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

16 October 2002

Commonwealth Natural Heritage Trust Funding Levels Need No Defence

Federal Agriculture Minister Warren Truss and Federal Environment Minister David Kemp today announced funding for the North East Catchment Management Authority of $365,250 for 14 Landcare facilitator and coordinator positions to assist in the transition between the first and second phases of the Natural Heritage Trust (NHT).

The funding - part of $3.6 million allocated to 10 Catchment Management Authorities (CMA) for 109 positions - has been provided to help remove some of the uncertainty for coordinators during the change-over period.

"On-ground facilitators and coordinators make an essential contribution to key rural and regional community support networks, such as landcare, and the Coalition Government is anxious to ensure that this support is not lost," Mr Truss said.

"The Federal Government recognises the valuable support provided by facilitators and coordinators, who assist communities with project planning and implementation of the NHT and the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality," Dr Kemp said.

"Member for Indi Sophie Panopoulos has lobbied hard for this funding because she understands that in the next phase of the NHT, these positions will play a vital role in helping the community to move towards a regional approach to natural resource management," Mr Truss said.

"The focus will be to enable community input into developing and implementing regional plans; encouraging community involvement with regional bodies and participation in the delivery of the local action grants."

The Ministers rejected criticism from the Bracks Government appointed North East CMA and the State Labor Member for Benalla Ms Denise Allen over Natural Heritage Trust funding levels in Victoria.

"What these statements do highlight is the limited support being provided by the Victorian Government to natural resource management," Dr Kemp said.

"Trust funding was never intended to supplant Victoria's responsibilities to address its own natural resource management issues.

"NHT1 - which started with a balance of $1.3 billion - has provided $1.5 billion for NHT projects to the end of September, with $300 million in remaining funds.

"This has been an extraordinary outcome for the states and of course Ms Panopoulos has been one of the Coalition members arguing fiercely for a continuation of the biggest environmental program ever undertaken in Australia."

Mr Truss said the Commonwealth had now committed a further $1 billion over the next five years to implement a new NHT program - NHT2.

"It is ridiculous to suggest that there is a reduced Commonwealth commitment, we are putting in another billion dollars," Mr Truss said.

Dr Kemp said in this transitional year from the old NHT program to the new-look NHT2, more than $80 million is being spent in the States this year that was committed by the Commonwealth last year.

"This carryover in NHT1 funding is being topped up by NHT2 funds so that this year $250 million is available, including $20 million for Envirofund projects in the States and $73 million on national and Commonwealth projects."

Mr Truss said the Commonwealth will invest more than $1.4 billion in the Trust, including interest, to spend over five years and it would deliver that funding.

"We are providing another $250 million in 2003-04 and another $310 million in 2004-05."

The Ministers said $250 million will be provided in 2002-03, the first year of the extension of the Trust, to maintain the momentum generated over the Trust's first six years.

"2002-03 is a transitional year for the Trust, as we change our focus to regional delivery for the bulk of Trust funds," Dr Kemp said.

"Funds this year will allow the completion of projects from earlier years as well as allowing the transition to the new Trust arrangements, particularly the development of regional plans."

"Everyone agrees that a more targeted approach to natural resource management investments is essential if we are to successfully address the real environmental issues facing Australia."

"Once agreed plans are in place, more funds can begin to flow."

"In the meantime, the Commonwealth is providing interim funding to help with plan development and for priority works which must be undertaken," Mr Truss said.

He said that facilitators and coordinators are being funded to help ensure that communities have the opportunity to contribute to plan development and not just to coordinate on ground works as claimed by the Catchment Management Authority.

Trust funding for interim works in Victoria has yet to be considered and no commitment can be made until Victoria is prepared to sign a Bilateral Agreement with the Commonwealth.

The Ministers also rejected a claim by Ms Allen that the Commonwealth is withholding funding from the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline. Agreed funding for this activity and for the Northern Mallee Pipeline is available as soon as the Natural Heritage Trust Bilateral Agreement is signed by Victoria.

Media contacts:
Tim Langmead Mr Truss's office (02) 6277 7520 or 0418 221 433
Catherine Job Dr Kemp's office (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia