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Senator Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment
The loss of biodiversity is one of the most serious environmental issues facing Australia, the Federal Minister for the Environment, Senator Robert Hill said today.
Addressing in Sydney the inaugural meeting of the Biological Diversity Advisory Council (BDAC), Senator Hill said degradation of Australia’s natural landscape was a continuing threat to Australia’s biodiversity.
“The recent release of the executive summary of the State of the Environment Report underlines the threat to our biodiversity from the continuing destruction of habitat. Almost 70% of all native vegetation has been removed or significantly modified since European settlement. Over the same period Australia has lost some 20 mammals, 20 birds, at least 68 vascular plant species and unknown numbers of invertebrates”, Senator Hill said.
The Biological Diversity Advisory Council was established under the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia’s Biological Diversity. Its task is to advise the Minister for the Environment and the Council of Commonwealth, State and Territory environment ministers (ANZECC) on issues associated with Australia’s biodiversity. The National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity was endorsed by the Commonwealth and all States and Territories earlier this year.
Senator Hill has asked the Council to focus over the next 12 months on:
“As the National Strategy states: ‘Maintaining biological diversity is much more than just protecting wildlife and their habitats in nature conservation reserves’. For this reason the Government is aiming to establish the
$318 million National Vegetation Initiative which will work to ensure that for the first time since European settlement, the rate of vegetation establishment will exceed the rate of vegetation clearance”, he said.
Senator Hill has also asked the Council to focus on how best to provide incentives to ensure the conservation of biodiversity outside of reserves.
According to the Council’s chair, Professor Roger Kitching, the loss of biodiversity is occurring across all jurisdictions and in all our major habitats: terrestrial and marine, urban and rural, desert and coastal.
“Australians are among the most environmentally aware people in the world. We need to harness this awareness and convert it into environmental action. The Council has an important role to play in advising the Government on ways to achieve this goal”, Professor Kitching said.
Senator Hill said key elements of the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia’s Biological Diversity were addressed through initiatives contained in the Government’s Natural Heritage Trust.
The Trust will ensure the development of a National Reserve System to conserve Australia’s unique natural heritage and provide additional funding for the Endangered Species Program.
The Biological Diversity Advisory Council comprises leading representatives from the Australian community including scientists, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, conservation organisations, local government and industry.
Media: John Hewitt (06) 277 7080.