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19 February 2010
A concerted focus on biodiversity for the Commonwealth Environment Research Facilities (CERF) program will mark the International Year of Biodiversity, Environment Minister Peter Garrett announced today.
The Australian Government program provides more than $20 million each year for environmental research in Australia. The first stage of CERF, which began in 2006, ends in June 2010.
"The Australian Government recognises the vital role research plays in delivering environmental management, policies and programs," Mr Garrett said. "As Australia confronts the challenges of climate change, we are aiming for both a stronger, more resilient environment and a sustainable economy."
The International Year of Biodiversity provides an excellent opportunity to redirect funds to targeted areas of research while building on the lessons learned from the current program.
"We will be looking to strengthen our own conservation and research efforts while also contributing to international work."
The current CERF program provides funding for research with a strong 'public good' focus. CERF promotes research in areas identified as priorities, including Australia's natural assets, threats and risks and the social and economic aspects of our environment.
"For the future program, we are considering three or four large research groups or hubs to research emerging biodiversity issues in terrestrial and marine ecosystems, across Northern Australia, and the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait," Mr Garrett said.
"It will be directed towards research the Australian Government, particularly my portfolio, needs to make informed environmental policy and decisions, both in the short term and into the future. This includes understanding how ecosystems function, monitoring their health, maintaining and building their resilience, using them sustainably and exploring how to use markets to protect biodiversity."
"The Government is allocating up to $7m per annum for the Great Barrier Reef Hub, including the Torres Strait, to complement the $9 million investment in research in support of the Caring for our Country Reef Rescue initiative.
"There are significant advantages in the research program being administered out of northern Queensland, and better able to coordinate the research efforts, including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and industry sectors such as the tourism industry. I am therefore keen to see this hub continue to be administered in the region," Mr Garrett said.
Program guidelines and a call for expressions of interest in the new three or four large research groups or hubs will be issued shortly. Funding will be allocated through a competitive process and will be open to all research groups hosted by an Australian research institution. The outcome of the competitive process is expected to be announced in July 2010.
In addition, a total of up to $5m will be available for the first 3 to 6 months in 2010-11 as transitional funding for existing CERF research hubs. This will ensure continuity between the current and future research programs. Research under the transitional arrangements will be able to commence on 1 July 2010.
"I would like to thank all the researchers and the group of experts that advised me on CERF for their hard work, commitment and contribution to the program over the last four years," Mr Garrett said.
"The future program will build on their work, and help fill the gaps in our knowledge that urgently need filling to protect our unique flora, fauna and ecosystems."
For more information on the CERF program, visit www.environment.gov.au