Summary of the independent report to the Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage
2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee, December 2006
Achievements over the last five to ten years
There has been significant progress in Australia's environmental performance but these achievements are not a reason for complacency.
Australian Government environmental expenditure has increased at least four-fold over the reporting period. Other governments and the philanthropic and business sectors have also contributed significantly to environmental management.
Environment expenditure by sphere of government in 2002-03
Cooperation in environmental stewardship has been increasing between governments and the community, including the Indigenous community. Projects include the establishment of regional natural resources management entities — although these are not without challenges.
Our cities and towns
The condition of most human settlements continues to be generally good except for some remote Indigenous communities.
Urban air quality continues to be generally good although photochemical smog is an issue in some urban areas.
After 18 years of global and Australian action to reduce the use of ozone-depleting substances, ozone levels in the atmosphere are slowly recovering. This is reflected in the long-term data on the size of the ozone hole. However, natural variation does occur and the size of the ozone hole over Antarctica varies from year-to-year due to the effect of wind and temperature. It is too early to determine if the size of the 2006 ozone hole is due to natural variation or a new phenomena.
The marine environment
Protection of the marine environment continues to improve through changes to fisheries management and substantial increases in the number of marine protected areas.
Increase in area of Commonwealth marine protected areas, 1982-2006
The national water reform agenda has been implemented and will greatly improve Australia's future water management.
Water consumption by selected industries and sectors, 2000-01
Positive steps have been taken across jurisdictions to reduce land clearing and in the areas where this has occurred, biodiversity decline has slowed. This reduction in land clearing has also had a positive impact on net greenhouse emissions.
Net forest change in Australia (using forest regrowth and deforestation data) 19732004
The 2003 heritage amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 have improved the protection of Commonwealth-owned heritage assets, clarified the responsibilities of the different levels of government, and created a new mechanism for recognising heritage places of outstanding value to the nation.
The importance of managing diverse aspects of the landscape in an integrated way using a mix of incentives and regulation has been recognised.