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Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp
4 December 2002
The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, the Hon Dr David Kemp, today emphasised that there has been no cut in Commonwealth funding to the Wet Tropics and called on the Queensland Minister for the Environment, Dean Wells, to stop buck-passing and show greater leadership on World Heritage management in Queensland.
"The Wet Tropics are a Queensland Government-managed property and as Chair of the Wet Tropics Ministerial Council it is Dean Wells' responsibility to make sure its world heritage values are properly protected," Dr Kemp said.
"At the October meeting of the Wet Tropics Ministerial Council, the Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA)'s budget was ready for approval, but Queensland requested a delay to resolve a funding dispute with the Authority over on-the-ground park management services. As a result Dean Wells has proposed cuts to services in the rainforest by $128,000 and has directed this money instead to funding Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service bureaucrats in Brisbane.
"This means that while Mr Wells claims that Queensland funding has stayed constant at $2.64 million, real funding for rainforest protection, which is a responsibility of the State, has dropped.
"Yesterday Dean Wells told the Queensland Parliament that the WTMA was only able to continue functioning because 'the State Government is paying for it'. This is wrong given that Wells is responsible for the delay in passing the budget in October and neglects to mention that the Authority is also drawing on $1.43 million of Commonwealth funds carried forward from 2001-02. These funds are additional to the substantial funds I have offered this year."
"I have written to the Queensland Minister for Environment today requesting him to urgently bring the Authority's budget to the Ministerial Council out-of-session for approval." Dr Kemp said.
Dr Kemp said that the Commonwealth has made no cuts to Queensland World Heritage and that Dean Wells was ignoring a change in funding arrangements that aims to increase the scope for resourcing World Heritage areas.
"I have confirmed the Commonwealth's commitment to the WTMA's budget, and I have put on the table three blocks of funding from the Natural Heritage Trust," said Dr Kemp.
"Notwithstanding my clear offers of Commonwealth funding for all Queensland World Heritage properties, Minister Wells has publicly claimed that Commonwealth funding has ceased," Dr Kemp said.
"At the 3 October Ministerial Council meeting, I confirmed that $2.2 million will be made available from the Natural Heritage Trust to support the WTMA's baseline budget. Including the Commonwealth carry-over this means $3.63 million of Commonwealth money is available to meet the needs of Wet Tropics management in 2002/03. I also have offered to provide further funding from the Trust to support a range of strategic management support projects across Queensland totalling $660,000.
"My offer of $660,000 made in October would assist critical strategic management support projects in the Wet Tropics, Riversleigh, the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves and Fraser Island, and I would expect other priority management needs in all Queensland properties to be further addressed through the new Regional component of the Natural Heritage Trust, which has been set up to fund major environmental priorities like World Heritage areas.
"I have written to all State governments urging them to give high priority to World Heritage areas when planning their submissions to the Regional component of the Trust. The Commonwealth views World Heritage areas as a high priority for regional Trust funding and hopes the States do the same to ensure enhanced protection for these national treasures.
"But Queensland has not taken up these offers. To access these funds, Queensland has only to sign the bilateral Trust agreement, but has refused to do so because of its opposition to natural resource management reforms in important areas like tree-clearing."
"Taken together with its failure to take up my offer of strategic management support funding Queensland is, through its spoiling action, seeking to reduce the Wet Tropics Management Authority's budget by more than $2.3 million," Dr Kemp said.
Contact: Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400