Summary of the independent report to the Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage
2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee, December 2006
Progress will take longer for some issues
A number of issues are of concern to Australia's environmental performance.
Local government and the new regional natural resource management bodies appear to be under-resourced, in terms of capacity and skills, to deliver improved environmental results.
Clarified responsibilities and an appropriate level of funding at all levels of government are necessary for improved environmental management.
Government expenditure on the environment, 2002-03
People are continuing to move to the coast to live, and the cumulative impacts of this trend are now apparent in some coastal areas. If this trend continues, we risk further damaging the natural and cultural values and characteristics of the coastal environments that historically have made coastal living so attractive.
Continued and greater reductions in net individual consumption and waste are required through significant increases in recycling and reusing critical materials. The latter includes building material recycling, the capture and use of stormwater, the recycling of wastewater and biological waste.
Percentage of sewage effluent recycled in 2001-02
Dealing with uncertainty
Our inadequate understanding of the contributors to climate changes, the degree of uncertainty as to the direction and effects of such changes, and the appropriate adaptive responses, are all issues that need to be addressed to avoid variable or conflicting responses from governments.
Although a positive step, the greater attention being paid to urban form and consolidation in Australia's major cities cannot fully address the legacy issues of previous poor urban and building design. Improvements in urban design will take time to make a difference to the environmental and social performance of Australia's human settlements.
Biodiversity decline will continue because of the consequences of past actions and the time it will take to see the effects of current initiatives.
The condition of land, inland waters, and coastal lakes could either remain the same or, in some places, continue to decline for some time. However, it is possible there will be improvements in some areas because of investments made in environmental assets.
Fisheries in Commonwealth-managed waters continue to be under pressure but, because of a lack of data, it is not clear whether fisheries managed by the states and the Northern Territory are also under pressure.
The lack of data remains a chronic problem for reporting on Australia's heritage, and the condition of many aspects of this heritage is unknown. Knowledge and management of Indigenous cultural heritage is limited, and the decline in Indigenous languages continues.