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Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

19 December 2002

Mornington Peninsula Biosphere Reserve Officially Inaugurated


The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today welcomed the inauguration of the Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve and congratulated the local community for their support to achieve this international status.

"The Biosphere Reserve, located in Victoria, abuts part of Port Phillip and Western Port Bays and includes Phillip and French Islands," Dr Kemp said.

"It is a very special part of Victoria and local communities should be proud of the work they have done.

"The Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve is one of the new generation of biosphere and is the first of its kind in Australia.

"This reserve aims to integrate conservation areas, rural landscapes and urban areas into a framework for sustainable use.

"The biosphere is used for a mix of residential, industrial, farming, fishing, recreational, conservation, and tourism activities. It also includes areas listed on international treaties - for example, Western Port Bay is designated under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

"Modern biosphere reserves reflect a more integrated approach to achieving environmental, economic and social objectives - the 'triple bottom line' - at the landscape scale.

"The Federal Government is the national focal point for Biosphere Reserves in Australia. It is very pleasing to see a number of local communities developing new proposals for Biosphere Reserves around Australia.

"The area has a highly significant value in conservation terms. Forests in the northeast of the catchment are extensive and relatively intact. Western Port contains extensive water bodies that provide essential bird habitats, and there are over 200 kilometres of coastline with significant stands of mangroves and areas of seagrass and salt marsh.

"This area also has high social value, with many urban settlements located along the coastline of the Peninsula. Many workers commute to Melbourne daily and Melbourne residents themselves holiday in the area," Dr Kemp said.

The Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve is the first nomination from Australia in 20 years and brings the number of Australian Biosphere reserves to 12. The Bureau of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) International Coordinating Council in Paris accepted the nomination of the new Biosphere Reserve on 6 November 2002.

A Biosphere Reserve is one or more protected areas and surrounding lands that are managed by combining both conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Such Reserves are designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on the basis of nominations submitted by countries participating in the Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB).

Biosphere reserves are now more important globally in the wake of the recent Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), where countries called for action to reduce extreme poverty and hunger and ensure environmental sustainability. The World Network of Biosphere Reserves now consists of 425 sites in 95 countries.

For more information on Biosphere Reserves please go to http://www.ea.gov.au/parks/biosphere/index.html

Media contact:
Catherine Job Dr Kemp's office (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia