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19 December 1997
Enhancing trans-Tasman environment and conservation cooperation, particularly in ocean and marine issues, was a major feature of the meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) held in Queenstown, New Zealand today (Friday 19 December 1997).
The Council was chaired by the New Zealand Minister for the Environment, Simon Upton, and comprises the Australian Commonwealth Minister for the Environment, Senator Robert Hill, and his ministerial counterparts from the Australian States and Territories.
International Year of the Oceans
ANZECC agreed to a number of cooperative initiatives to mark the International Year of the Oceans, 1998.
Australia and New Zealand have agreed to close cooperation and contact in the development of marine based policies and initiatives. This is particularly in respect of areas and issues of common interest such as high seas areas, common migratory fish species, management of fisheries including foreign fishing fleets, marine protected areas and the conservation of marine species.
Australian jurisdictions will finalise an Oceans Policy during 1998.
ANZECC identified the need for cooperation for the protection of seabirds, particularly albatross. Accidental capture (bycatch) of seabirds in fishing operations is a significant regional problem.
The Council agreed to enhance cooperation between Australia and New Zealand in managing species that migrate across jurisdictions. New Zealand will actively support Australia, which is taking a lead role in coordinating the development and implementation of a regional albatross conservation strategy to be adopted by members of the Convention on Migratory Species.
A regional strategy will coordinate the actions needed to conserve albatross across range states and the high seas, including progressing mitigation measures to minimise the number of seabirds taken in fishing operations.
This will complement the action taken by both countries in pressing for improved protection for Southern bluefin tuna fisheries and Antarctic Patagonian toothfish fisheries.
Both countries will continue to promote the issue in international forums in a coordinated way.
ANZECC agreed to investigate the establishment of a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary to complement the existing Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary established in 1996. A South Pacific Sanctuary would provide protection for the breeding grounds of large whales in the South Pacific region.
Australia and New Zealand will also undertake collaborative research programs in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, particularly on humpbacked whales and southern right whales.
The Council also agreed to a collaborative approach to research on the management of whale watching operations.
In order to progress research and management issues, the Queensland Government will host a regional workshop in mid 1998 to develop a trans-Tasman humpbacked whale research and management agenda, and to develop a single coherent Australia/New Zealand position on whaling to be submitted to the International Whaling Commission.
National Koala Conservation Strategy (Australia)
ANZECC endorsed a National Koala Conservation Strategy. This will provide a national approach to protecting and managing koalas and will assist managers in maximising the effectiveness of their conservation efforts.
The Strategy covers conservation of koalas in their existing habitat, restoration of degraded habitat, the need to better understand the conservation biology of koalas, education, management of captive, sick or injured koalas, and management of overbrowsing.
Industry waste reduction initiatives (Australia)
ANZECC agreed to finalise industry waste reduction agreements for PET and liquidpaperboard.
The Council recognised the valuable contribution to waste minimisation by companies involved in the Wastewise program and congratulated those companies for their achievements. It also agreed to endorse the publication of a report arising from the Wastewise Construction Review and to progress new Wastewise agreements with existing and new companies.
ANZECC noted progress on development of the National Packaging Covenant and urged industry and local government involved in negotiating the kerbside recycling schedule to the Covenant to include ANZECC officials in further development of the schedule. The Council also welcomed the offer by the Commonwealth Minister to host a round table of senior industry representatives and other key Covenant stakeholders.
Hazardous waste (Australia)
ANZECC agreed to a future work program on hazardous waste management, and endorsed an ongoing role for the National Advisory Body on Scheduled Waste through an annual forum to provide advice on scheduled waste management.
National Strategy for Cleaner Production (Australia)
ANZECC recognised the valuable work by government, industry and conservation groups in developing a Cleaner Production Strategy and agreed to release the draft Strategy as a work in progress document for public comment.
Natural Heritage Trust (Australia)
ANZECC noted progress with the Natural Heritage Trust. It was agreed that Natural Heritage Trust applications and administrative procedures will be kept under review to ensure their effectiveness, efficiency and accessibility to the community.
Australian Ministers decided to ensure a more concerted effort to address the degradation of natural resources caused in part by historic management practices for water resources. They agreed to work together, and with other ministerial councils, to ensure that environmental water flows are given close attention. Australia and New Zealand will cooperate in the development of water management guidelines.
Future priorities for ANZECC
Ministers agreed on a set of key issues to be the focus of future ANZECC action.
These include hazardous wastes, industry waste reduction, water and the environment, fisheries bycatch, sustainable use of wildlife, use of economic instruments in biodiversity conservation, national responses to greenhouse gas emission targets, kangaroo management, commercial use within reserves, marine protected areas, native vegetation management and the development of environmental indicators.