Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2004
ISSN 1441 9335
This report is presented in accordance with the requirements of section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
- How the activities of the organisation, and the administration of legislation by the organisation, accord with the principles of ecologically sustainable development (section 516A(6)(a))
- How the outcomes specified in a relevant Appropriations Act contribute to ecologically sustainable development (section 516A(6)(b))
- Effect of the organisation's activities on the environment (section 516A(6)(c))
- Measures being taken by the organisation to minimise the impact of its activities on the environment (section 516A(6)(d))
- Mechanisms, if any, for reviewing and increasing the effectiveness of these measures (section 516A(6)(e))
1. How the activities of the organisation, and the administration of legislation by the organisation, accord with the principles of ecologically sustainable development (section 516A(6)(a))
The following activities of the Department accord with the principles of ecologically sustainable development:
- administering and enforcing the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the Natural Heritage Trust of Australia Act 1997, both of which explicitly recognise these principles; and
- working with other portfolios to reach positions for Australia to pursue within international multilateral forums and organisations. In 2003-04 international activities to promote ecologically sustainable development focused on:
- reviewing progress to date in the water, sanitation and human settlements themes in the 12th session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD12);
- providing policy advice to ensure that trade and environment policies are mutually supportive, including active participation in the negotiation of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States and meetings of the World Trade Organization's Committee on Trade and Environment; and
- continuing work on a number of World Summit for Sustainable Development voluntary partnerships with partner countries
The following activities accord with the principle of integrating environmental, social, and economic considerations:
- providing advice on and assessing referrals for action under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999;
- contributing to the development of the energy white paper process and Securing Australia's Energy Future report;
- addressing use and development issues affecting the coastal zone through the work of the Intergovernmental Coastal Advisory Group to implement the Framework for a National Cooperative Approach to Integrated Coastal Zone Management;
- contributing to the development of the National Water Initiative and the National Guidelines for Water Recycling;
- continuing to integrate the interests of all stakeholders in decision-making processes including under the Natural Heritage Trust, the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality, and the regional marine planning process;
- working in partnerships with Australian businesses and industry to improve their triple bottom line; and
- carrying out initial trials of alternative livelihoods for Indonesian fishers in order to alleviate the impacts of traditional fishing on Australian marine environments.
The following activities accord with the principles of ecologically sustainable development, especially by employing or promoting the use of the precautionary principle:
- making decisions under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (section 391);
- providing advice, through the Minister, to the Gene Technology Regulator on environmental issues related to the release of genetically modified organisms into the environment; and
- providing advice to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority and National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme on environmental issues related to the use of agricultural, veterinary and industrial chemicals.
The following activities accord with the principles of ecologically sustainable development by aiming to promote conservation of the environment for the benefit of future generations:
- contributing to the conservation of biodiversity, including:
- improving information on the quality and extent of Australia's native vegetation through the National Vegetation Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Australia's Native Vegetation;
- developing a comprehensive monitoring and reporting mechanism, and sustainable grazing and fire management strategies for rangelands;
- identifying 15 national biodiversity 'hotspots' and funding the implementation of hotspot conservation actions; and
- funding the State of Australia's Birds 2003 report;
- contributing to the conservation of biodiversity in marine ecosystems including through establishing the National Turtle Recovery Group;
- contributing to the conservation of wetlands and their biodiversity through:
- providing research services as well as technical and policy advice to wetland managers through the Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist; and
- working with other jurisdictions to identify additional nationally important wetlands for including or updating data in A Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia;
- contributing to the conservation of river systems through:
- the Rivercare programme;
- facilitating the implementation of the Water Reform Framework, the Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement and the National Water Quality Management Strategy;
- participating in the Murray-Darling Basin Initiative and the Living Murray Initiative; and
- funding the national roll out of the International Council for Local Environment Initiative's Water Campaign™;
- conserving representative terrestrial and marine ecosystems through the National Reserve System. Activities in 2003-04 included:
- acquisition of twenty properties with a combined area of 291 791 hectares for preservation;
- addition of two new Indigenous Protected Areas totalling 5106 hectares; and
- addition of 259 square kilometres to the Ningaloo Marine Park;
- facilitating the protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat on private land through:
- purchasing properties of high conservation value through the Bush For Wildlife Initiative's revolving fund agreements; and
- disseminating information on conservation covenants and taxation incentives through workshops and brochures;
- protecting the environment from the long-term effects of harmful substances. Activities in 2003-04 included:
- strengthening the ozone protection regime through amendments to the Ozone Protection Act 1989, and establishing the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989;
- implementing national initiatives to reduce the level of air pollutants in major metropolitan centres, including:
- funding agreements to test and repair high polluting vehicles under the Diesel Vehicle Emissions National Environment Protection Measure;
- implementing the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000; and
- funding research studies on air toxics;
- managing Australia's National Halon Bank;
- facilitating the establishment of the ChemClear programme - an initiative for regular collection of unwanted farm chemicals by the agricultural industry;
- contributing to the development of a national implementation plan for reducing and, where feasible, eliminating the release of persistent organic pollutants;
- regulating the movement of hazardous wastes through the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989, including enforcement action relating to electronic waste;
- implementing the permit system under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981;
- implementing the ban on the use of antifouling paints on ships in Australia through the Antifouling Programme; and
- funding the development of Water Quality Improvement Plans for coastal water quality hotspots under the Coastal Catchments Initiative;
- achieving the further strengthening of the protection and management of Australia's natural and cultural heritage through the amendment to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999;
- identifying and conserving Australia's natural, historic and cultural heritage, including Indigenous heritage areas and objects, and working with Australia's regional neighbours to protect heritage for the benefit of future generations, including through:
- assisting the Minister and the Australian Heritage Council in the nomination, assessment and listing processes for the newly created National Heritage List and Commonwealth Heritage List; and
- working with Australian Government agencies on the development of management plans and heritage strategies for places entered on the Commonwealth Heritage List;
- protecting the World Heritage values of Australia's World Heritage properties, including through:
- regulation, including the consideration of 23 proposed actions, predominantly in, or adjacent to, the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics of Queensland;
- working on management plans for World Heritage properties;
- undertaking consultations for the development of possible future nominations; and
- nominating the Royal Exhibition Building and the Carlton Gardens, Melbourne for inscription on the World Heritage List;
- working in partnership with stakeholder groups, including:
- the National Natural Resource Management Facilitator Network to enhance the capacity of regional bodies and other key stakeholders to prepare regional natural resource management plans;
- community conservation activity networks, such as the Threatened Bird Network and the Threatened Species Network;
- heritage peak bodies, Indigenous communities and the tourism industry to provide information on the new heritage legislation and to promote best practice in heritage management; and
- community-based environment and heritage groups to assist with the administrative costs of their activities through the Grants to Voluntary Environment and Heritage Organisations programme;
- working in collaboration with other parties to the Antarctic Treaty and contributing to the conservation of the biodiversity and ecological integrity of Australia's Antarctic and sub-Antarctic territories and the Southern Ocean, including through:
- achieving Antarctic Specially Managed Area status for Mawson's Huts at Cape Denison;
- playing a lead role in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources to better manage exploratory and established fisheries, to minimise by-catch and to combat illegal fishing;
- contributing to the development of the Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, which came into effect in 2004;
- continuing and enhancing research work on the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean, including research on Southern Ocean whales; and
- completing a major research voyage around Heard Island to examine food web linkages to inform the sustainable management of the fishery in the region; and
- collaborating with other countries and providing assistance to regional countries to promote the conservation of the environment including through:
- a Joint Statement on Environmental Co-operation with the United States signed on 18 May 2004;
- work with Japan on migratory birds, climate change, albatrosses and petrels, meteorology, World Heritage, and polar research; and
- work with Pacific regional countries in the areas of wetlands conservation, chemicals management and climate variability assessment.
The following activities accord with the principles of ecologically sustainable development by ensuring that biodiversity and ecological integrity are fundamental to decision-making:
- administering the environmental assessment and approvals processes under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to protect the Australian environment, especially matters of national environmental significance;
- undertaking review work on the Australian Government's marine compliance and enforcement systems and procedures;
- working to support accreditation of 33 integrated regional natural resource management plans (16 plans under the Natural Heritage Trust and 17 plans under the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality) and working with other jurisdictions and regional bodies to prepare investment strategies;
- developing revised and finalised recovery plans and threat abatement plans for threatened species and communities. In 2003-04:
- 23 recovery plans covering 27 terrestrial species were made or adopted, while 35 recovery plans, covering 47 listed species were forwarded for the Minister's consideration;
- habitat critical to the survival of the endangered Black-eared Miner, Manorina melanotis, was added to the Register of Critical Habitat; and
- the Tammar Wallaby, Macropus eugenii eugenii, a South Australian mainland sub-species, was reintroduced to the Australian mainland;
- contributing to the management of threats posed by invasive species on both land and the marine environment through the Introduced Marine Pests Programme, the Ballast Water Remediation Programmes and the National Weeds Strategy. Activities in 2003-04 under these programmes included:
- completing the Ballast Water Remediation programme;
- developing the National System for the Prevention and Management of Introduced Marine Pest Incursions;
- funding projects related to the management of invasive species; and
- working closely with the Australian Customs Service and enforcement agencies to enforce the provisions of the wildlife trade amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, especially through assessing applications for and issuing permits;
- completing assessments against the Guidelines for Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries for 19 fisheries, while continuing the assessment process for a further 64 fisheries;
- assessing the long-term impacts of nuclear actions through research in and monitoring of the Alligator Rivers Region, and conducting investigations into incidents at mine sites to assess any environmental impacts;
- providing high quality information to enable informed decision-making relating to the protection of the environment and the conservation of biodiversity, including through:
- conducting risk assessments for agricultural, veterinary and industrial chemicals;
- carrying out studies on dioxin levels and risk assessments under the National Dioxin Programme;
- providing publicly accessible information through the National Pollutant Inventory and other online environmental information products such as the Biodiversity Information Online, the National Vegetation Information System, and the National Chemical Information Gateway;
- conducting deepwater and benthic studies in the Commonwealth waters of Ningaloo and Lord Howe Island Marine Parks and the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve Conservation Zone; and
- producing education, information and training products to build capacity for Weed Management; and
- contributing to international decision-making on the conservation of biodiversity and maintenance of ecological integrity through active participation in international forums and through bilateral cooperation with countries especially in the Asia-Pacific region. In 2003-04, the Department's activities in this area included:
- representing Australia's interests in the meetings of international environment treaties and their associated bodies, including the Convention on Biological Diversity; the Convention on Migratory Species; the Ramsar Convention; the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species; the Convention to Combat Desertification; the Basel Convention; the Stockholm Convention; the Rotterdam Convention; the Antarctic Treaty; and the Convention on the Conservation of Marine Living Resources;
- contributing to the development of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management initiative to identify international priorities in chemical safety;
- continued assistance to Papua New Guinea in the areas of governance and natural resource management, forestry and forest biodiversity conservation, and partnership building; and
- enhancing local government planning and management capacity in the Lorentz National Park World Heritage property in West Papua, and in building Indonesia's oceans policy capacity.
The following activities accord with the principles of ecologically sustainable development by aiming to improve valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms:
- facilitating the development and implementation of environmental management standards by Australian Government agencies and state and territory agencies. Activities in 2003-04 included:
- developing environmental purchasing guidance documents for Australian Government procurement, in collaboration with the Australian Greenhouse Office and the Department of Finance and Administration;
- commencing a feasibility study on a water efficiency policy for Australian Government agencies; and
- supporting environmental triple bottom line and sustainability reporting by Australian Government agencies;
- developing the structural adjustment package for the Representative Areas Programme for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park;
- implementing the National Market Based Instruments Pilot Programme under the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality;
- participating in the Productivity Commission's Inquiry into National Competition Arrangements;
- providing advice on aspects of economic modelling and the incorporation of environmental factors in the AustraliaUnited States Free Trade Agreement; and
- working in partnership with Australian businesses and industry to improve valuation by industry to include environmental and social costs and benefits. Activities in 2003-04 included:
- working with the finance sector to increase the understanding of the commercial value of sound environmental and social management;
- continuing the partnership with industry associations through voluntary eco- efficiency agreements;
- continuing to encourage corporate sustainability reporting, including the publication of Corporate Sustainability - an Investor Perspective (the Mays Report);
- facilitating improved environmental management in the building and construction sector through finalising work on the National Australian Built Environment Rating System, and through collaborative work with the Australian Building Codes Board and Master Builders Australia;
- promoting minimisation of waste production and improvement of environmental performance by all participants in the supply chain through product stewardship arrangements, including work on packaging, plastic bags, degradable plastics, electrical and electronic products, and the sustainable management of used lubricating oil and used tyres; and
- working with other jurisdictions and relevant industry on the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Scheme and towards introducing the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Bill 2004 in the Parliament in June 2004.
2. How the outcomes specified in a relevant Appropriations Act contribute to ecologically sustainable development (section 516A(6)(b))
The Department's role is to achieve two major outcomes for the Australian Government. The outcomes are:
- the environment, especially those aspects that are matters of national environmental significance, is protected and conserved; and
- Australia's interests in Antarctica are advanced.
Outcome 1 contributes directly to ecologically sustainable development by protecting and conserving the environment, with its major focus on threats that are serious enough to be of national significance. Thus it contributes to protecting biodiversity and ecological systems and to maintaining the health, diversity and productivity of the environment for future generations. Outputs, which deliver the ecologically sustainable development aspects of Outcome 1, are discussed in section 1 above on how the Department's activities accord with the principles of ecologically sustainable development.
Outcome 2 does not explicitly contribute to ecologically sustainable development, but one of the goals of the Department's Australian Antarctic Division is to protect the Antarctic environment, the Southern Ocean, and the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands, including by developing ways to minimise human impact, remediating past work sites, administering environmental legislation, developing policy, and undertaking research. It thus contributes to ecologically sustainable development by providing information, which enables biodiversity conservation and ecological systems to be considered in decision making, and by protecting the health and diversity of the Antarctic environment for future generations.
The Department's mission of 'national leadership in the protection and conservation of the environment' ensures that the effect on the environment of most of its activities, including policies, programmes and administration of legislation, is a positive one. Positive effects of the Department's activities on the environment in 2003-04 are detailed throughout this annual report.
In the course of its normal daily operations, the Department also contributes to a range of negative impacts on the environment through its consumption of electricity, petrol, water, paper and other materials and through its generation of waste. The Department's office tenant light and power at the John Gorton Building for 2003-04 was 1 447 630 kilowatt hours. The Department's vehicle fleet used 55 103 litres of petrol and travelled 499 586 kilometres in 2003-04. The combined gross greenhouse emissions were 530 tonnes of CO2-e ('tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent' - calculated by multiplying the actual mass of emissions by the appropriate global warming potential factor published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). The Department's paper consumption was 15.08 reams per person per year. Figures for water, material consumables other than paper, and the total amount of waste generated are not available. For more information, see the triple bottom line report under 'Other reports'.
4. Measures being taken by the organisation to minimise the impact of its activities on the environment (section 516A(6)(d))
Through a structured Environmental Management System, which has been certified to the international standard ISO14001, the Department monitors a range of its operational activities including the management of energy, water and wastes, the departmental fleet, and purchasing. The system provides a framework for considering and minimising environmental impacts within the context of continual improvement.
Key environmental management actions and performance for 2003-04 included:
- Environmental Management System - the ISO14001 certification of the Environmental Management System was renewed and an external review of the system was commissioned. The Department's Executive agreed to a series of best practice upgrades recommended by the external review; many of these changes are underway.
- Energy - the Department purchased 100 per cent accredited Green Power (a national scheme that sets stringent environmental and reporting standards for renewable energy products offered by electricity suppliers) for its office tenant light and power at the John Gorton Building.
- Waste - the Department generated 250 tonnes of waste, or 263 kilograms per employee. Of this total, approximately 133 tonnes (53 per cent) were recycled, the remainder going to landfill. The Department recycled 97 375 kilograms of paper, 22 225 kilograms of co-mingled recyclables, 22 060 kilograms of organic waste, 171 kilograms of printer and toner cartridges, and 173 kilograms of fluorescent tubes. The Department, its information technology services provider and the cafe operating in the John Gorton Building sent 107 569 kilograms of waste to landfill.
- Greenhouse - through better management of its energy use, fleet, and waste the Department reduced its combined gross greenhouse emissions. The Department's combined gross greenhouse emissions were 530 tonnes of CO2-e, while the net emissions (after offsets) were 388 tonnes. If the Department had not undertaken its Environmental Management System initiatives, the business as usual emissions would have been 1821 tonnes, or almost five times its net emissions.
- Water - the Department continued to reuse grey water in the John Gorton Building. Flow reduction devices, leak reporting and water efficient appliances all helped to reduce its consumption of potable mains water. As at 30 June 2004, the Department did not have separate water metering for its tenancy.
- Materials - by using electronic circulation of press clips and duplex trays for all printers, the Department reduced its paper consumption to 15.08 reams per person per year. The Department purchased 14 300 reams of recycled A4 paper, or approximately 30 sheets per person per day. This was a substantial reduction from the 45 sheets per person per day baseline figure established by a paper audit carried out in 2002. The Department used recycled paper, made from 60 per cent recycled fibre (produced from Australian waste) and 40 per cent sustainable new fibre, for all standard A4 printing or photocopying tasks.
Additionally, the Department:
- continued contract arrangements guaranteeing ten per cent of electricity supply is sourced from green power for the Australian National Botanic Gardens, and implemented a 25 to 40 per cent reduction in water use by the Gardens;
- maintained certification to ISO14001 standards for the Australian Antarctic Division's Environmental Management System;
- removed 1000 cubic metres of contaminated material from the Thala Valley waste tip near Casey as the first stage in a ten year plan to clean up Australia's old waste sites in Antarctica;
- deployed disease response kits to all Australian stations for investigating the cause of death, if unusual numbers of dead wildlife are discovered in Antarctica; and
- established a new international collaboration with Canada to work towards environmental guidelines for polar regions.
5. Mechanisms, if any, for reviewing and increasing the effectiveness of these measures (section 516A(6)(e))
The Environmental Management System for the Canberra offices is reviewed every three years for certification to the ISO14001 standard. This review, as well as internal reviews of the environmental management systems for the other office locations, is used to identify and address the negative environmental impacts within the context of continual improvement.
Key environmental management goals for 200405 include:
- Environment Management System - retain ISO14001 certification and implement the recommendations of the Environmental Management System review.
- Energy - upgrade metering arrangements and decrease tenant light and power consumption to 4500 megajoules per person per year.
- Waste - develop a methodology to gather robust data on waste sent to landfill, conduct a full waste audit and achieve a 100 per cent recycling rate for fluorescent tubes and toners.
- Greenhouse - renew the Greenhouse Challenge agreement (which provides a framework for undertaking and reporting on actions to abate greenhouse gas emissions) with new targets, and identify and assess options for offsetting emissions associated with staff air travel.
- Water - investigate the feasibility of installing water sub-meters to produce accurate figures on the Department's tenancy water consumption.
- Materials - review office machines to reduce paper use, develop an environmental printing policy for outsourced printing, and conduct a new paper audit.