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Senator the Hon. Robert Hill
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

Federal Budget 2000-2001

EMBARGO: 8.00pm May 9, 2000

NATURAL HERITAGE TRUST FUNDING $361M THIS YEAR


The Howard Government's campaign to help Australians carry out on-ground environmental works will continue in 2000-2001 through the $1.5 billion Natural Heritage Trust.

Federal Environment and Heritage Minister Senator Robert Hill said $361.3 million has been allocated for Trust projects in 2000-2001, honouring the Government's commitment to deliver cleaner beaches, healthier waterways, less air pollution, more productive agricultural land and save threatened species.

"The 2000-2001 budget allocation includes significant amounts for the main programs under the Natural Heritage Trust, including $87.1 million to Bushcare, $77.5 million to the National Landcare Program (including Landcare tax measures), $45.2 million for the Murray-Darling 2001 Program, $23.5 million for the National Rivercare Program and $27.2 million for Coasts and Clean Seas."

Senator Hill said the recently published mid-term review showed the Trust was achieving its principal objectives.

"To date, more than $700 million has been invested in the Trust and related programs for more than 6,400 projects around Australia. The sale of the second tranche of Telstra has enabled funding to continue until 2001-2002, extending the life of the Trust for one year.

"The review, by independent consultants, found the Trust had delivered a seven-fold increase in Commonwealth expenditure on natural resource management, sustainable agriculture and environmental protection from 1996-97 to 1998-99.

"One of the aims of the Trust is to give local communities the opportunity to invest in and take responsibility for the ecologically sustainable development of the Australian landscape.

"The review found that more than 300,000 Australians had participated in Natural Heritage Trust activities, many of them as volunteers.

"For every dollar approved by the Commonwealth in 1999-2000 for the Trust's 'One-Stop-Shop' projects, about $7 in resources and in-kind contributions came from community groups and their co-operative partners."

Senator Hill said in addition to promoting high levels of participation by community groups, the review indicated the Trust had stimulated additional investment in the natural environment by State and Local Governments.

"For example the mid-term review found that in addressing one of the most significant problems facing rural communities, the problem of dryland salinity, the federal Government's contribution of $38 million had leveraged another $76 million from state agencies and the community," Senator Hill said.

"With the Trust's significant contribution to on-ground works, groups around the country will continue to bring about major improvements to rural and urban environments."

The way that the GST affects Budget estimates, accounting statements and appropriations is described in Budget Paper No.4.

Contact: Rod Bruem (02) 6277 7640 or 0419 258 364

Commonwealth of Australia