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Joint Media Release
Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
Australian Government Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Warren Truss MP

13 December 2004

Beattie threatens environmental projects

Queensland communities could miss out on hundreds of millions of dollars of funding for environmental projects from the Natural Heritage Trust following a Queensland Government decision not to fund the operating costs of community natural resource management groups which deliver the projects.

Australian Government Ministers for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Warren Truss, and the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, say the funding decision is a cruel blow to dedicated regional community groups.

"Premier Beattie has advised the Australian Government that he intends to repudiate a signed agreement with the Commonwealth that his government would finalise funding arrangements for community groups implementing regional natural resource management plans by September 2004. Now the Queensland Government is saying it will not even consider the issue until late 2005 following yet another review of regional arrangements," Mr Truss said.

"Queensland has just completed a review which was to be the trigger for Queensland funding and which showed support from all sectors for regional natural resource management arrangements."

Mr Truss said Queensland is the only Australian state which does not meet the operational costs of Natural heritage Trust regional groups. Most states pay their full operating costs.

"When Queensland initially failed to meet its obligations, the Australian Government agreed to pay the costs while the regional groups were being established and developing their regional plans, on the understanding that the Queensland Government would take over this responsibility in September 2004. Now Queensland is reneging on the deal and the most cashed-up state in Australia is putting at risk the jobs of scores of people who work on environmental projects in regional Queensland."

Senator Campbell said Premier Beattie's lack of support was a major set-back for community groups that had been working for more than a year developing regional natural resource management plans for Australian and State Governments to accredit, and which are now poised to be implemented.

"It is ironic that the Beattie Government would tell us of the time and resources needed to ensure community support for natural resource management activities while ignoring the need to resource community groups to get on with the job they established them to do," he said.

"The Australian Government is making one final offer to cover up to two thirds of the operating costs of these community groups until June 2004 while the Premier reconsiders. This offer should save most of the jobs in these regions and enable some projects to be implemented.

"Minister Truss and I are calling on Queensland to think of the environment this Christmas and immediately commit to meeting core operating costs and deliver a tangible, long-term commitment to these community groups well before the start of the next financial year."

"Governments have agreed that billions of dollars in funds for Natural Heritage Trust and National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality funds would be delivered by regional groups. Queensland's share of this funding is now at risk because Queensland may not have an effective delivery mechanism."

Mr Truss said Natural Resource Management should be a partnership between all levels of community and Governments, working together to protect our environment and natural resources, and sustain our agricultural industries and regional communities.

"The Australian Government's $5 billion suite of environmental programs is the biggest in history, but the task of protecting our environment and natural resources is huge and requires a cooperative partnership with everybody. With Queensland set to receive a mammoth GST windfall of $3.2 billion over the next four years, Premier Beattie will be exposed as Enviro-Scrooge if he fails to reconsider."

Media contacts:
Minister Truss: Tim Langmead 02 6277 7520 or 0418 221 433
Minister Campbell: Wayne Grant 02 6277 7640 or 0407 845 280

Commonwealth of Australia