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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment

Landmark policy launched on World Wetlands Day


2 February 1997
(10/97)

The Howard Government has marked the start of World Wetlands Week by launching the Wetlands Policy of the Commonwealth Government of Australia.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill has unveiled the policy during a tour of the Coorong Wetlands in South Australia.

The policy contains strategies that address the management of Australia's wetlands, implementing Commonwealth legislation and delivering Commonwealth programs.

Senator Hill says the policy is a landmark for the conservation and long-term sustainable use of Australia's wetlands.

"Wetlands are among the most important life support systems on earth, yet over half of Australia's wetlands have been destroyed since European settlement.

"By developing this policy, the Howard Government is formally acknowledging the many values of Australia's wetlands and recognising the need to build issues relating to the management of these natural assets into the daily business of governing.

"All Commonwealth Departments are now committed to a set of key objectives designed to achieve the goal of the policy which is 'to conserve, repair and manage wetlands wisely'.

"The policy also represents an important step in the development of a national policy framework for wetlands.

"The Commonwealth's Wetlands Policy is designed to complement those already in place in New South Wales and Western Australia, and those being developed by Queensland and the Northern Territory."

Australia has 49 wetlands considered to be of international significance under the Ramsar Convention. These include the Coorong Wetlands, Lakes Alexandria and Albert in South Australia and wetlands in Kakadu National Park.

Senator Hill says the policy will support Australia's efforts under the Ramsar Convention.

"Australia can be proud that it was the first nation to join the Ramsar Convention when the Gorton Government signed the Convention in 1971.

"Ramsar was a pioneer of the concept of ecologically sustainable development, or 'wise use' and this policy will ensure Australia continues to be a world leader in this field.

Senator Hill has also used World Wetlands Day to jointly release with the South Australian Minister for the Environment, the Hon David Wotton, the first stage of the Register of Wetland Restoration Projects in Australia, marking the beginning of a process of assessment of wetlands in line with international obligations.

Media contact:
Matt Brown, Senator Hill, 06 277 790; 0419 693 515

Other inquiries:
Malcolm Forbes, Environment Australia, 06 250 0325




ATTACHMENT

Sen Robert Hill
Commonwealth Minster on Environment
Environment Australia
Canberra

31 January 1997

Dear Senator Hill,

I have learnt with much satisfaction that you will be launching the Wetland Policy for the Commonwealth Government of Australia on 2 February, World Wetlands Day.

While I have not yet seen the final text of the policy document, from what I have heard it is a very comprehensive and far-reaching instrument, with the potential of having a very positive impact in the long-term conservation and sustainable use of Australian wetlands. I also understand that in the near future you will be announcing a significant grant to be at the disposal of Australian States and Territories under the National Wetland Programme, directed at management planning at Ramsar sites, new designation to the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance, and further wetland inventory.

All these actions are not only significant for your country but also for the precedent setting that they represent for other countries in your region and for the Ramsar Convention as a whole.

My sincere congratulations for your success in bringing the policy to fruition; this makes Australia one of only a handful of countries to have the benefit of such a well- thought- out wetland-specific policy instrument. I would like to suggest that you send a copy of the Policy under a cover of a letter from you to your counterparts in the Ramsar Contracting Parties. I am sure that they will appreciate it.

With my best personal regards,

Yours sincerely,

Delmar Blasco
Secretary General
Convention on Wetlands

Commonwealth of Australia