Most of the Budget measures for the environment do not involve
additional funding. In fact, the Environment Portfolio expenses will contract by
17.1 per cent in real terms over the four years from 2016–17.
New initiatives are paid for by ‘re-profiling funds’, using funding ‘already
included in the forward estimates’ but where ‘the expenditure profile varies’, or
they will be ‘met from existing resources of the National Landcare Program’.
In addition, some funds come from other agencies.
Commonwealth Marine Reserves—implementation
The Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network, with 44 new marine
reserves covering 2.34 million km2, was proclaimed In November 2012 for
East and South-west
Marine Regions, as well as the Coral
Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve. The management plans for
these reserves were tabled in 2013 and were due to come into operation on 1
However, in December 2013, the Governor-General ‘reproclaimed’
these reserves, thus invalidating the management plans, and enabling the
incoming Government to implement its election policy and establish a Marine Reserves Review to ‘consider
what management arrangements will best protect marine ecosystems and
accommodate the many industries and recreational fishers that use our oceans’.
The Government response to this review will be released in the second half of
2016. Management plans will
then have to be developed and the marine reserves managed accordingly.
Funding of $56.1 million over four years, already included in
the forward estimates, will be for fisheries adjustment assistance, marine user
engagement and the ongoing management of these reserves. The Director of
National Parks will receive $27.8 million of this to develop the management plans
during 2016–17, among other things. Out of the $56.1 million,
therefore, there will remain a maximum of $28.3 million available for
fisheries adjustment assistance, only about a quarter of the original package
of $100 million for assistance promised by the previous government in 2012.
This could be an indication that commercial fishing is to be permitted in more zones
of the marine reserves than was the case under the original management plans.
From 2020–21, ongoing funding of $5.3 million/year will be provided for reserve
management, offset by an equivalent reduction to the Natural Heritage Trust
component of the National Landcare Program.
Reef 2050 Plan and Reef Trust—additional
The $140 million Reef Trust was
established to assist delivery of the Reef
2050 Plan and was to provide $56 million over the four year period 2015–19
‘towards improved management practices for sugarcane farmers, reduced erosion
in grazing lands and improved water quality in grains, dairy and horticulture’.
The Reef 2050 Plan is implemented through an Implementation Strategy that is updated every six months. The
most recent one has 97 immediate priority actions, 26 medium priority actions
and 28 future priority actions. Of these, 62 actions are fully funded,
including actions to improve water quality, further improve port management and
develop regional waterway health partnerships. The
implementation of the Plan is funded not only from the Reef Trust but also from
other Commonwealth programs such as the National Landcare Program. An
additional $70 million will go to the Reef Trust over the three years from
2019–20 ($40 million/year in 2019–20 and $15 million/year in the next two years).
There will be $101 million funding for the Reef 2050 Plan, $8.9 million/year
allocated for 2016–17 through 2019–20 and funding for 2020–21 and 2021–22
rising almost four fold to $32.7 million/year. This funding will come
from the National Landcare Program.
The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), noting this
year’s worst ever coral bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef, criticised
the Government for a lack of substantial funding.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society also mentioned the bleaching and considered
the reef funding insufficient.
National Carp Control Plan
Carp (Cyprinus carpio) have become established as a
major pest species throughout the Murray-Darling Basin, and in other states.
These fish prefer slow-moving rivers and lakes and tolerate poor water quality
and low oxygen levels. They have a detrimental
impact on native aquatic plants and animals and general river health, in part
due to their destructive feeding habits.
Numerous control methods have been tried to reduce carp
numbers to levels that minimise damage to the environment, including a number
of different fishing techniques, lowering water levels and trapping. To date none
have been used successfully on a wide scale. There has been research into the
use of carp herpesvirus (CyHV-3) as a biological control agent
for carp in Australia. This water-borne, contagious virus causes 70-100 per
cent mortality in carp. The virus first appeared
in the 1990s and has spread to most areas of the world except Australia, New
Zealand and South America. There is no evidence
that the virus can multiply in other fish species, and research has shown that thirteen
native fish species along with rainbow trout and a variety of animals that
might live in, or drink, virus-infected water are not affected, or
infected, by the virus. Before the virus can be released
as a biological control agent it must go through a formal evaluation process
which will require more detailed scientific assessment and the development of a
release and monitoring strategy.
On 1 May 2016, the government announced it was investing $15 million to develop a National Carp Control Plan to undertake further research,
approvals, and consultation to develop a comprehensive plan for a potential
release of carp herpesvirus by the end of 2018.
This $15 million in new funding is being delivered by the Department of
Agriculture and Water Resources ($10.2 million), the Department of the
Environment ($0.5 million) and the Department of Industry, Innovation and
Science ($4.2 million).
The National Irrigators’ Council welcomed the
initiative but said that it will be critical to restock the river systems with
native fish species after the carp kill. The ACF
supported the proposed release of the virus and also called for support for
native fish recovery measures that are currently underfunded, along with rehabilitation
of riverbanks and the release of environmental flows.
Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2016–17, op. cit., p. 90.
T Burke, op. cit., 2012.
Portfolio budget statements 2016–17: budget related paper no. 1.7:
Environment Portfolio, op. cit., p. 25.
All online articles accessed May 2016.
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