communities, and of two key threatening processes, under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The minister also approved the listing of 29 threatened species and eight ecological communities from the 2007 and 2008 FPALs. A call was made for new nominations for listing and 49 nominations were received.
- The minister approved one and rejected two applications to amend the live import list under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
- Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, 438 referrals were submitted to the department for assessment and 52 actions were approved. One action was not approved and five actions were determined to be clearly unacceptable.
- Three strategic assessments under the EPBC Act are now under way: with the Western Australian Government for the Browse Basin Common-User Liquefied Natural Gas Hub Precinct; and with the Victorian and ACT governments for urban expansion proposals.
- Approval was given for: two new wildlife trade management plans; five wildlife trade operations (non-fisheries); eight new and two revised artificial propagation programs; nine captive breeding programs; ten cooperative conservation programs; and two aquaculture programs, as regulated under the EPBC Act.
- The department issued 1969 permits to export or import wildlife specimens (both native and non-native), including 422 multiple consignment permits.
- The department issued eight sea dumping permits under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981; and two permit exemptions under the Sea Installations Act 1987.
- There were 522 new incidents reported to the department and assessed for compliance with the EPBC Act. It also undertook 17 audits and nine post approval inspections; report summaries were published on the department's web site.
National Waste Policy and Product Stewardship
The Australian Government, with the support of the Environment Protection and Heritage Council, is leading the development of a National Waste Policy and a State of Waste report. The National Waste Policy is being developed in consultation with: key industry leaders; environment groups; state, territory and local governments; and the wider community. To inform stakeholder input, a consultation paper was released in April 2009 and public meetings were held in all capital cities and selected regional centres. A discussion paper on a draft National Waste Policy Framework was also released for comment in July 2009.
Although the state, territory and local governments have primary responsibility for managing wastes in Australia, the department works with them on a number of wastes of national significance, including: end-of-life tyres, televisions and computers, degradable plastics, and packaging.
The development and public release of the Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement for End-of-Life Tyre Management was a key step forward in establishing a national product stewardship approach to end-of-life tyres. In addition, a comprehensive tyres data study was undertaken, establishing the current situation for end-of-life tyres in Australia.
Televisions and Computers
The Environment Protection and Heritage Council Electrical Equipment Product Stewardship working group, which the department leads in conjunction with officials from New South Wales, progressed two key pieces of work: a Choice Modelling study, which quantifies the community's values and beliefs concerning recycling of televisions and computers; and the development of a draft consultation regulatory impact statement, including a full cost benefit analysis of a number of options. Their completion is required before ministers can make a decision on product stewardship for televisions and computers.
The department has commissioned research to underpin development of Australian Standards for degradable and biodegradable plastics. The research will ascertain the toxicity of any residues from the breakdown of degradable plastics and examine the rate and extent of that breakdown in the Australian environment. The development of Australian Standards for degradable and biodegradable plastics will assist in the protection of the environment and enable consumers and businesses to be confident that the products perform as claimed.
The key national initiative supported by the Australian Government for managing packaging waste in Australia is the National Packaging Covenant (the Covenant). The department has contributed to the mid-term review of the Covenant, which found that Australia is on track to meet its targets. The Covenant's targets include, by 2010: a 65 per cent recycling rate for packaging materials; no increase in the amount of packaging disposed of to landfill, and a 25 per cent recycling target for packaging materials that were previously not recycled, or recycled at very low rates.
The Australian Government was a signatory to the Covenant at its inception in 1999. In December 2008, a new Australian Government National Packaging Covenant Action Plan was agreed, covering the period July 2008 to June 2010. The previous Action Plan covered the period July 2006-June 2008.
The department hired a consultant in June 2008 to develop a reporting tool for use by Australian Government agencies. This reporting tool has facilitated the collation of more robust whole-of-government packaging waste and recycling data, as required under the Action Plan. It was first used for the 2007-08 reporting year. There was a substantial improvement in the response rate over previous years, with over 92 per cent of agencies providing data.
Product Stewardship for Oil Program
About 520 million litres of lubricating oil are sold each year in Australia and about 280 to 300 million litres of used oil are generated. If disposed of incorrectly, this oil can cause serious damage to the environment by contaminating the soil, groundwater, streams, rivers, lakes and drinking water.
The Product Stewardship for Oil Program aims to reduce this damage, by encouraging used oil recycling through benefit payments to used oil recyclers. The department has policy responsibility for this program, while the Australian Taxation Office administers the levy and benefit elements of the program.
A total of $38.9 million in product stewardship benefits was paid to recyclers for recycling 269 million litres of used oil in 2008-09, an increase of $4.9 million from 2007-08.
Industry estimates that about 150-165 million litres of used oil were being recycled before the program began on 1 January 2001. Since then used oil recycling has increased by about 70 per cent.
A small number of projects funded by transitional assistance grants are continuing. All projects will be completed by mid-2010.
Air Quality, Fuel Standards and Vehicle Emissions
While Australia's air quality is generally good, there are still challenges in keeping our air clean. The department is continuing to work with the states and territories to reduce ground-level ozone and particles, which remain relatively high in some cities. The department's work focuses on tackling the major sources of air pollution that can be addressed at the national level.
Reducing vehicle emissions through improved fuel quality
The Australian Government regulates fuel quality in Australia to facilitate the advanced emissions control technology required to: meet tighter vehicle emission standards; reduce the level of harmful pollutants in fuel; and ensure the efficient operation of engines. Fuel quality standards are established under the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000. Standards have been set for petrol, diesel, biodiesel and autogas sold in Australia.
During the year, a Bill to amend the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000 was introduced into Parliament, to implement a number of recommendations from a major review in 2005-06. Amendments to the Regulations under the Act were also implemented, including a new fee structure for section 13 approval applications.
The Fuel Standard (Automotive Diesel) Determination 2001 was also amended to allow up to five per cent biodiesel in diesel supplied in Australia. This was a first step in the management of biodiesel blends. Blends higher than five per cent are being managed through the section 13 approvals process of the Fuel Quality Standards Act.
A review of the Fuel Standard (Autogas) Determination 2003 also commenced, with the preparation of a public discussion paper on the adequacy of the existing autogas standard for current and emerging LPG vehicle technology. The discussion paper is at: www.environment.gov.au/atmosphere/fuelquality/index.html.
Monitoring compliance and enforcement of fuel standards
The department monitors fuel at outlets, including terminals, depots and service stations. These inspections help to ensure that fuel quality standards are being met, increasing consumer confidence and preventing poor quality fuel having negative effects on vehicle operability and air quality.
In 2008-09 the department took 3825 fuel samples and 96.5 per cent complied with fuel standards. Depending on the seriousness of the offence, incidents of non-compliance were dealt with either through administrative actions (warnings and education), civil action or prosecution.
The department facilitated the granting of 24 ministerial approvals for the supply of fuel that does not meet a fuel quality standard. These included the supply of: racing fuels; diesel/biodiesel blends; and diesel used in specialist applications, such as winter mix for colder parts of Australia. A total of $327,825 in fees was collected from applicants seeking approvals.
A full report on the operation of the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000 is in the second volume of this set of annual reports.
The department continued work to assess the potential benefits and risks of alternative fuels, including biofuels, on human health, the environment and the operation of motor vehicles. In addition to the introduction of management arrangements for diesel/biodiesel blends, progress in 2008-09 included:
- In August 2008, the department released the results of a study into the health impacts of the use of ethanol-blended petrol in Australia. Although the study estimated marginal health cost savings, overall the benefits of E10 (petrol blended with 10 per cent ethanol) appear to be marginal and will reduce over time as new vehicles with advanced emission technology replace older vehicles.
- Work commenced on consideration of the need for a B20 (diesel blended with 20 per cent biodiesel) fuel quality standard.
- A preliminary process has also commenced to determine whether a fuel quality standard for E85 (85 per cent ethanol blended with 15 per cent petrol) should be developed as part of Australia's future fuel mix.
In-service emissions from motor vehicles
In addition to monitoring the quality of fuels supplied to the current vehicle fleet, work has continued on key projects to help manage emissions from the vehicles themselves.
The $2.5 million Second National In-Service Emissions (NISE2) study has been successfully completed. The main findings showed that increasingly stringent regulation of petrol vehicle exhaust emissions has significantly reduced air pollutant emissions from individual in-service vehicles, but carbon dioxide emissions from individual vehicle classes are not reducing.
Work is now under way on scoping a similar study for diesel engine vehicles. It will give a better understanding of the in-service emissions from these vehicles and improve our ability to model the impact on air quality outcomes of potential actions in this area.
Managing woodsmoke pollution
Woodheaters are the major source of particle pollution in many regions of Australia during the cooler months of the year. The department is leading work, under the Environment Protection and Heritage Council, to develop a nationally consistent approach to woodheater management. It is consulting with the industry to more accurately gauge its size and complexity, to allow better management of the potential impact of improved standards for woodheaters.
Emissions from non-road engines
The department is also leading work, through the Environment Protection and Heritage Council, to consider options for managing emissions from a range of non-road engines, including lawnmowers and other garden equipment, and outboard motors. A study to measure emissions from garden equipment engines was completed and found that engines certified to overseas standards generally produce significantly lower emissions than uncertified engines. The study is available at: www.environment.gov.au/atmosphere/airquality/publications/dta-small-engines.html. A consultation regulatory impact statement is being prepared, for consideration by the Environment Protection and Heritage Council late in 2009.
Clean Air Research Program
The $1.4 million Clean Air Research Program, which funded 13 research projects to address major research gaps in the management of air quality, was completed in 2008-09. A national workshop was held in Canberra in October 2008, to present the findings of the research. The results will inform the future management of air quality in Australia. More information on this program can be found at: www.environment.gov.au/atmosphere/airquality/research/carp.html.
Hazardous substance regulation and management
The Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989 permits the import, export and transit of hazardous wastes under certain conditions, including the environmentally sound management of the waste to protect both the environment and human health. The Act implements Australia's obligations under: the Basel Convention on the Control of the Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal; and the Waigani Convention to Ban the Importation into Forum Island Countries of Hazardous and Radioactive Wastes and to Control the Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes within the South Pacific Region.
Chemical Policy and Risk Assessment
Every year, the department assesses hundreds of chemicals for the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority and the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme. It provides advice on, and input to, improvements in chemical safety, especially on regulatory issues. The department also contributes to each agency's reform agenda, by contributing to improved systems for the regulation of chemicals and the department's role in those systems. Specific strategies include: increasing expertise in modelling techniques for rapid assessment of existing chemicals; the development of criteria for identifying persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals; finalising manuals documenting the environmental chemical risk assessment process; participating in the international work-share process for parallel assessment of chemicals between several countries; and contributing to the reform process under way for industrial chemical assessment.
Protection of the Ozone Layer
The department is responsible for ensuring that Australia meets its Montreal Protocol phase-out obligations. Under the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989, the department controls the manufacture, import and export of all ozone-depleting substances and their synthetic greenhouse gas replacements. It also regulates end-uses, to minimise emissions to the atmosphere. The department works with industry and the community to implement programs to phase-out ozone-depleting substances and to minimise emissions of these substances and their synthetic greenhouse gas replacements.
Biotechnology Risk Assessment
The Gene Technology Regulator, within the Department of Health and Ageing, regulates genetically modified organisms under the Gene Technology Act 2000. The Gene Technology Act 2000 requires the regulator to seek advice from the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts on each intentional release of a genetically modified organism into the environment. The department prepares briefing to assist the minister with his advice to the regulator on the risk assessment and risk management plan. This ensures that environmental risks are adequately assessed and managed. To stay abreast of developments in this evolving field, the department is managing a number of research projects to improve basic knowledge of environmental risks associated with genetically modified organisms. The department also supports the minister's involvement in the Commonwealth Biotechnology Ministerial Council.
Biotechnology research and trade in its products is an international issue. The department is involved with biotechnology issues in the Convention on Biological Diversity, the associated Cartagena protocol on Biosafety and a variety of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) working groups. Its work includes preparation and finalisation of international scientific guidance documents for the OECD.
Like biotechnology, nanotechnology is a relatively new field that has the potential to provide human health and environmental benefits. It is important, however, that appropriate regulatory arrangements are in place to manage any human health or environmental risks resulting from this technology. The department is currently involved in the Health, Safety and Environment Working Group under the National Nanotechnology Strategy, contributing to the ongoing development of policy and risk analysis in this rapidly evolving area.
National Pollutant Inventory
The department hosts the National Pollutant Inventory (NPI), which is a free, publicly available, database of chemical emissions information. People use it to find out the types and amounts of chemical substances being emitted into the air, land and water, from industrial processes and other activities. The 93 substances included in the inventory have been identified as important because of their possible health and environmental effects. The database is available at www.npi.gov.au .
The NPI National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM) is the statutory basis for the NPI. The NEPM requires industry to report to state and territory environment agencies if emissions exceed certain levels. It requires the department to publish the results each year in the NPI. One of the aims of the inventory is to encourage government, industry and the community to improve their environmental performance by reducing emissions.
In 2008-09, the department focused on improvements to the systems and processes that are essential to the NPI. Some of these included:
- updating and improving guidance materials for industry reporting, to reflect changes in emission factors as well as industrial processes
- providing training to users of the new NPI Online Reporting System - around 470 industry reporters in total attended throughout the 54 training sessions conducted around Australia, and
- redesigning the NPI website.
- The 2007-08 NPI facility data were published on 31 March 2009. Each year the number of facilities reporting continues to rise.
- In 2007-08, 87 substances were reported to the NPI from 4116 facilities. Of the 87 NPI substances reported by facilities, 49 showed a decrease compared with 2006-07.
- The 2007-08 dataset includes new information, as a result of the variation to the NPI NEPM. This covers reporting of new substances, such as acrolein and particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5), and the reporting of mercury at the recently lowered threshold level of 5 kilograms used per annum.
Variation to the NPI National Environment Protection Measure
In November 2008, a variation was made to the NPI NEPM, to remove interim greenhouse gas and energy reporting requirements now covered by the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007. The NPI NEPM was varied to fulfill the NPI's potential as a major tool for environmental management and cleaner production. One key change required industry to report the transfer of NPI substances in waste.
Education for Sustainability
The department undertakes and supports a number of programs to encourage the Australian community to live more sustainably, including: the Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative (AuSSI); the Australian Research Institute in Education for Sustainability (ARIES) (at Macquarie University); and the Education for Sustainability Grants program.
The National Action Plan for Education for Sustainability was released in April 2009 as a blueprint for disseminating the knowledge, tools and skills Australians need to make decisions that create a more sustainable society.
To assist in the plan's implementation, the National Council for Education for Sustainability was reconstituted and re-convened in April 2009. Chaired by Mr Greg Bourne, the council will advise the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts on national needs and priorities on education for sustainability, and will champion key national initiatives.
A number of national research projects were completed by ARIES during 2008-09 to improve understanding of effective community education for sustainability. Topics included: embedding sustainability into the training of potential industry leaders through partnerships with corporations and business schools; improving the sustainability of supply chains in the food and construction sectors; and embedding sustainability within teacher education in Queensland and the Northern Territory.
The Education for Sustainability Grants program funds best practice projects to deliver education, training and capacity building for sustainability. The projects in 2008-09 included sustainable marketing in the retail industry; establishment of a Responsible Investment Academy; an e-waste training package for business and local government; and development of sustainability education resources for small-to-medium sized enterprises.
Australia continues to contribute to the education for sustainability activities in the Asia-Pacific region. A Statement of Cooperation was signed with the Japanese Ministry of the Environment for sustainable development in December 2008. It provides for sharing of resources, and experiences and the development of collaborative projects.
Environment Protection and Heritage Council
During 2008-09 the department supported the Australian Government's role as member and Chair of the Council and its Standing and Strategic Committees. The Australian Government's engagement in Council decision-making achieved:
- Support for the development of a national waste policy which will provide clarity and national consistency for the management of waste in Australia.
- Approval of the Environmental Guidelines for Carbon Dioxide Capture and Geological Storage - 2009. The guidelines provide a nationally consistent approach to environmental assessment of carbon capture and storage proposals and will assist Australia reduce its carbon footprint.
- Agreement to develop a set of national windfarm development guidelines. The guidelines, which will be developed in collaboration with the Local Government and Planning Ministers Council, will provide national consistency and transparency in the planning, assessment, approval and environmental monitoring of wind farms.
- Variation of the Diesel Vehicle Emissions National Environment Protection Measure to adequately reflect the availability of new technologies, and building on experience gained in implementing the measure.
Supervision of uranium mining
The Supervising Scientist is a statutory office under the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978 and the occupant of the office is the head of the department's Supervising Scientist Division. The Division supervises uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region (which includes Kakadu National Park) and works closely with the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism and the Northern Territory Department of Regional Development, Primary Industries, Fisheries and Resources, in fulfilling this role.
The department has specific roles and responsibilities under the Act to protect the environment of the Alligator Rivers Region from the potential impacts of uranium mining. The roles and responsibilities include environmental monitoring, supervision, and research into the impact of uranium mining.
The Alligator Rivers Region, some 220 kilometres east of Darwin, contains a number of former, current and potential uranium mines, including:
- Ranger, which is currently in operation
- Nabarlek, where mining has ceased and rehabilitation is under way
- Jabiluka, which has been in long-term care and maintenance since December 2003, and
- Koongarra, a potential mine that is the subject of discussions between the traditional Aboriginal owners and the mining company, Koongarra Pty Ltd.
These four sites are not part of Kakadu National Park. However, there are a number of very small former uranium deposits, mined out during the 1950s and 1960s, that are located in what is now the southern portion of Kakadu National Park.
To achieve its objectives, the Supervising Scientist Division:
- plays a key role in supervising the environmental aspects of regulatory arrangements applying to uranium mining within the region
- works closely with the Northern Territory Government's regulatory body and other stakeholders, to ensure that regulatory decisions are based on the best available scientific knowledge. This also ensures that they are in accordance with the environmental requirements attached to the Australian Government approvals for the mining activities.
- undertakes a comprehensive regime of regular audits and inspections of existing and former uranium mine sites within the region
- undertakes detailed, independent, scientific investigations into incidents, breaches of approval conditions and environmental requirements of uranium mining operations
- oversees the regulation of uranium mining in the region, to ensure that the government and community can be confident that regulation is meeting expected standards
- undertakes an ongoing independent, comprehensive, chemical, biological and radiological monitoring program, designed to detect any potential effects of uranium mining in the region
- undertakes targeted scientific research, to optimise the monitoring programs and to provide early warning of any potential effects of uranium mining on the environment of the region.
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) is the Australian Government's key piece of environmental legislation. The objectives of the Act include: to provide for the protection of the environment; promote a cooperative approach to the protection and management of the environment; and to assist in the implementation of our international environmental responsibilities. The department works with a wide range of stakeholders, including government, industry groups and proponents, non-government organisations, the community, land-holders and indigenous peoples, in administering the Act.
There are seven matters of national environmental significance to which the Act applies. On 12 November 2008, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2008 was passed, establishing the environment of the marine park as a new, eighth, matter of national environmental significance. As a result, the environmental impact assessment and approval provisions of the EPBC Act will apply to actions that have a significant impact on the environment of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park from 25 November 2009.
Further details on the EPBC Act can be found in Volume 2.
Species listing, recovery plans and information
The EPBC Act provides for the listing of nationally threatened native species and ecological communities, native migratory species and marine species. There are a total of 1752 threatened species and 46 ecological communities currently listed under the Act.
The Auditor-General, in Audit Report No. 31 of 2006-07, reported on the administration of measures to protect and conserve threatened species and ecological communities including the listing process and recovery plans. Key findings showed that there were substantial inconsistencies between Australian Government and state and territory lists of threatened species and ecological communities; information backing listings was in many cases deficient; and that there were excessive delays in consideration of assessments of nominated marine fish by the minister. The department continues to address these audit findings, and actions over the past year are included in the information below.
Protecting threatened species and ecological communities
Under the EPBC Act, any person may nominate a native species, ecological community or threatening process for listing. The minister makes the final decision on listed species and ecological communities based on advice by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee.
In 2008-09, the Threatened Species Scientific Committee completed assessments of species and ecological communities, which the minister had included in the finalised priority assessment lists. The minister made a number of decisions involving the new listing, delisting and status of species and ecological communities. Fifty-three species and eight ecological communities were listed during the year. Assessments of five marine species started in 2008-09. In January 2009 the minister listed Eastern Gemfish and School Shark as conservation dependent, and, in May 2009, the minister decided not to list the Patagonian Toothfish as a threatened species, because it is being managed in a sustainable manner.
In 2008-09, the department undertook assessments, using amendments to the EPBC Act made in 2006, to focus on: species and ecological communities in greatest need of protection; clearly defined assessment timeframes; and more open public nomination and consultation processes.
Under the 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. An audit of state and territory lists of ecological communities was undertaken, in consultation with state and territory governments, to identify ecological communities of highest priority for future assessment under the EPBC Act.
In 2008, the National Koala Conservation Strategy was reviewed by a steering committee comprising the Australian Government, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia governments and the Australian Koala Foundation. The revised strategy, incorporating a new implementation plan, was approved for public consultation by the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council. Public consultation commenced in June 2009 and is due to conclude in August 2009.
Concurrent with this review, and at the minister's request, the Threatened Species Scientific Committee is again considering listing the koala under the EPBC Act with a decision due by September 2010.
For all newly listed ecological communities a policy statement is produced, and distributed to all key stakeholders as an information brochure. Listing and conservation advices, and distribution maps for each ecological community, are made publicly available on the department's web site. Two ecological community policy statements were published and distributed, drawing a very good response from stakeholders on the usefulness of these publications.
Improving species information
To achieve consistency between Australian Government and state and territory threatened species lists, and to increase the exchange of information, the Australian Government has Species Information Partnerships in place with the governments of South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory, Tasmania and Victoria. The partnerships allow for targeted expenditure of limited conservation resources and facilitate the best possible conservation outcomes for threatened species.
In 2008-09, information provided by the states and territories under the partnerships, supported listing decisions under the EPBC Act for 24 Western Australian species, 11 Tasmanian species and one Victorian species.
The department also instigated discussions with all state and territory jurisdictions on better ways to align lists in the longer term and reduce duplication of effort. These discussions have been positive and are continuing.
Recovery plans and conservation advices
In 2008-09, the minister approved 30 recovery plans, covering 30 species, under the EPBC Act. A total of 490 species and 15 ecological communities have recovery plans in force.
During 2008-09, the Australian Government provided $1.9 million to the states and territories to develop and implement plans to recover terrestrial threatened species. In addition, $2 million was directed to saving the Tasmanian Devil through the Caring for Our Country program, which also provides opportunities to contribute to the recovery of threatened species through general funding for biodiversity and natural icons.
The Conservation Advice Project was completed in December 2008, with 763 conservation advices published on the department's web site. This fulfilled the department's obligation under the transitional arrangements, as outlined by the 2006 amendments to the EPBC Act, to have in place by 31 December 2008, a conservation advice for those listed species and ecological communities identified as not yet having a recovery plan.
Education and information
The Species Profile and Threats Database (SPRAT) consolidates available information about species and ecological communities listed under the EPBC Act. The database, which is publicly available, helps the department, proponents and stakeholders comply with the Act.
There are 2267 species listed in the database. Data added or reviewed in 2008-09 included the updating of 437 species profiles, and the addition of 35 new species profiles. Profiles for 283 species and 10 ecological communities were publicly released.
The department supported the Threatened Species Network, a community-based program, administered by World Wide Fund for Nature - Australia and funded under Caring for Our Country, at a cost of $1.5 million. Network activities during the year benefited more than 40 species and ecological communities listed under the Act and included 25 new projects. The Network also provided advice on threatened species to more than 63 advisory panels, recovery teams, assessment panels, and survey and research teams.
The department funds an out-posted staff member, the National Farmers Federation Environment Liaison Officer. The occupant works closely with the Federation's staff, state farm organisations, individual farmers, state government officers and other natural resource managers. The position gives assistance on a wide range of national environmental issues, and facilitates strong links between the Federation and key staff members within the department. Providing information on the EPBC Act continues to be one of the highest priorities for this role, particularly advice on the implications for landowners of listings of species and ecological communities.
Environmental assessments and approvals
Many industry sectors undertake activities with the potential to impact matters of national environmental significance. The EPBC Act provides for consistent and transparent regulation for activities from all industry sectors, which may have such effects. The Act has strict statutory timeframes and well established processes to deliver acceptable and timely environmental outcomes.
The department works proactively with proponents to facilitate their decision-making on whether to refer an action under the EPBC Act, and to determine innovative approaches in developing mitigation measures and solutions to protect the environment. Only those projects that are likely to have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance require further assessment and approval under the Act before they can proceed. The Act also has the flexibility to select an assessment approach that is most appropriate to the complexity and scale of the project. Where appropriate, assessments are also conducted in collaboration with state and territory assessment processes to minimise duplication for proponents and increase public transparency.
The department works closely with proponents to ensure the requirements of the environmental assessment process under the EPBC Act are well understood. It strongly encourages proponents to discuss projects early in their development, so issues can be highlighted for them in their decision-making and planning.
The EPBC Act provides a highly transparent process - with all activities referred made available for public comment via the department's website. This transparency helps to ensure that environmental assessments take full account of community concerns as well as the widest range of expert opinion. These contributions in turn help to improve the quality of environmental regulation and protection.
Referrals and approvals
During 2008-09, 438 referrals were received, a five per cent increase on last year, and 52 actions were approved, a two per cent increase on last year. One action was not approved compared to two last year. Five actions were determined to be clearly unacceptable compared to one last year. Seventeen referrals were withdrawn by proponents following decisions that they required assessment and approval under the Act.
Since the EPBC Act commencement in July 2000, a total of 3133 actions have been referred for assessment of their effects on matters of national environmental significance.
The EPBC Act prescribes timeframes for decision-making through the referral, assessment and approval process. See Volume 2 for more detail on environmental referrals, assessments and approvals.
Under section 146 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the minister may agree to conduct a strategic assessment of potential actions under a policy, program or plan. A total of three strategic assessments were commenced or progressed in 2008-09.
In February 2008 the Australian and Western Australian governments reached an agreement to make a strategic assessment of a plan for a common-user liquefied natural gas processing precinct in the Kimberley. After an extensive and consultative shortlisting process covering over 40 sites, James Price Point, north of Broome, was identified as the preferred site. The site is now subject to a thorough and rigorous environmental, technical and social impact assessment, to determine its suitability as a location for the precinct.
In September 2008 the minister and the ACT Minister for Planning announced a strategic assessment of the proposed development of Molonglo and North Weston in the ACT. This assessment will identify: the impacts on matters of national environmental significance; strategies to avoid, mitigate or offset those impacts; and arrangements to secure desired environmental outcomes in the long term. This will be supplemented by broader strategies for ecologically sustainable development and biodiversity conservation in the Molonglo Valley.
In March 2009 the Australian and Victorian governments signed an agreement to undertake a strategic assessment of the impacts associated with the revision of Melbourne's urban growth boundary and associated transport infrastructure. The assessment offers the opportunity to identify and protect matters of national environmental significance early in the planning process, so that conservation strategies can be put in place before individual developments commence. Protecting the listed Natural Temperate Grassland of the Victorian Volcanic Plains ecological community will be an important priority for this project.
Education and information
In February 2009, the minister approved the National Assessment Guidelines for Dredging, replacing the 2002 National Ocean Disposal Guidelines for Dredged Material. The Guidelines assist applicants and assessors by:
- incorporating current best-practice methods and approaches
- providing guidance on assessing the impacts of loading dredged material
- aligning the assessment process with international obligations, including consideration of alternatives to sea disposal and beneficial uses, and
- providing greater guidance on physical impact assessment.
The National Assessment Guidelines for Dredging should be read in conjunction with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981, and Australia's international obligations outlined in: the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matters (the London Convention) and the London Protocol (on sea dumping).
The National Assessment Guidelines for Dredging were well received internationally. Other countries are likely to draw on the guidelines when conducting their own assessments and approvals. The 32nd meeting of the Scientific Group under the London Convention and the third meeting of the Scientific Group under the London Protocol, in May 2009, noted support for inclusion of a weight-of-evidence approach, acknowledgement of uncertainties in toxicity testing, and the benefits of presenting detailed technical information in an easy to read document.
A Wind Farm Industry Policy Statement was developed, to assist operators in the wind farm industry to decide whether or not proposed actions require assessment and approval under the EPBC Act.
This is one of a series of EPBC Act policy statements, aimed at providing more detailed guidance on how the Act may apply to specific places, species, ecological communities, or industry sectors and activities.
Permit approvals and wildlife management
Sea dumping and sea installations permits
The Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 fulfils Australia's international obligations under the London Protocol, which aims to protect and preserve the marine environment from pollution, especially from dumping at sea. In 2008-09, eight sea-dumping permits were issued by the department, for the disposal of dredged material.
The Sea Installations Act 1987 regulates construction and operation of human-made devices, equipment and other installations in the marine environment. It ensures they are operated safely and are environmentally sound. In 2008-09, two permit exemptions were issued by the department for sea installations.
Ocean fertilisation has emerged as a new technology, which involves "fertilising" large surface areas of the ocean with nutrients, such as iron, nitrogen or phosphorus, to stimulate primary productivity as a means of mitigating climate change or enhancing fisheries. The magnitude and duration of impacts on the environment and other species are, however, unknown at present.
The Australian Government has responded to the emergence of ocean fertilisation with a precautionary policy position. Noting its commitment to protecting the marine environment, the need to enhance our understanding of the role of oceans in the global carbon cycle, and the uncertainties about potential environmental impacts, the Australian Government will:
- pursue the global, effective, transparent and precautionary regulation of ocean fertilisation activities
- promote the London Protocol and Convention as the appropriate global regulatory mechanisms for ocean fertilisation in all forums
- promote research on natural analogues to ocean fertilisation (regions that already receive elevated nutrient inputs), as a low-risk way to address the uncertainties about environmental impacts
- ensure Australian activities are undertaken in accordance with international legal obligations, including the Antarctic Treaty System
- remain informed about all relevant ocean fertilisation activity in our region, and
- provide clear advice to Australian stakeholders and international organisations on this policy.
The Australian Government will pursue this agenda domestically by regulating ocean fertilisation activities in Australian waters under the EPBC Act and the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981. The government is also pursuing this approach internationally through the London Protocol and Convention.
The department protects native animal and plant species and ecosystems by regulating: the import of live specimens, the import and export of wildlife and wildlife products listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and the export of Australian native species or products from them, under Part 13A of the EPBC Act.
In 2008-09, the department received six applications to amend the 'live import list', which lists species that can be legally imported into Australia without assessment (provided quarantine requirements are satisfied). The minister decided to make one amendment to the live import list, to add 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 to the live import list were also made.
The Ornamental Fish Management Implementation Group continued the implementation of a strategic approach to control the illegal import of noxious ornamental aquarium fish species. This group has representatives from all jurisdictions and includes representatives from the department, as well as the industry and hobby sectors.
The department is developing a revised national strategy for the commercial harvest of kangaroos. A consultancy was undertaken in 2008-09, with a draft report made available to jurisdictions for discussion in June.
The department led the development of the Code of Practice on the Humane Treatment of Wild and Farmed Australian Crocodiles, which was endorsed by the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council on 21 May 2009. On 7 November 2008 the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council endorsed two National Codes of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies - one for Commercial and one for Non-Commercial purposes. Following an intensive review by a working group of the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council, which included a public comment period, these codes replaced the 1990 code.
The department ensures that certain Australian animals exported to overseas zoological institutions receive appropriate levels of care. In 2008-09, there were 40 assessments involving transfers of live animals for exhibition in zoological institutions and the department finalised a series of conditions for the overseas transfer of macropods, koalas and koala semen.
Species listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, are further assessed by ensuring that international transfers involving these species are contributing to global conservation efforts, through the approval of Cooperative Conservation Programs. The department approved ten Cooperative Conservation Programs in 2008-09.
Improved education on wildlife trade and products
In combating illegal trade, the department works closely with partner agencies, sharing intelligence and resources. The department works with: state and territory wildlife authorities; the Australian Customs Service; the Australian Federal Police; CITES management authorities in other countries; Interpol; and some non-government organisations.
The department ran information booths at:
- the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Council of Australia Annual Conference and Travel Expo 2009, to raise wildlife trade awareness amongst the public and the industry, and
- at the Australasian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Annual Conference 2009, to inform traders and professionals of obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, relating to trade in international wildlife products.
Feedback from these activities was very positive from the general public and indicated that awareness of wildlife trade issues had been increased.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
As part of Australia's obligations under the Convention, the department hosted the 2009 Oceania Capacity Building Workshop for a number of Pacific island countries. The workshop led to greater awareness among Pacific island countries of their obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Follow up activities included working with relevant New Zealand authorities on CITES species identification products for the region. It also prepared a whole-of-government response to the recommendations of the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Treaties on several amendments agreed by the 14th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
The department led a number of other wildlife trade initiatives. One of these was continuing wildlife trade enforcement training provided to Australian Customs.
Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT)
The department undertakes the obligations associated with Australia's membership of the CAWT. The Coalition was initiated by the United States and includes a number of country and non-government organisation members. CAWT partners have agreed to jointly and separately: reduce consumer demand for illegally traded wildlife; improve wildlife law enforcement; and catalyse high level political will to fight wildlife trafficking.
Compliance and enforcement
Environmental regulation under the EPBC Act is undertaken within the framework of the department's compliance and enforcement policy. Compliance and enforcement activities range from education and audit, to investigation and court proceedings, where appropriate.
The department undertook 17 compliance audits through the EPBC Act's compliance auditing program. A full report can be found in Volume 2.
There were 522 new incidents reported to the department and assessed for compliance with the EPBC Act. The department considers all incident reports referred to it, in accordance with the DEWHA Compliance and Enforcement Policy. An initial assessment is made on whether the Act is likely to apply, and the potential for harm to a matter of national environmental significance. The department has a graduated response to all incidents, from caution letters to detailed investigations. A copy of the DEWHA Compliance and Enforcement Policy is at: www.environment.gov.au/about/publications/compliancepolicy.html. This year a number of the enforcement remedies, introduced by the amendments to the Act which came into force in 2007, were used for the first time. A full report is in Volume 2.
The department engages with other environmental regulators, particularly state and territory environmental agencies, through the Australasian Environmental Law Enforcement and Regulators Network (AELERT), sharing information and raising awareness of the department's regulatory role. During the year, the department assumed responsibility for the Secretariat to AELERT. The costs of this function are shared between participating agencies, with the Australian Government paying half.
During 2008-09 the department engaged in a joint compliance project with three New South Wales government agencies, to examine illegal water diversion structures in the Macquarie Marshes Ramsar wetland. This area is protected under both state legislation and the EPBC Act. Four field operations were undertaken over a ten month period, and enforcement action has been commenced by state agencies under relevant legislation. The department's presence in the field emphasised a whole-of-government approach to impacts caused by water diversion and theft.
The department achieved its objectives for protection of the ozone layer. Australia has exceeded its international obligations to phase-out the use of ozone-depleting substances. All statutory requirements of the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989 were met. Detailed performance results on the operation of the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989 are in the second volume of this set of annual reports.
Product Stewardship for Oil
The report of the second independent review of the Product Stewardship (Oil) Act 2000, conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, was tabled in Parliament on 14 May 2009. The report reflects positively on the Product Stewardship for Oil Program and the achievements made in oil recycling, while making a number of recommendations on data collection, communication, administration and future direction of the program. The Australian Government will respond to these recommendations in due course.
Supervising Scientist Division
During 2008-09, the Supervising Scientist Division continued to conduct research, monitoring, supervision and audit activities. Following trials, further research and statistical testing during the 2006-07 and 2007-08 wet seasons, the Division revised its water monitoring program. It implemented an in situ biological monitoring methodology and discontinued the former creekside method. The primary sampling site in Magela Creek was moved slightly downstream, to better align with the location of the continuous monitoring equipment. These refinements provide a more streamlined and internally consistent monitoring system, without compromising data quality and continuity (see Case study 1).
All findings to date indicate that the environment of the Alligator Rivers Region remains protected from the impacts of uranium mining. Detailed performance results are provided in the Supervising Scientist's annual report on the operation of the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978, at: www.environment.gov.au/about/publications/annual-report/.
In 2006, the Australian National Audit Office undertook an audit of the department's administration of the EPBC Act, and made recommendations in four key areas. These were: improved progress in nomination of commercial fish species; comprehensiveness of lists of species and ecological communities; improvements in the completion, review and reporting of recovery planning; and improved compliance and enforcement of the Act, especially through promotion and auditing processes.
The department continues to implement these recommendations. A full report can be found in the EPBC Act report in Volume 2.
Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)
In October 2008 the minister commissioned an independent review of the EPBC Act, as required under section 522A of the Act. The Review is examining: the general operation of the Act; the extent to which the objectives have been achieved; the appropriateness of current matters of national environmental significance; and the effectiveness of biodiversity and wildlife conservation arrangements. This is the first review of the Act since its commencement on 16 July 2000 and is being undertaken by Dr Allan Hawke, supported by a panel of experts. Further details can be found in the EPBC Act report in Volume 2.
Case Study 1: Development of cost-efficient, 'early warning' techniques to monitor and assess mining impact
Each northern wet season, the Supervising Scientist Division conducts an intensive stream monitoring program, to assess the effects of runoff water from the Ranger uranium mine on the adjacent waters in Magela Creek. One of the methods employed is a form of 'early warning' biological monitoring - known as toxicity monitoring. Here, reproductive output (egg production) of the freshwater snail, Amerianna cumingi, is measured. Since 1991 this approach has involved pumping a continuous flow of water from the creek to tanks containing test animals, located under shelters on the creek's bank. However, there were a number of significant issues with the deployment of this method, particularly the high staff resourcing demands and the need to maintain complex infrastructure prone to damage from flooding and other weather-related impacts.
The constraints of the creekside program led to a systematic evaluation of the viability of in situ testing - that is, deploying floating containers, containing the same snail species, in Magela Creek itself. The key research challenge was to ensure that the in situ method was capable of providing results comparable with the creekside monitoring test data collected since 1991-92. A three-year period was set aside for this evaluation: in situ method development in the first wet season and comparative testing of the two methods in the second and third wet seasons.
For both in situ and creekside testing, groups of snail pairs were exposed to creek waters both upstream and downstream of the Ranger mine site. Figure 1 shows the mean number of eggs per snail pair, and upstream-downstream difference values for each testing method. The results showed greater snail egg production in the in situ method compared to the creekside method, probably due to the greater availability and accumulation of food (such as algae and detritus) in in situ containers. However, the critical measurement is the upstream-downstream 'difference' value, because possible mine-related effects on snail egg production are detected by comparing, statistically, a set of difference values associated with a mine 'event', with those values known not to be associated with mining activities. Notably, the upstream-downstream difference values produced by the in situ and creekside testing methods were not significantly different over the two seasons of comparative testing.
These positive results led to the decision to replace creekside with in situ toxicity monitoring, beginning in the 2008-09 wet season. In situ monitoring is now providing a more environmentally-relevant testing method, with greatly reduced staff resources and no need to maintain costly and complex weather-prone infrastructure.
The ease of deployment and flexibility of the in situ method also lends itself to ready deployment at sites elsewhere.
Note: In March 2007 a flood severely damaged creekside infrastructure. After this, only the in situ method could be used for the rest of the season.
Australia has up to 12 million feral cats, which threaten the survival of unique native animals, such as the eastern barred bandicoot. In recognition of this, feral cats have been listed as a Key Threatening Process under the EPBC Act and a Threat Abatement Plan is currently being implemented.
The savannah cat is a relatively new type that crosses domestic cats with wild African servals. Several cat breeders wanted to import and breed these hybrid animals for the 'designer' pet trade, appealing to those people wanting to own more exotic and wild-looking animals. African servals are currently only maintained in zoos or equivalent bodies in Australia, under high security facilities.
In July 2008 the minister used his powers under the EPBC Act to amend the "List of Specimens taken to be Suitable for Live Import" (live import list) to prohibit the import of savannah cats and other serval cat hybrids. This was the first time in the history of the Act that the minister had initiated a proposal for an assessment of the potential environmental impacts of a proposed imported specimen.
The department undertook a comprehensive environmental assessment of the risks that this hybrid cat could pose to our native wildlife. Two petitions with approximately 9,500 names, over 500 written public submissions, and nine state and territory government submissions were received, in response to the draft assessment report. These were overwhelmingly in favour of a prohibition on importing savannah cats.
Although cat hybrids are already imported into Australia, the savannah cat is genetically different to both the domestic cat and other hybrids. The department's findings indicated that there was an extreme risk that savannah cats could eventually establish and become integrated into the feral domestic cat population in Australia. Not only could the savannah cat itself have an adverse environmental impact, but feral domestic cats could increase in size and hunting prowess, due to an inheritance of serval genes from savannah cat matings. This would mean they would be likely to cause more damage than currently occurs and could pose further risks to native fauna and species not currently preyed upon by feral cats.
In determining whether to amend the live import list to prohibit the importation of the domestic cat and serval hybrid specimens, the minister considered the final assessment report, available scientific evidence, and public and government agency comments, as required under the EPBC Act. The definition of domestic cat on the live import list was amended to exclude domestic cats and (reproductive material) that contained serval genes, including the savannah cat.
The effect of this amendment is that importation into Australia of cats with serval genes is now an offence under the EPBC Act. The importation of such a specimen may result in seizure of the specimen and prosecution action.
In July 2008, the minister rejected an application under the EPBC Act for a residential development near Mission Beach in far north Queensland. This was done to protect the southern cassowary. It was the first time the minister had rejected a proposal at the referral stage for 'clearly unacceptable' impacts on a matter of national environmental significance.
Scientific studies on the Mission Beach cassowary population indicate that this population is under severe threat. Land clearing and development has meant that most of the former cassowary habitat has been lost.
The planned development included the subdivision of Lot 66 at Rockingham Close into 40 residential lots. It would have involved clearing vegetation, earthworks and the construction of a new access road. The proposed development was through a critical cassowary movement corridor, between the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and important coastal habitat.
This outcome was achieved through a great deal of work in far north Queensland to protect this unique and severely threatened animal. It included projects by the department with the local community and other stakeholders to protect and re-establish habitat linkages for the cassowary.
Cassowaries are recognised for the crucial role they play in sustaining the rainforest. In the Cape York Peninsula and the Wet Tropics, the southern cassowary eats rainforest fruits like native laurels, lilly pilly and palms, and disperses the seeds in its droppings. The survival of the species is important for the long-term viability of rainforest communities in the Wet Tropics region.
|The (i) median and (ii) maximum concentration of uranium measured in surface water downstream of Ranger mine
The number of times the guideline concentration limit for uranium of six micrograms per litre was exceeded
|Ambient concentrations of key air pollutants in major urban areas
Effective monitoring of key air pollutants in major urban areas
|Monitoring has continued under the National Environment Protection Measures for both Ambient Air and Air Toxics. Particle and ozone levels continue to exceed national standards in some major cities.|
|National Environment Protection Measures (NEPM) for air quality are implemented and reviewed to provide world's best-practice in the protection of community health
Review of the Ambient Air NEPM is completed
|The Ambient Air NEPM review has been delayed and is currently scheduled to finish in late 2009.|
|Number of fuel samples under the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000
2500 fuel samples taken and analysed
|3825 fuel samples taken and analysed|
|Road transport fuels are covered by a fuel quality standard, and the potential benefits and risks of emerging fuels are assessed
Determination of fuel standards for biodiesel blends and fuel ethanol
|During the year the diesel standard was amended to allow up to 5% biodiesel as a first step in the management of biodiesel blends. Work commenced on consideration of the need for a B20 standard.
Work also commenced to consider the need for an E85 fuel quality standard.
|Government contributes to the implementation or development of product stewardship policies in agreed national priority
Consultation on the proposed national tyre recycling scheme completed. The proposed national scheme is presented to the Environment Protection and Heritage Council
|Consultation on a proposed national tyre recycling scheme was completed, along with follow-up work emerging from the public process. A decision regulatory impact statement is to be presented to the Environment Protection and Heritage Council in November 2009.|
|The Government contributes to the mid-term review of the National Packaging Covenant||The mid-term review of the National Packaging Covenant was completed and published.|
|Volume of waste oil recycled
Detailed performance results appear in annual reports on the operation of the Product Stewardship (Oil) Act 2000
|267 million litres of used oil was recycled in 2008-09.|
|Environmental impact of chemicals and genetically modified organisms
Complete all assessments of impacts on time for national regulators
|Levels of chemicals of concern in the environment
National monitoring sites established and chemicals of concern sampled and measured
|Extensive scientific and expert input has been obtained for the design of a national sampling strategy, involving national monitoring sites. Chemicals of concern have been sampled in some biota and air samples, with analytical results pending.|
|Safe management of international movement of hazardous waste
Meet all statutory requirements and international obligations for regulating imports and exports to ensure sound environmental management
|In 2008-09 the department processed 50 applications for permits to import and export hazardous wastes (17 exports, and 15 imports). Twenty permits were granted, one application was refused and 17 were withdrawn; 12 applications were still to be resolved as at 30 June 2009.
All permit applications were processed within the statutory timeframes.
|Use and emissions of stratospheric ozone depleting substances and synthetic greenhouse gases
Meet all statutory requirements and international obligations for regulating imports, manufacture, emissions, recycling and destruction, so that use and emissions are reduced
|Imports of 128.8 ozone-depleting potential (ODP) tonnes in 2008, compared to Montreal Protocol limits of 405.1 tonnes for Australia in 2008.|
|Number of actions potentially affecting matters of national environmental significance under the EPBC Act, whose adverse environmental impacts have been addressed
95% of assessments completed within the statutory timeframe
|Under Part 3 of the EPBC Act, 462 matters were protected through the referral, assessment and approval process. This is an increase of 27 matters from 2007-08.
76% of assessments completed within the statutory timeframe.
|Number of audits and post approval inspections of approved actions
18 audits and 18 post approval inspections
|17 audits and 9 post approval site inspections completed.|
|Number of plans/policies/programs that are the subject of strategic assessment or engagement
|Strategic assessments underway in: the Kimberley, WA; Molonglo ACT; and Melbourne Vic.
5 draft policy statements released for public comment (western ringtail possum, spiny rice-flower, golden sun moth, growling grass frog, tiger quoll (SE mainland): 1080 baiting).
9 more in preparation.
|Number of species, ecological communities and threatening processes assessed for listing, delisting or change of listing category
|53 species added to the list
6 species uplisted
6 species downlisted
2 assessed with status unchanged
18 ecological communities under active assessment.
8 ecological communities added to the list
1 ecological community de-listed
|Percentage of listed species or ecological communities for which a recovery plan or conservation advice exists or is in preparation
|Administered items||Budget 2008-09
|Actual Expenses 2008-09
|Appropriation Bill 1|
|National Environment Protection Council||429||429||-|
|Commonwealth Environment Research Facilities||25,395||25,364||31|
|Ozone protection and synthetic greenhouse gas (Administered)||4,127||4,848||(721)|
|Response to the impacts of human settlements||101,873||104,870||(2,997)|
|Subtotal for Output 1.5||131,924||135,609||(3,685)|
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