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Media Release
The Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP
Federal Member for Murray
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister
for the Environment and Heritage

13 May 1999

BUDGET BOOST FOR BUSHCARE


Community efforts to protect and replant native bushland today received a welcome boost from the Federal Budget, with the announcement of funds totalling almost $82 million for 1999-2000.

Sharman Stone MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment and Heritage, said that funding had increased by 22% or $13.9 million, from $67.9 million in 1998-99 in this year's budget.

"The great news is this money will be available to community groups around the country to undertake 'hands-on' revegetation and conservation activities. The extra funds will directly benefit our fragile native bush and biodiversity," Sharman Stone said.

"For years we tended to choose between exotic or native trees for planting. Now we realise that 'native' is not enough. Planting locally harvested seed and native trees, shrubs and grasses has tremendous additional benefits for the local environment. Native species and the original biodiversity have more chance of surviving."

"Native vegetation can also help to revive soil and water quality, improve agricultural lands, as well as provide food and habitat for native animals and preserve our unique regional biodiversity."

To date, 1,292 Bushcare projects have been funded through the Natural Heritage Trust.

The Bushcare Program, part of the Federal Government's record $1.25 billion Natural Heritage Trust, aims to reverse the long-term decline in the quality and extent of Australia's native vegetation cover.

As much as 70% of Australia's native vegetation has been cleared or modified in the past 200 years, most in the past 50 years.

Through the auspices of Bushcare, all Australian Governments have committed themselves to the National Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Australia's Native Vegetation. The framework has the national goal of reversing the long-term decline in the quality and extent of Australia's native vegetation cover by June 2001.

"Despite evidence of the dramatic impact of European civilisation on our fragile natural resources and native flora and fauna, Australia is still clearing a rate of around 315,000 ha of land per year. Yet we are only replanting around 100,000 ha per year," Sharman Stone said.

"A commitment to protecting our biodiversity and achieving ecologically sustainable urban, agricultural and industrial development lies at the heart of the National Vegetation Framework."

"With more funds available for environmental and conservation works, I want to encourage community and environmental groups, local councils and educational institutions around Australia to develop a local Bushcare project and apply for funding," Mrs Stone said.

In total, $320.9 million will be spent on Natural Heritage Trust programs, including Bushcare, Landcare, Endangered Species, Feral Animal Control and National Reserves in 1999-2000.

Applications for the next round of Bushcare funding will be called for from August/September this year. For further information on how to apply please call the Natural Heritage Trust freecall hotline on 1800 803 772 or visit the Internet site at www.nht.gov.au.

For further information please contact:
Nicole Johnston, Assistant Adviser 02 6277 2016 or 0419 219 415

Commonwealth of Australia