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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

27 October 1999

NATIONAL VEGETATION WORKSHOP MEETS IN MELBOURNE


Reducing land clearing rates and better managing, mapping and monitoring Australia's native vegetation were some of the issues up for discussion at a national workshop on the draft National Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Australia's Native Vegetation in Melbourne today.

Representatives from some of Australia's leading farming, conservation, industry and regional groups as well as local and state authorities attended the one-day workshop, opened by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment and Heritage, Dr Sharman Stone MP.

In officially opening the workshop Dr Stone said that public consultation and engagement was vital to achieve the Framework's goal of reversing the long-term decline in the quality and extent of Australia's native vegetation by June 2001.

"Few people realise the unprecedented effort it has taken to get all States, Territories and the Commonwealth to agree to this goal. It's success is dependent upon partnerships between governments and the community across the landscape," Sharman Stone said.

"The Workshop is an opportunity to directly involve the community and landholders in developing best practice management guidelines to support implementation plans in each state and territory."

"It is also an important opportunity for stakeholders from different States and Territories to share information; to learn from those States who have made tough decisions to limit clearing many years ago," Sharman Stone said.

The workshop coincides with the release of the Murray Darling Basin Council's Salinity Audit Report.

Dryland salinity is among the many environmental problems caused by unsustainable land clearing. Across Australia an estimated 2.5 million hectares of productive land is salt affected. The cost through lost agricultural production, damage to regional and rural infrastructure (such as roads) and the environment has been estimated at $250 million per year nationally.

"Given the release of the Murray Darling Basin Council's Salinity Audit last week, and its forecast that dry-land salinity affected areas will double over the next 100 years if we maintain current practices, this workshop is even more crucial," Sharman Stone said.

"It reinforces the fact that the best time to plant and protect a tree was yesterday."

"We have no more time in this country to learn from the mistakes made by our forefathers. We now understand the consequences of unsustainable clearing - lost biodiversity, poorer water quality, reduced soil fertility and rising water tables."

"The development of the Framework and implementation plans are a signpost for more sustainable natural resource management in Australia in the future."

The Workshop follows a month long public consultation process, which commenced in August this year. More than 500 copies of the draft Framework were distributed and 50 submissions received.

"The public consultation process to date has been very valuable. Many of the comments received have already been incorporated into the draft Framework, helping to make it a community owned and government supported document."

"I particularly want to congratulate all those Non-Government organisations who have participated so consistently in developing the Framework," Sharman Stone said.

The Framework and individual state and territory implementation plans will be tabled for endorsement by Australian and New Zealand Environment Minister's at the next ANZECC meeting in December.

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

Commonwealth of Australia