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Joint Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp
&
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Warren Truss

14 May 2002

$2.7 Billion Natural Heritage Trust to Help Communities Around Australia


The Commonwealth Government is making an unprecedented investment in the management of our environment and natural resources through the Natural Heritage Trust and the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality.

The Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, and the Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Warren Truss, said that thanks to funding of $1 billion, the Natural Heritage Trust has been extended from 2002-03 to 2006-07.

"Together with funds rolled over from previous years and the income from the interest generated from Trust Reserve, the $1 billion funding brings average annual spending on Trust programs to around $250 million a year over the next two years, increasing to over $300 million a year in the following three years," Dr Kemp said.

"This extension of the Natural Heritage Trust honours a key component of the Coalition's election platform.

"The new package represents a total commitment to the Trust of more than $2.7 billion over 11 years, funding actions that help deliver cleaner beaches, improved water quality for all users, more sustainable agricultural practices and protection for threatened animal and plant species and ecosystems.

Dr Kemp said a key focus of the next phase of the Natural Heritage Trust would be water quality.

"At least $350 million of the new Trust funding will be spent directly on measures to improve water quality. For example, Rivercare projects will support improved land and water practices that affect the health of our rivers. Coastcare and Rivercare funding will also target coastal and urban water quality hot spots such as the Parramatta River, Moreton Bay, Port Adelaide, the Derwent Estuary, Port Phillip Bay, the Cooks and Georges Rivers and the Swan/Canning Rivers.

"The successful continuation of the Trust will be enhanced by the important lessons learned during its first six years. The Trust's existing 23 programs will be consolidated and simplified, so that future investments will be made through four overarching programs."

The Trust's four main programs are:

Landcare - reversing land degradation and promoting sustainable agriculture;
Bushcare - conserving and restoring habitat for our unique native flora and fauna, which underpin the health of our landscapes;
Rivercare - improving water quality and environmental condition in our river systems and wetlands; and
Coastcare - protecting our coastal catchments, ecosystems and the marine environment.

"Each of these programs will bring on-ground benefits in rural and urban areas around Australia. For example, funding will be allocated to assist in the achievement of end-of-river pollution targets for catchments adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef.

"Other examples of investments that will be funded through the four programs of the Trust include a commitment to lead international efforts in East Asia to conserve migratory birds and their habitats through the Rivercare and Coastcare programs, funding through the Landcare program for environmental management systems for landholders and to control and eradicate Weeds of National Significance and weeds on the National Alert List; and continued funding through the Bushcare program for the Threatened Species Network to support on-ground activities such as habitat restoration, weeding, feral animal control, population surveys and monitoring, fencing, and fire management," Dr Kemp said.

"The $1 billion Natural Heritage Trust extension will complement the joint Commonwealth/ State $1.4 billion investment in the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality," Mr Truss said.

"In 2002-03, these two initiatives will invest $351 million ($250 million from the NHT and $100.7 million under the NAP) towards environmental repair and sustainable natural resource management. Together they represent the Commonwealth's long-term and comprehensive approach to Australia's most pressing environmental problems.

"As part of the Commonwealth Government's long-term approach, the next phase of the Trust will focus on investing money in large, strategic projects at the regional level. With an annual budget of between $250 million and $310 million for the years 2002-03 to 2006-07, the Trust will have the capacity to provide funding on a three-year rolling basis for the implementation of regional investment strategies.

"Regional bodies will be responsible for developing and implementing integrated natural resource management plans in consultation with a range of community interests. The plans will then be accredited as the basis for investment in priority areas by the Commonwealth, the States and Territories and industry and other community groups. The Commonwealth will also invest in key issues of a broad scale or national nature, such as the National Land and Water Resources Audit.

"The Commonwealth recognises the outstanding commitment made by local communities to make a difference in their local areas and the extension of the Trust includes a significant funding commitment to local projects.

"The recently announced $20 million Australian Government Envirofund recognises that small local projects will help to ensure that our unique biodiversity is protected and our rich resources are used sustainably for the next generation to enjoy," Mr Truss said.

Dr Kemp and Mr Truss said with the Natural Heritage Trust's ongoing financial contribution to on-ground works, groups around the country will be able to continue their work to bring about major improvements to our rural and urban environments.

Media Contacts:
Catherine Job (Dr Kemp's office) (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400
Andrew Hall (Mr Truss's office) (02) 6277 7520 or 0419 996 766

Commonwealth of Australia