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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Minister for the Environment
Federal Budget 1997

Budget Revs Up Environmental Rescue


13 May 1997

The Howard Government has delivered a huge boost to efforts to protect and restore Australia's unique environment.

The 1997-98 Budget has allocated $255 million to the environment - up from $194 million last year.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill says the Budget also accelerates the delivery of Australia's largest-ever environmental rescue effort - the Natural Heritage Trust.

"We made a commitment to the Australian people to establish the Trust to tackle the big environmental challenges facing our nation.

"Despite strong opposition from the ALP, the Democrats and the Greens, we are now delivering on that promise in full.

"In fact the Government has gone even further by adding $100 million to the $1 billion dollars initially promised as the capital base for the Trust.

"Natural Heritage Trust funding kicks-in in a big way this year with nearly $290 million being spent on Trust related programs for biodiversity and sustainable agriculture.

"This represents an increase of more than 50 per cent on last year's spending."

"On current estimates a total of $1.75 billion will be spent on Trust related environment programs between 1996-97 and 2001-02.

"The Natural Heritage Trust will be delivered through an historic partnership between Environment Australia and the Department of Primary Industries and Energy."

Senator Hill says the Trust will deliver environmental repair and protection in five key areas - vegetation, biodiversity, land, rivers, and coasts and seas.

Vegetation

The Commonwealth will spend $46.6 million in 1997-98 on Trust related vegetation programs. The major thrust of this effort will be delivered under the banner of "Bushcare" - the new title for the Trust's National Vegetation Initiative.

"Bushcare" aims to effectively coordinate vegetation efforts across Australia which were previously delivered in a fragmented, piecemeal manner by the former Labor Government.

The $40.6 million allocated for"Bushcare" in 1997-98 represents nearly a three-fold increase in Commonwealth funding for vegetation programs.

Biodiversity

Australia's unique biodiversity - our complete range of plants, animals, micro-organisms, and ecosystems - will benefit from Trust related programs worth $17.7 million in 1997-98.

The Trust will deliver $11 million for the National Reserve System and $4.3 million for the Endangered Species Program in 1997-98.

Land

The Howard Government has committed $125.8 million in 1997-98 through Trust related programs to the challenge of repairing and conserving our land resources. The Trust will provide a direct boost of $35 million in 1997-98 to the National Landcare Program.

Trust funding will also flow in 1997-98 for the National Weeds Strategy ($5 million), the National Feral Animal Control Strategy ($3.7 million), Advanced Property Management Planning assistance for farmers ($3 million), and $7.5 million to establish a National Land and Water Resources Audit.

Rivers

The Budget allocates $48.3 million in 1997-98 to Trust related programs to manage, restore, and conserve our rivers.

This includes the Government's first major down-payment of $29.5 million in delivery of its promise of $163 million toward fixing one of Australia's greatest environmental concerns - the Murray Darling river system.

Like Bushcare and Landcare, this component of the Trust will deliver major environmental and economic benefits to rural and regional Australia.

Rivers outside the Murray Darling will benefit from the National Rivercare Initiative with $12.4 million allocated from the Trust in 1997-98.

Coasts and Seas

The Howard Government's recent commitment to developing Australia's first comprehensive Oceans Policy has been boosted by the 1997-98 Budget with $27.4 million allocated to Trust related Coasts and Oceans programs.

The Trust's Coast and Clean Seas initiative will tackle problems such as ocean outfalls, stormwater pollution and oil spills and protect the environment in Australia's coastal and marine areas.

Other 1997-98 Budget expenditure relates to:

Wordl Heritage

The Howard Government will provide more than $18 million in 1997-98 for the management and protection of eight of Australia's World Heritage area. This is in addition to continuing funding for Uluru Kata-Tjuta and Kakadu National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

This is up from $11.2 million in 1996-97 - an increase of more than 50 per cent.

The former Labor Government provided only $10.3 million for the management of these properties in 1995-96.

In addition, the Government will also provide $2 million for the Willandra Lakes compensation package and $1.5 million for the Daintree Rescue Package.

Forests

The budget re-affirms the government's election commitment to ensuring that a world class forest reserve system is created across Australia while giving greater certainty to those communities that rely on forest industries.

In 1997/98 more than $38 million has been allocated by the Commonwealth to continue the rigorous and scientific assessment of Australia's forests through the comprehensive regional assessment (CRA) process.

Those funds will ensure the completion of Regional Forest Agreements in Western Australia, South East Queensland, the Central Highlands of Victoria, North East Victoria and several regions in NSW.

Environment Protection

The Howard Government has allocated $16 million over five years to improve air quality through the Air Pollution in Major Cities Program. This will complement the work of the Independent Inquiry into Air Pollution which was commissioned by Senator Hill and is due to report in September 1997.

A further $5 million has been allocated over four years for the Waste Management Awareness Program to support existing national waste reduction strategies.

Media Contacts:
Senator Hill's Office Matt Brown: 277 7640
0419 693 515
Environment Australia: Patrick Fletcher: 250 0305
(NHT/Vegetation/Biodiversity/Land/Rivers/Forests)
Jim Cannon: 274 1076
(Environment Protection)
Leona Jorgensen 274 1959
(Coasts and Seas)
Noel Pratt 217 2117
(World Heritage)
Commonwealth of Australia