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Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

14 May 2002

Over $103 Million to Protect Coasts and Waterways

The Commonwealth Government will spend $103.57 million in 2002-03 from the Natural Heritage Trust Coastcare and Rivercare Programs to improve the condition of Australia's coasts and waterways.

Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, said the Government's delivery of these important election commitments would help address problems raised in the Australia State of the Environment 2001 Report.

"This includes the Prime Minister's election commitment of $350 million over five years to improve water quality under the four Trust programs with a particular emphasis on biodiversity conservation, restoring important fish migration routes, and improving health and habitat in priority rivers and floodplains, " Dr Kemp said.

"The Commonwealth will work with the New South Wales and Victorian Governments on a package of water efficiency projects in the Murray-Darling Basin as part of an initiative to restore up to 28 per cent average natural flow to the Snowy River and increase environmental flows in the River Murray.

"Combined with the Government's National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality, these initiatives represent a major investment to combat the threats facing our coasts and waterways" Dr Kemp said.

"I will seek agreements with State and Local Governments to implement integrated planning and management arrangements for targeted water quality 'hot spots'.

"These include urban coastal hot spots such as Moreton Bay, the Cooks and Georges rivers, Parramatta River, Adelaide's Port Waterways, the Derwent Estuary, Port Phillip Bay and the Swan-Canning Rivers as well as other important areas such as the Great Barrier Reef catchment and Victoria's Gippsland Lakes.

"Many of these coastal waters are at risk from toxic algal blooms, seagrass loss and damage to their habitat and fisheries values. Nutrient and sediment discharges are the major causes of these water quality problems.

"Reducing nutrient and sediment loads will be a priority for all coastal hot spots, with some areas also focusing on heavy metals, waste oil and other chemicals.

"Building on such successful approaches as the Urban Stormwater Initiative, we will be looking for the most cost effective way to cut pollution by integrating stormwater management with sewage treatment and disposal and other land management improvements."

The new National Coastal Policy delivers on a Coalition election commitment to improve water quality in coastal and estuarine waters, to conserve and restore coastal and estuarine biodiversity, encourage ecologically sustainable use of coastal and estuarine resources, and bring about better coordination and planning for the coastal zone.

"The Policy will encourage greater partnerships between governments and the community, improve the quality of coastal and estuarine habitat, ensure protection of our precious fisheries and tourism resources, and build the capacity of communities and coastal managers," Dr Kemp said.

The Budget also supports the statutory requirement under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999 for the environmental evaluation of fisheries.

"All relevant Commonwealth fisheries must be assessed for sustainable management, consistent with the requirements of the EPBC Act, by 2005, and all export fisheries to be assessed by the end of December 2003.

"The Tasmanian Rock Lobster and Abalone fisheries and the Queensland Spanner Crab fishery were accredited as sustainable earlier this year. Other fisheries being assessed in 2002 include the Heard and MacDonald Island fishery, the Western Rock Lobster fishery in Western Australia, the Bass Strait Scallop fishery, the Southern Blue Fin Tuna fishery and the Northern Prawn fishery.

"More Commonwealth waters will be declared as marine protected areas with funding for the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. Conservation assessments for 11 under-represented regions will form the scientific basis for the next round of declarations.

"The Government is committed to engaging all interest groups in the development of future marine protected areas," Dr Kemp said. "This Budget ensures that all existing marine protected areas will be managed to conserve our unique marine biodiversity.

"The Government is committed to protecting and enhancing Australia's coasts and waterways in recognition of the vital role they play in our social, environmental and economic well-being."

Media contact:
Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia