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The Hon Dr Sharman Stone
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Murray
4 March 2002
Local governments are the key to combating such national environmental problems as salinity, the Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and Heritage, Dr Sharman Stone, said today.
Speaking at the "Sustaining Our Communities" Conference in Adelaide, Dr Stone said that councils had moved beyond their historical position of being responsible for 'roads, rates and rubbish' to taking the lead in achieving sustainable development.
The international Local Agenda 21 (LA 21) Conference, sponsored by Environment Australia and hosted by the Adelaide City Council, brings together local government representatives from around the world to prepare for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg later this year.
Local Agenda 21 is an international program developed by and for local authorities at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro 10 years ago.
"From environmental health regulation, roads and traffic, waste management, planning and development and pollution control to biodiversity conservation and local economic development, councils help to create and support our community at the grassroots", Dr Stone said.
"Who resolves the competing demands for recreation, social interaction, culture, the environment, and residential, commercial and industrial development? Local government of course".
"The Federal Government provides the 'toolkit' for local government to meet it's challenges with leadership and information, to help build the necessary capacity and resources".
"Federal Government money and resources, through the Natural Heritage Trust and the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality, is meaningless without commitment and action at the regional and local level," Dr Stone said.
"The Commonwealth, States and Territories have allocated $1.4 billion over seven years to the National Action Plan, which aims to enable regional communities to use targeted action to prevent and stabilise salinity, improve water quality and secure water supplies, and to conserve the environment and protect community assets".
"W have also extended the Natural Heritage Trust for a further five years with funding of over $1 billion. The second stage will fund grants and programs at the local level with the community making decisions and given much greater responsibility for identifying priorities".
"This conference is an important forum for local governments to share their experiences and strong commitment to sustainable development in the lead up to the World Summit on Sustainable in Johannesburg," Dr Stone said.
Local Agenda 21 provides a framework for integrating economic, social and environmental factors in decision-making at the level of governance closest to the community. This is a globally recognised approach to the implementation of local ecological sustainable development and is encouraged through partnerships between governments, industry and community groups.
"South Australia has taken a leading role, with over 50 per cent of councils undertaking an LA21 program with their communities", Dr Stone said.
Topics covered at the conference include a global stocktake, integrating approaches, solutions and innovations, governance focused on partnerships, sustainable cultures and direction for action.
Simon Frost 0419 495 468
Monday March 4, 2002