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

24 April 2003

New Report Highlights Australia's Biodiversity Challenges


Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today welcomed a new report from the Commonwealth Government's National Land and Water Resources Audit on the state of Australia's biodiversity.

"This important report - Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Assessment 2002 - provides, for the first time, a national snapshot of many of our key biodiversity assets and the threats to them," Dr Kemp said.

"It shows the need for urgent action on vegetation clearing in particular and is a warning to the States which have the legislative power to act."

Dr Kemp said he was pleased and optimistic about recent discussions between the Commonwealth and the Queensland, Tasmania and New South Wales Governments on vegetation management.

The biodiversity report provides assessments of:

Key findings of the report include:

"The report's findings are consistent with those in the State of the Environment 2001 report and the Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council report, Sustaining our Natural Systems and Biodiversity, released in 2002," Dr Kemp said.

"For instance, the report points to vegetation clearing as the most significant threat to biodiversity in eastern Australia. This is why - despite land management being primarily the responsibility of the states - the Howard Government has listed land clearing as a key threatening process under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to highlight the need to protect native plants and animals, wetlands and other important ecosystems that are threatened by land clearing.

"The Government is also making an unprecedented investment in the sustainable management of our environment and natural resources through the $2.7 billion Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) and the $1.4 billion National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality (NAPSWQ) - a joint program with the states and territories which is delivering real grass-roots results and environmental benefits in partnership with local communities."

Under the NHT, almost 400,000 Australian volunteers have so far participated in over 12,000 projects which have seen 546,900 hectares of native vegetation protected by fencing and/or legal covenant; 127,800 hectares of degraded remnants rehabilitated by fencing, weed control, and replanting; and 98,510 hectares of predominantly cleared land replanted with native vegetation species.

Dr Kemp said the Government is working with State and Territory Governments to achieve national objectives and targets for biodiversity conservation.

"One of our key challenges is raising awareness of the need to incorporate biodiversity objectives into land and water management practices that protect native plants and animals while maintaining the sustainable productivity of the land," he said.

Dr Kemp said the Biodiversity Assessment will be a valuable tool for regional bodies planning on-ground conservation actions through programs such as the NHT and NAPSWQ.

The Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Assessment 2002 was prepared in partnership with State, Territory and Commonwealth conservation and natural resource management agencies through the National Land and Water Resources Audit. The Audit was established in 1997 under the Natural Heritage Trust to provide an independent, comprehensive, nationwide appraisal of Australia's natural resources and their use.

The Biodiversity Assessment findings will be publicly available through the Australian Natural Resources Atlas which can be accessed at www.nlwra.gov.au.

Media Contact:
Catherine Job 02 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia