Environment and natural resource management

Budget Review 2011-12 Index

Budget 2011–12: Environment and natural resource management

Bill McCormick

National Wildlife Corridors Plan—establishment

In fulfilment of a 2010 election commitment, the Government will establish a new program, involving expenditure of $10 million over three years, to create a National Wildlife Corridors Plan.[1] The idea is to facilitate the effective migration of species and will involve private land as well as protected areas. This will help with ecosystem conservation and should allow appropriate movement of species to occur in response to climate change.

The Government has stated it will work with 56 regional natural resource management groups to develop the plan.[2] A trial will be conducted in one or more regions to test the plan's effectiveness. Funding will come from the Renewable Energy Future Fund.[3]

An advisory group, headed by the Hon Bob Debus, has been appointed and will consult with landowners, environmental community groups, industry and other governments on the development of a draft National Wildlife Corridors Plan. The Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Tony Burke, said:

The corridors will link national parks and reserves with well-managed private land and guide future Government investments in projects to support the protection of our natural environment and conserve our biodiversity.[4]

Community Heritage Grants—establishment

There are presently four competitive heritage grants programs: National Historic Sites program, Indigenous Heritage Program, Commemorating Eminent Australians, and Grants to Voluntary Environment and Heritage Organisations.[5] A new Community Heritage Grants program will be established in the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities with $4 million per year over the next two years, for projects to assist local communities manage, conserve and provide greater community access to heritage places.[6]

There is an existing Community Heritage Grants program administered by the National Library of Australia (NLA) that has been operating since 1994. However, the NLA program provides grants of up to $15 000 to community organisations to assist with the preservation of locally owned, but nationally significant collections of materials that are publicly accessible. These include artefacts, letters, diaries, maps, photographs, and audio-visual material.[7]

Environmental Stewardship Program—continuation

Program Expenses 1.1: Sustainable Management of Natural Resources and the Environment







Annual Administered Expenses Environmental Stewardship Program






Source: Portfolio budget statements: 2011–12, budget related paper no 1.17, p. 31.

The Environment Stewardship Program was first funded under the Caring for our Country Program with total funding (departmental expenses as well as annual administered expenses) of $37.5 million over three years from 2008–09. The program will continue from 2011–12.[8] However, the 2011–12 annual administered expenses will be $0.617 million less than 2010–11 levels before rising significantly in later years, as shown in the table above.[9]

The program was established to maintain and/or improve the condition and extent of endangered ecological communities that are listed as matters of National Environmental Significance under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC). It will provide stewardship payments to private sector land managers if they carry out voluntary conservation measures to protect specific endangered ecological communities.[10]The 2008–09 and 2009–10 funding aimed to conserve the box gum grassy woodland ecological community in NSW and Queensland. In 2010–11 the program was significantly expanded, targeting endangered ecological communities in NSW and South Australia, and in 2011–12 funding will protect the Swamps of the Fleurieu Peninsula ecological community in South Australia.[11]

The Government proposes to exempt from capital gains tax any gains or losses arising from stewardship payments that maintain native vegetation.[12] Amendments to the Tax Act will be necessary to achieve this exemption.

Regional Marine Planning Program—continuation

The Government provided $9.7 million in 2011–12 to finalise the Regional Marine Planning process that started with the release of the Oceans Policy in December 1998.[13] The core of the Oceans policy was a commitment to ecosystem-based management of Australia's marine jurisdiction to be implemented through the development of a Regional Marine Planning Process. A total of $50 million was allocated for its implementation. The first Plan to be developed was the South-east Regional Marine Plan, released in March 2004. It proposed a system of marine protected areas, 13 of which were declared as part of the South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network in 2007.[14]

The regional marine planning process was brought under the EPBC Act in 2006 by means of bioregional plans. These are the mechanism for the development of the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas in Commonwealth waters (starting three nautical miles offshore).[15] The rest of the Marine Bioregional Plans for Australia, the North-west, North, East and South-west Marine Regions, are still being developed. [16]A draft marine bioregional plan and a Commonwealth marine reserve network proposal for the South-west Marine Region were released on 5 May 2011 for public consultation by 8 August 2011. The question remains whether the planning process can be completed in all four regions by 30 June 2012. This funding has already been included in the forward estimates.[17]

There have been concerns that the Regional Marine Planning process will result in exclusion of commercial and recreational fishing in the new marine reserves. The National Seafood Alliance has called for the extension of the process until the end of 2014 with a six month consultation period on the draft plans.[18] The Coalition is critical of the process and its 2010 election policy on marine protected areas said that the Marine Bioregional Planning process would be put on hold to allow for its restructure.[19] Subsequently Senator Colbeck introduced a private member's bill that would amend the EPBC Act to require that declarations of new Bioregional Plans and Commonwealth Reserves be disallowable by either chamber of Parliament.[20]

[1].          J Gillard, Green Corridors Plan, Australian Labor Party policy document, Election 2010, viewed 16 May 2011, http://www.alp.org.au/agenda/environment/green-corridors-plan/

[2].          Ibid.

[3].          Australian government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2011–12, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2011, p 309, viewed 16 May 2011, http://www.aph.gov.au/budget/2011-12/content/download/bp2.pdf

[4].          T Burke (Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities), National Wildlife Corridors Plan Advisory Group, media release, 12 April 2011, viewed 16 May 2011, http://www.environment.gov.au/minister/burke/2011/mr20110412a.html

[5].          Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPC), 'Heritage grants and funding', DSEWPC website, viewed 16 May 2011, http://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/programs/index.html and 'Grants to Voluntary Environment and Heritage Organisations (GVEHO)', DSEWPC website, viewed 16 May 2011, http://www.environment.gov.au/about/programs/gveho/index.html

[6].          Budget measures: budget paper no. 2, op. cit., p. 308.

[7].          National Library of Australia, 'Community Heritage Grants', NLA website, viewed 16 May 2011,

[8].          Australian government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2011–12, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2011, p. 308, viewed 16 May 2011, http://www.aph.gov.au/budget/2011-12/content/download/bp2.pdf

[9].          Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2011–12: budget related paper no. 1.17: Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities Portfolio, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2011, p. 31, viewed 16 May 2011, http://www.environment.gov.au/about/publications/budget/2011/pubs/pbs-2011-12.pdf

[10].        Budget measures: budget paper no 2, op. cit., p. 308.

[11].        Australian Government, 'Environmental Stewardship', Caring for our Country Website, viewed 16 May 2011, http://www.nrm.gov.au/stewardship/index.html

[12].        Budget measures: budget paper no. 2, op. cit., p. 16.

[13].        Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPC), 'Australia's oceans policy', DSEWPC website, viewed 16 May 2011, http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/oceans-policy/index.html

[14].        M Turnbull (Minister for the Environment and Water Resources), World's first temperate network of marine reserves declared, media release, 5 July 2007, viewed 16 May 2011, http://parlinfo/parlInfo/download/media/pressrel/KTKN6/upload_binary/ktkn62.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf#

[15].        I Campbell (Minister for the Environment and Heritage), New focus for Australia's marine planning programme, media release, 13 October 2005, viewed 16 May 2011, http://parlinfo/parlInfo/download/media/pressrel/0AMH6/upload_binary/0amh62.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf

[16].        Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPC), 'Marine bioregional planning', DSEWPC website, viewed 16 May 2011, http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mbp/index.html

[17].        Budget measures: budget paper no. 2, op. cit., p. 311.

[18].        National Seafood Industry Alliance, 2010 Federal Election Policy Statement, Seafood industry Victoria Inc website, viewed 16 May 2011, http://www.siv.com.au/files/100728_election_policy_statement_2.pdf

[19].        Liberal party of Australia and the Nationals, The Coalitions' policy on marine protected areas, Coalition policy document Election 2010, viewed 16 May 2011,

[20].        Environment Protection and Biodiversity Protection (Regional Plans) Bill 2011, Amendment proposed by Senator Colbeck, 21 April 2011, viewed 16 may 2011, http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/legislation