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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

27 August 2004

$11.4 million more invested in Daintree and wet tropics

The Howard Government's conservation investment in the wet tropics region of far north Queensland, including the world-renowned Daintree area, will be boosted by $11.4 million, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell announced today.

"The Howard Government is committed to investing in the conservation and protection of biodiversity and ecosystems in the wet tropics," Senator Campbell said.

"$6 million will be made available for the Daintree Coast Conservation Initiative from the Government's $36 million Australian Biodiversity Hotspots Program, announced last week by the Prime Minister, and $5.4 million from Natural Heritage Trust will be allocated to helping manage the wet tropics.

"As a nation we must act as responsible custodians of this ancient remnant environment to preserve its integrity now and for future generations."

Senator Campbell praised Senator Meg Lees for proposing the Biodiversity Hotspots Program to the Government.

"The Daintree Coast Conservation Initiative will enhance Australia's national reserve system, which has invested around $60 million to add almost 21 million hectares to the conservation estate across Australia," Senator Campbell said.

The Daintree is one of our nation's most significant environmental locations. The tropical rainforest ecosystem is one of the most complex on earth and its plant diversity and structural complexity is unrivalled on the Australian continent.

There are 13 different rainforest types, from the tall forests of the coastal plains featuring massive curling liana growth and exotic buttress roots through the middle altitude forests with small leaves and their own characteristic species to the montane forests and areas of heath-like growth that adorn the mountain tops.

From a total of 19 primitive flowering plant families on earth, 12 families are represented in the Daintree region making the highest concentration of these plants worldwide.

The wet tropical rainforests of north east Queensland also contain the richest fauna in Australia. While the region represents little more than 0.1 percent of the area of Australia, it contains 30 percent of Australia's frog, marsupial and reptile species, 65 percent of Australia's bat and butterfly species and 20 percent of the bird species. Seventy animals and 700 plants are endemic to north east Queensland.

"Of the $6 million from the Biodiversity Hotspots Program, $1 million will be specifically invested to continue vital conservation works that ensure the future of a Wet Tropics icon — the cassowary. This adds to the $1.16 million already invested by the Howard Government in cassowary recovery activities over the past seven years."

Senator Campbell said an additional $5.4 million investment from the Howard Government's $3 billion Natural Heritage Trust would help continue the important work of the Wet Tropics Management Authority for another two years.

"Since 1996 the Howard Government has invested a total of $26.5 million in the work of the Wet Tropics Management Authority. Today's announcement will bring the total investment to $31.9 million."

Senator Campbell said he was pleased that he had just signed a bilateral agreement with Queensland under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and expected to make a formal announcement about this with the new Queensland Minister for the Environment next week.

"I look forward to working cooperatively with the new Minister on the Wet Tropics Ministerial Council, as well as with the Douglas Shire Council and the Australian Rainforest Foundation (ARF) with whom the Wet Tropics Management Authority has a contract to manage land conservation programs in the Daintree."

Senator Campbell called on the Queensland Government to match the Australian Government's investment of $6 million.

"The Queensland Government should invest in real outcomes for the environment rather than pour money into its own bureaucracy," he said.

"The ARF is in an ideal position to provide considerable flexibility and innovation in its approach and its ability to attract private sector funds for land conservation, including offering tax incentives. It has an established track record in the Daintree and is actively engaged in a number of initiatives with major private sector corporations to conserve land in this important environment."

"I commend the Member for Leichhardt, Warren Entsch, who has been such an enthusiastic advocate for the Daintree initiative and who has worked so hard to secure the necessary funding to ensure the long term environmental integrity of the region and enable the project to contribute to the Howard Government's nationwide investment in conserving our unique biodiversity.

"The Howard Government is committed to biodiversity conservation and this commitment reaffirms our leadership in driving and investing in real gains for the environment."

Commonwealth of Australia