Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
WWF praise for Australia's natural safety net
6 July 2011
An independent audit by WWF-Australia has praised efforts to build the National Reserve System as 'arguably the Australian Government's biggest conservation success story'.
Environment Minister Tony Burke today launched the WWF-Australia Building Nature's Safety Net 2011 report in Canberra.
"Almost 20 years since former Prime Minister Bob Hawke first championed the idea of a National Reserve System, this independent report describes its critical role in protecting biodiversity and saving threatened species from extinction," Mr Burke said.
"Our National Reserve System is a partnership between governments at all levels and conservation organisations.
"It involves Indigenous landholders and farmers working together to build a nationwide network of national parks and reserves - protecting Australia's spectacular landscapes and native plants and animals for future generations.
"The National Reserve System is part of our natural safety net in the face of climate change, weeds and feral animals - and the cornerstone of our $20 billion a year nature-based tourism industry.
"The report shows that Australia's National Reserve System is having real benefits. Through this commitment, our Government is putting in place unprecedented protection for our precious natural environment following more than a decade of neglect under the Howard Government.
"In 2008, the Government boosted funding by an historic five-fold increase and since then we've added over seven million hectares of high conservation land, helping our partners buy 66 properties and supporting the creation of 19 new Indigenous Protected Areas."
Today the National Reserve System is a vibrant network of some 9,415 reserves, covering a range of ecosystems across the nation.
The WWF report describes the National Reserve System as 'excellent value for money' - costing an average of only $47 a hectare to buy wildlife habitat and protect it forever through the National Reserve System, or just $5 a hectare to support the declaration and management of Indigenous Protected Areas.
Every dollar of taxpayer's money leverages an average of $4.55 of additional funding from partners in purchase or ongoing management investment.
Mr Burke said the Gillard Government was also taking action to protect Australia's precious marine environment through the establishment of a national network of marine reserves.
"If these areas of biodiversity had been on land we would have protected them years ago. It is time for the protection of our oceans to start catching up," Mr Burke said. "We have a once in a generation opportunity to put in place the measures needed to protect our precious marine environment for future generations."