Land Sector Package

Biodiversity Fund

Frequently Asked Questions

Last update: 18 July 2013

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Northern Australia Targeted Investment

General

How much money is available under the Biodiversity Fund: Northern Australia Targeted Investment 2013-14 round?

The Biodiversity Fund: Northern Australia Targeted Investment 2013-14 will invest up to $50 million over four years in Northern Australia to restore and manage Australia's biodiversity and improve carbon outcomes across the landscape. Up to an additional $40 million over four years from 2013-14 will support existing Working on Country groups in Northern Australia for activities that deliver on Biodiversity Fund objectives.

Successful projects will be funded a minimum of $500 000 over a period of two to four years from 2013-14. This is to encourage larger scale, strategic projects suitable to the region. Applicants are able to apply for up to three projects.

Why is this round only targeting Northern Australia?

Round One of the Biodiversity Fund was deliberately broad in its approach and was successful in maximising participation around the country. This time a more targeted approach has been adopted as a way to focus investment on landscapes with particular pressures and needs, and to achieve more comprehensive regional outcomes. The size of the investment, coupled with the size of the northern area, represents an appropriate scale in which to trial this targeted approach ahead of other targeted investments around the country in the future.

A targeted investment round of the Biodiversity Fund in Northern Australia recognises there is an opportunity to manage the threats to the northern landscape before they become issues requiring more costly rehabilitation. There is an emphasis on projects which protect and sustainably manage high value ecosystems in Northern Australia, including places which support significant natural and Indigenous heritage values.

Biodiversity Fund and Indigenous Australians

What opportunities are there for Indigenous Australians in the Biodiversity Fund?

Indigenous Australians are well placed to manage and provide input into proposals for Biodiversity Fund projects in Northern Australia by utilising indigenous knowledge to achieve regionally appropriate environmental outcomes. For example, Indigenous Australians may be involved in projects using savanna burning as a fire management tool, or projects that share indigenous ecological knowledge with local communities to improve biodiversity benefits.

The Biodiversity Fund encourages engagement by Indigenous Australians and proposals that involve collaboration and partnerships with, and employment of, Indigenous people.

What is the Working on Country funding for?

In recognition of the complementary link between the Biodiversity Fund and the Working on Country program, up to $40 million over four years will be invested to support existing Working on Country groups in the north of Australia to deliver Biodiversity Fund objectives. These projects will be selected and managed under a separate set of guidelines through the Working on Country program.

This funding is in addition to the $50 million available through the Northern Australia Targeted Investment round.

Groups that receive funding from the $40 million Working on Country investment are also able to apply separately under the Biodiversity Fund, providing the proposed activities are not the same as those already being funded. For example, Working on Country groups may have capacity to extend existing projects to cover new activities or to undertake new projects.

How does the Indigenous Carbon Farming Fund link to the Biodiversity Fund?

The Indigenous Carbon Farming Fund has been established to help Indigenous Australians to participate in the Carbon Farming Initiative. It provides funding for Indigenous organisations and individuals to access carbon farming specialists, business development expertise and legal advice for developing governance and contractual arrangements for carbon farming projects. These activities can be used to complement Biodiversity Fund projects that are seeking to participate in the Carbon Farming Initiative.

Applications

Applicants should read the Biodiversity Fund: Northern Australia Targeted Investment 2013-14 Grant Application Guidelines in full before submitting an application.

When do applications close for this round?

Expression of interest

Applications are now CLOSED.

Full Application

Electronic applications must be submitted by 2pm (AEST) 12 April 2013.

Hard copy applications must be postmarked by 12 April 2013.

Will hard copy applications be accepted?

While electronic applications are preferred, hard copies will be accepted and are available for those who do not have internet access. You can request a hard copy application form by contacting the Biodiversity Fund hotline on 1800 008 678 (toll free excluding mobile and public phones).

Where do I submit the completed application form for the Biodiversity Fund: Northern Australia Targeted Investment 2013-14?

Applications can be submitted electronically to northernroundbiofund@environment.gov.au

Hard copy forms are to be addressed and delivered to:

By post:
Biodiversity Fund: Northern Australia Targeted Investment 2013-14
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
GPO Box 787 CANBERRA ACT 2601

By courier:
Biodiversity Fund: Northern Australia Targeted Investment 2013-14
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities Reception
John Gorton Building
King Edward Terrace
Parkes ACT 2600

Will late applications be accepted?

Late applications may be considered under extenuating circumstances provided an alternative timeframe has been agreed prior to the closing date.

Any requests for an extension of time to lodge an application must be made to the department prior to 2pm AEST 12 April 2013 for the Full Application step. Such requests should be directed, in writing, to the Biodiversity Fund: Northern Australia Targeted Investment team at biodiversityfund@environment.gov.au.

The department has no obligation to accept a late application. Any decision to accept or not accept a late application is at the department's absolute discretion and will be final.

The department may, at its sole discretion, extend the application period. Any such extension will be advertised on the department's website and emailed to those registered via the Clean Energy Environment Network email.

What information should my application include?

Before beginning your application, read the Biodiversity Fund: Northern Australia Targeted Investment 2013-14 Grant Application Guidelines to determine your eligibility to apply and the assessment criteria you should consider when putting your proposal together.

The Guidelines and the application form contain all the information you need regarding how to respond to the Full Application.

When does my project need to be completed?

All projects will be funded for a period of two to four years and must be completed by the agreed date in the contract. Final acquittal is required within eight weeks of the agreed completion date for the project.

Funding issues

Can proposals include administration costs, or costs incurred from the application process?

The Australian Government understands that administration is an integral part of delivering a Biodiversity Fund project and accepts a 10% amount in the budget for that purpose. Amounts above this may be considered where there are extenuating circumstances, for instance where on-ground works are occurring in remote locations.

The Australian Government does not fund retrospectively, so costs incurred during the application process will not be funded.

What administrative costs should I include in my project budget?

Administration expenses are those costs associated with administering your project. Costs may include audit/accounting, phone/internet bills, printing/photocopying, costs associated with legally required documents such as permits.

Applicants should remember that project proposals will be assessed on the basis of value for money. Proposals that represent greatest benefit for every dollar invested will be considered of greater merit.

Can a Biodiversity Fund grant be used to purchase equipment and other capital items?

Yes, although applicants will need to demonstrate that the purchase of a capital item represents value for public money and contributes to their ability to deliver the project.

Buying equipment or materials that are part of a landholder's responsibility for the management of their property will not be eligible.

Examples of capital items include, but are not limited to:

  • Computer equipment
  • Fire fighting equipment
  • Trailers
  • Quad bikes
  • Sheds for the purpose of storage
  • Ranger bases
  • Workshop facilities
  • Shade houses / nursery equipment
  • Weed spraying equipment
  • Other infrastructure essential to project activities

Can I use a Biodiversity Fund grant to employ a staff member?

Yes, where that employee is working on the project. A proportion of an existing employee's salary may also be applied for, provided they are also working on a project.

What does the 5 per cent cap on monitoring refer to?

As outlined in section 6.1 of the Investing in Tasmania's Native Forests 2013-14 grant applicant guidelines and section 6.3 of the Biodiversity Fund Round Two: 2013-14 application guidelines, applicants can allocate a maximum of 5 per cent of their total grant budget to monitoring and reporting activities required by the Commonwealth.

Applications may include additional project level monitoring directly related to their project activities. Applicants should clearly demonstrate how those monitoring activities will benefit the biodiversity outcomes and success of the project and the Biodiversity Fund program overall.

Process after applications have been submitted

Can I make changes to my application once it has been submitted?

If you need to alter your application after it has been submitted but before the application period closes, please contact the department.

If you submit a new application form (replacing an existing application), please email northernroundbiofund@environment.gov.au to notify the department and avoid any confusion during the assessment process.

How will my application be assessed?

All applications for both the Expression of Interest and Full Application steps will be assessed by at least one representative from within the department and by one community assessor. The assessment process will include consideration by the Land Sector Carbon and Biodiversity Board prior to advice being provided to the Minister.

Applications will be assessed against the following four assessment criteria:

  • Criterion 1 - Benefits to landscape scale connectivity
  • Criterion 2 - Capacity of applicant to deliver
  • Criterion 3 - Ongoing management
  • Criterion 4 - Value for money

More information on the assessment criteria is available in Section 4.2 of the Biodiversity Fund: Northern Australia Targeted Investment 2013-14 Grant Application Guidelines.

How long will it take for my application to be assessed and how will I be notified of the outcome of my application?

Successful applicants at the Full Application stage will be notified of the outcome by June 2013.

If you are successful

If my project application is successful, what are the next stages?

Applicants who are successful at the Full Application step, will be contacted by the Biodiversity Fund: Northern Australia Targeted Investment team to discuss the funding agreement (contract).

If my project application is successful, when can I expect to receive funds?

The Australian Government will process applications in a timely manner to enable payments to be made as soon as possible after the successful projects are announced by the Minister.

All grant payments for the project are subject to the successful applicant entering into, and complying with, the terms and conditions of the funding agreement.

It is anticipated funding will be available to successful applicants early in the 2013-14 financial year.

Will successful applicants be eligible to apply for future funding rounds, including Caring for our Country?

Receiving funding under this round of the Biodiversity Fund doesn't preclude you from applying for funding under Caring for our Country or Biodiversity Fund in future rounds, as long as future bids are not seeking funding for the same activity on the same site.

Biodiversity Fund

General

What is the Biodiversity Fund?

The Biodiversity Fund is a program under the Australian Government's Land Sector Package of the Clean Energy Future plan. It is designed to help land managers establish, manage and improve the condition of native vegetation on their land as well as reduce the effects of climate change by improving landscape resilience, increasing stores of carbon and reducing greenhouse gases.

How is the Biodiversity Fund different from Caring for our Country and other environmental programs?

The Biodiversity Fund complements other government programs, such as Caring for our Country, that contribute to building landscape connectivity and resilience. It will provide incentives for activities that deliver biodiversity and environmental benefits by supporting the restoration and/or management of biodiverse landscapes.

Current funding for biodiversity conservation, provided through the Caring for our Country initiative, is focused primarily on the restoration and protection of nationally significant threatened species and ecological communities, as well as the control of Weeds of National Significance.

Biodiversity Fund and the Carbon Farming Initiative

Is the Biodiversity Fund linked to the Carbon Farming Initiative?

Like the Biodiversity Fund, the Carbon Farming Initiative is one of the programs under the Australian Government's Clean Energy Future plan. It allows land managers to earn carbon credits by storing carbon or reducing greenhouse gas emissions on the land.

A successful applicant may receive funding for a Biodiversity Fund project and also claim carbon offset credits for that project through the Carbon Farming Initiative, provided that the project meets the criteria for both programs.

What Carbon Farming Initiative methodologies are relevant to Northern Australia?

The Biodiversity Fund encourages proposals from applicants seeking to generate carbon credits through projects that improve biodiversity outcomes. In Northern Australia, applicants may wish to consider the savanna burning or environmental plantings approved Carbon Farming Initiative methodologies.

Can I apply under the Biodiversity Fund to improve the biodiversity outcomes of a planned Carbon Farming Initiative project?

Yes. The Biodiversity Fund encourages proposals from applicants who are seeking to improve the biodiversity outcomes of Carbon Farming Initiative projects. However, projects designed to fulfil the requirements of a Carbon Farming Initiative offset methodology may not necessarily be competitive under the Biodiversity Fund, unless they incorporate additional biodiversity focused activities/outcomes.

For example, to increase the competitiveness of their project under the Biodiversity Fund, applicants should consider using a wider variety of species in their environmental planting project than required by the Carbon Farming Initiative. Similarly, projects designed according to the Carbon Farming Initiative's savanna burning methodology will need to consider how the fire regime affects biodiversity and clearly describe how biodiversity will be improved.

Biodiversity Fund Round One - successful projects

How many projects received funding?

Round one of the Biodiversity Fund will support a total of 317 projects across the country.

Did any Indigenous groups receive funding?

A total of 19 successful applications were received from Indigenous land managers and organisations, for projects that represent $26.1 million dollars in funding. These projects will be directly led by Indigenous groups, to revegetate and better manage parts of the Australian landscape. A further 10 projects, totalling $21.7 million, will create additional employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians through new revegetation and restoration projects.

What sort of projects received funding?

Successful Round One applicants will undertake a diverse array of projects across all states and territories, tailored to the opportunities available in each area for increasing biodiversity and reducing carbon pollution. Projects will establish, restore, and enhance vulnerable or degraded habitats, increasing connectivity between important habitat areas, creating biodiverse carbon sinks, and controlling the spread of invasive species.

When will projects begin?

Round One successful applicants will be rolling out their projects this year, and in many cases, continuing them over several years.

Is funding ongoing?

The Biodiversity Fund is an ongoing program. More than 90% of projects supported in Round One will be funded for three years or more, with almost half of the projects funded over six years.

What are the responsibilities of successful applicants?

Payment of funding under the Biodiversity Fund will be dependent on the successful applicant's completion of milestones specified in the funding agreement. Successful applicants will need to submit regular reports on their progress against project milestones, acquittal of expenditure at intervals over the life of the project, and evidence of having met the requirements of their funding.

Why was my submission unsuccessful?

Round One of the Biodiversity Fund received an overwhelming amount of interest and support from all over Australia. There will be other opportunities available to participate in the program throught future rounds.

When will Round Two open?

The design of Round Two of the Biodiversity Fund is currently being considered. Updates will be posted on the website and new FAQs included as soon as information becomes available.

Monitoring and Reporting

What are the monitoring and reporting requirements?

The Australian Government requires monitoring and reporting for all environment and natural resource management programs. Applicants can allocate a maximum of 5 per cent of their total grant amount to monitoring and reporting activities.

A key feature of the new MERI process is that funding recipients will soon be able to report via an Online MERI Tool. This tool is being developed in collaboration with the Atlas of Living Australia. A demonstration version of the tool is now available and currently includes recently reported data from Biodiversity Fund Round One projects to show how project information will be presented publicly. This tool will allow funding recipients to record and upload data about the progress of their projects on a continual basis and submit reports online. It will also increase information sharing within NRM communities and the broader public. Some data and information required by the Australian Government for contractual purposes will remain private.

While funding recipients cannot add data to the tool yet, development continues and it is anticipated that the tool will be available for use in late 2013. Guidance on how to use the tool will also be provided online.

A demonstration version of the Online MERI Tool  showing the type of information that will be made public is now available.

General MERI information is available at:

What will be the key features of the new Online MERI Tool?

Once the Online MERI Tool is fully functional, key features are expected to include:

  • The ability for funding recipients to submit data related to their project such as:
    • Output data (e.g. number of trees planted), and
    • Outcome data (e.g. change in vegetation condition using state based vegetation condition methods).
  • The ability for funding recipients to submit photos, videos and other stories about their project.
  • A map showing the location and basic details of all Caring for our Country and Biodiversity Fund projects, with the ability to add mapping layers for analysis purposes.
  • Dashboards showing up-to-date information on the progress made by individual Caring for our Country and Biodiversity Fund projects, as well as aggregated program information.
  • The ability to search some raw and aggregated data and information related to any given project, theme or other variables.
  • Links to social media and other tools.
  • Guidance on how to use the Online MERI Tool.

When will I be able to register and submit reports online?

It is anticipated that the Online MERI Tool will be available for reporting from the end of 2013. Funding recipients will be notified when the online tool is available.

What information will be made public?

Some of the data and information reported, such as ecological data, will be presented publicly, while other data and information required by the Australian Government for contractual purposes will remain private. Examples of information that will be made public include project and funding recipient name, location, project description, reported data, photos and maps.

Will guidance or training be provided to help us submit reports or to analyse reported data?

Yes. Once the Online MERI Tool is fully functional later in 2013, online guidance will be available to assist in submitting reports, data analysis and interpretation. Assistance may be in the form of guidelines, FAQs, online videos and tutorials.

Funding recipients will also be able to seek advice and assistance from their case manager or local Australian Government NRM Officer .

Will we be able to upload data from our own reporting system directly into the new Online MERI Tool?

The online tool is currently under construction and we are looking to enable data upload functionality. Further details on functionality of the online tool will be provided once it has been developed.

I have already submitted reports as part of my Biodiversity Fund agreement. Will data from my previous reports be available online once the new Online MERI Tool is fully functional?

Yes. The department will upload data from previous Biodiversity Fund Round One progress and annual reports.

Will the Online MERI Tool be able to report the same things for Caring for our Country and Biodiversity Fund?

In the future, the Online MERI Tool will capture the same types of reporting data in a standardised way for both Caring for our Country and Biodiversity Fund projects. Data from Caring for our Country and Biodiversity Fund projects will be able to be compared and aggregated to tell a story about how both programs are tracking.

If I have one Caring for our Country and one Biodiversity Fund project, will the Online MERI Tool be able to report one story for both projects?

We are looking at developing this functionality in the Online MERI Tool in the future. Further information and guidance will be provided once the tool becomes available.

Will the Online MERI Tool have an ‘app’ and will it link to social media?

We are looking at developing this functionality in the Online MERI Tool in the future. Further information and guidance will be provided once the tool becomes available.