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Joint Media Release
Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
Australian Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
The Hon Warren Truss MP
15 December 2004
An independent audit of the Australian Government's $1.4 billion National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality (NAP) has recognised the significant achievement of the programme in pioneering a more effective long-term approach to natural resource management.
The Australian Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Warren Truss, and the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said the Australian National Audit Office report - tabled out of session in Parliament today – found the NAP had contributed to significant institutional and policy reforms in the States / Territories which will address the root cause of many salinity issues.
Mr Truss said the NAP and the $3 billion Natural Heritage Trust were designed to take a long-term view in tackling environmental issues that have been years in the making.
"These programmes are designed to help communities deliver local solutions to local problems, and the solutions must be lasting.
"The Government does not seek to impose solutions from above without support at a local level. The six recommendations in the Audit Office report support this approach, and used to help improve the delivery of the NAP."
The Audit Office also noted there had been some issues with delayed NAP funding. These delays were largely due to the time needed to establish community structures in some states and the lengthy negotiations to get some states and territories to sign onto the NAP. To this date the Commonwealth is still awaiting formal agreement from Western Australia to participate in the NAP.
Senator Campbell said the Government was already responding to the audit recommendations, including recommendations to manage risk at the regional level, provide governance information and training for regional bodies and to introduce the three-year investment plans.
"For the first time communities across the continent are working together in a consistent way to develop regional plans for landscape change. Plans have already been approved for most areas in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland, with others to follow," he said.
"The NAP and the NHT are not just about building capacity for change. They are about real action where it's needed. So far, over $150 million in NAP funding has been spent on targeted, on-ground activities."
For example, in Victoria, the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority is using $300,000 in funding for erosion control at Wormete Creek. A catchment program in Queensland's Fitzroy Basin has engaged over 150 landholders in vegetation and sustainable farming projects. In South Australia, the $49.3 million Upper South East Dryland Salinity and Flood Management Programme, the largest single project funded under the NAP, continues to boost regional productivity and protect biodiversity through drainage, fencing and wetland protection projects.
The Ministers said they supported a transparent and constructive dialogue on the delivery of the NAP and NHT, which represent the largest environmental rescue effort ever undertaken by an Australian Government.
The Audit Office report was initiated in May and completed in September. Further information can be found at www.anao.gov.au.
Minister Truss: Tim Langmead (02) 6277 7520 or 0418 221 433
Minister Campbell: Wayne Grant (02) 6277 7640 or 0407 845 280