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Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp
3 October 2003
The Howard Government has identified 15 national biodiversity hotspots, and will take action to invest in their protection as part of its $2.7 billion Natural Heritage Trust.
The national identification of biodiversity hotspots - which is a world first - was announced today by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage Dr David Kemp at a meeting of Australia's environment and agriculture ministers in Perth. This fulfils a major Howard Government 2001 election commitment to identify Australia's biodiversity hotspots.
"This biodiversity hotspots information will better inform our environmental investment decisions by highlighting areas which are rich in biodiversity but also under immediate threat. The information that has been gathered in the hotspots identification process will be used by land managers to help them address the biodiversity threats on their land," Dr Kemp said.
"We are putting the spotlight on these areas because if we act now, we can slow down environmental damage before it happens and get the most value from our conservation dollar. It is far more effective to prevent the decline of our native species wherever we can, than foot costly repair bills in the future," Dr Kemp said.
Australia is one of the most megadiverse countries on the planet. It is home to more than one million species of plants and animals, 80 per cent of which are found nowhere else in the world. They include 85 per cent of all flowering plants, 84 per cent of mammals, more than 45 per cent of birds and 89 per cent of our inshore, freshwater fish.
"Almost $100 million has been allocated nationally from the Natural Heritage Trust this financial year to help local communities develop and implement regional environmental investment plans. In addition the Howard Government will ensure that its new facilitator and co-ordinator network has hotspots conservation as a priority. The eight Bushcare coordinators and over 60 regional facilitators are being trained in hotspot conservation and will be available to help communities take conservation action," Dr Kemp said. 'The hotspot focus will help support the many landholders in these hotspot areas who are aware of the significant biodiversity of their region and are managing their land accordingly".
"Around a further $10 million will also be available for projects through the regional competitive component of the Natural Heritage Trust. This component of the Trust is available to regions for high priority, multi-regional projects and hotspots has been identified as a theme."
The biodiversity hotspots were identified by the Government's independent Threatened Species Scientific Committee, in consultation with biodiversity conservation experts. The hotspots include:
"I would particularly like to acknowledge the contribution of the Humane Society International and the Australian Museum in bringing the issue of hotspots onto the national agenda," Dr Kemp said.
"Australia is entering a new era of environmental awareness," Dr Kemp said. "The Howard Government - in partnership with the states, territories, local governments and communities, corporations, non-government organisations and land holders - is forming partnerships and putting the frameworks in place to solve our nation's big environmental challenges. A key part of this focuses on protecting our biodiversity and the services it provides for the community."
"The Howard Government is achieving this through the $2.7 billion Natural Heritage Trust and the $1.4 billion National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality, which constitute the largest environmental rescue effort ever undertaken by an Australian Government.
"On-the-ground environmental work through these programs is complemented by the recently announced $500 million Murray sustainability package, the $150 million proposal to reduce Queensland landclearing and the development of a new protection plan for the Great Barrier Reef," Dr Kemp said.