Environment: Investing in Regional Growth—2016-17

The Environment portfolio supports the Australian Government in achieving a healthy environment, strong economy and thriving community now and for the future. The Environment portfolio's programmes and initiatives protect and improve the environment through the four pillars of clean air, clean land, clean water and heritage protection.

The Environment portfolio delivers many environmental and economic benefits to regional Australia. New and existing initiatives support strong and diverse regional economies through protecting and improving the natural asset base they rely on. The Environment portfolio has a strong presence in regional Australia through the work of the Department of the Environment, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Director of National Parks.

The Australian Government is investing $1 billion over four years from 2014-15 in the National Landcare Programme to support projects that address environmental and sustainable agriculture across the country. Across Australia, the National Landcare Programme is empowering farmers and communities to support sustainable land management practices to deliver long term benefits to our environment, our economy and our country. The National Landcare Programme is administered collaboratively by the Department of the Environment and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

An additional $22.6 million has been committed to the National Landcare Programme from 2016-17 to 2018-19 to support environment protection and natural resource management and the recovery of Australia's precious wildlife. Funding of $20.0 million from 2018-19 to 2019-20 has been allocated to the 20 Million Trees Programme to plant an additional five million trees in urban, peri-urban and regional Australia. This is restoring, rebuilding and reconnecting habitat for Australia's animals and plants.

The Green Army is delivering on-the-ground environment and heritage conservation projects across Australia. A total of 500 Green Army projects each year help communities tackle local environmental and conservation challenges while building the skills of young Australians across regional Australia.

The Threatened Species Commissioner is working directly with local communities to protect the species that matter to them. Since 2014, over $190.0 million has been mobilised through programmes such as the National Landcare Programme and the Green Army to support threatened species recovery. The Commissioner's work is guided by the Threatened Species Strategy which has strong and measurable targets to tackle feral cats and recover Australia's threatened mammals, birds and plants.

The $2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund is supporting practical action to achieve real reductions in emissions in Australia. Regional Australia is receiving the environmental and economic benefits of the Emissions Reduction Fund with a large proportion of projects outside capital cities. The Emissions Reduction Fund is contributing to meeting the Australian Government's targets under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Australian Government is doing more than ever before to protect the Great Barrier Reef (the Reef). The Australian Government is continuing to deliver its joint commitment with the Queensland Government to ensure a $2 billion investment in the Reef over 10 years. We have committed an additional $171.0 million to 2021-22 towards priority actions in the Reef 2050 Plan. This funding will greatly enhance the long-term protection of this precious ecosystem which supports rural and regional communities and industries throughout Queensland.

The Australian Government has committed $56.1 million over four years from 2016-17 to implement new management arrangements for Commonwealth marine reserves. This investment will enable active management of a world-class marine reserve network—the largest in the world—and ensure the future protection of Australia's marine biodiversity. The funding will support the commercial fishing sector as well as recreational fishers and other marine reserve users in regional Australia.

Australian Government funding for Antarctic science and environmental management continues to boost the Tasmanian economy, as Australia's operational work for Antarctica out of Hobart contributes to employment and local investment. The Australian Government will provide $55.0 million to deliver key priorities in the Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20 Year Action Plan including the first phase in a project for year-round aviation access to Antarctica and support for over-ice traverse science capability. As well as this new funding, the Australian Government has returned funding for the Australian Antarctic Programme in 2016-17 to a sustainable footing. The Australian Government has also signed a contract for a new world-class icebreaker to support the Australian Antarctic Programme. The icebreaker will be home-ported in Hobart.

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New Initiatives

Reef 2050 Plan and Reef Trust Funding Injection

The Australian Government is contributing an additional $171.0 million to the implementation of the Reef 2050 Plan over six years from 2016-17. This funding is part of the Australian Government's joint commitment with the Queensland Government to ensure a $2 billion investment in the Reef over 10 years. The Reef Trust will combine Australian Government investment with private funds and is one of the key mechanisms supporting delivery of the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan.

Funding of $70.0 million will be provided to the Reef Trust Special Account, making a total contribution of $210.0 million provided by the Australian Government since 2014-15. A further $101.0 million will be provided from the National Landcare Programme to fund additional critical areas for investment under the Reef 2050 Plan—against the seven themes of the Reef 2050 Plan, including capacity building for Traditional Owners, and improving ecosystem health and biodiversity for the Reef.

As well as being one of the world's greatest natural assets, the Great Barrier Reef supports a wide range of activities including tourism, fishing, recreation, traditional uses, and research, which generate some 69,000 jobs and are worth $5.6 billion a year. The Australian Government's investment in the Reef Trust will help protect and preserve the Great Barrier Reef and maintain environmental health and tourism activities in regional Queensland.

Clean Energy Innovation Fund

The Australian Government will establish a new Clean Energy Innovation Fund which will make up to $100.0 million available each year to provide debt and equity financing support for emerging clean energy projects and businesses.

The Clean Energy Innovation Fund will be a joint arrangement between the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. The funding will be provided by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation for investment opportunities by businesses, including in regional Australia, to develop innovative clean energy projects and businesses.

The Clean Energy Innovation Fund will build on the strong support the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency are already providing in rural and regional Australia. More than half of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation's investments support projects in regional Australia, including many of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation's major renewable energy projects and projects in the agriculture sector.

Australia's Presence in Antarctica

The Australian Government will provide $55.0 million to deliver key priorities in the Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20 Year Action Plan including the first phase in a project for year-round aviation access to Antarctica and support for over-ice traverse science capability. The Australian Government has returned funding for the Australian Antarctic Programme to a sustainable footing, with funding for Australia's presence in Antarctica has flow on benefits for the Tasmanian economy.

The Australian Government has signed a contract for a new world-class icebreaker to support the Australian Antarctic Programme. The icebreaker will be home-ported in Hobart. The Antarctic sector, largely centred on the activities of the Australian Antarctic Division in Kingston, represents a significant element of Tasmania's knowledge-based economy (including through employing and retaining staff in highly skilled jobs in scientific and research fields, and local specialised service industries), contributing to employment and investing locally through operational purchases for Antarctic programme operations.

Funding for the Australian Antarctic Programme will ensure the critical functions that support Australia's presence and scientific research activities in Antarctica are maintained, and that Australia retains its influence in the Antarctic region.

Commonwealth Marine Reserves

The Australian Government will provide $56.1 million over four years from 2016-17 to implement new management arrangements for Commonwealth marine reserves. The funding will support the commercial fishing sector to adjust to changes and provide more opportunities for engagement with recreational fishers, community groups and dive operators. It will promote local growth in tourism and protect our unique aquatic assets. This investment will have a positive impact on regional Australia through targeted investments that support local marine businesses, increase regional engagement in marine reserve management and deliver social outcomes through ecologically sustainable programmes.

National Landcare Programme

The National Landcare Programme is investing $1 billion over four years from 2014-15 to support a simple, local and long-term approach to enable communities across Australia to take practical action to improve productive landscapes and their local environment. The National Landcare Programme is administered collaboratively by the Department of the Environment and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. The Australian Government has committed an additional $22.6 million over three years to 2018-19 to the National Landcare Programme. This will build on success in the National Landcare Programme in restoring habitats and protecting species.

The National Landcare Programme is investing in projects that address environmental and sustainable agriculture issues. A significant proportion of the investment is provided to regional natural resource management organisations in regional and remote areas. These organisations are a central source of support for farmers and local community and environmental groups to take practical action to improve their environment and implement sustainable land management practices.

20 Million Trees

The 20 Million Trees Programme is part of the National Landcare Programme. The 20 Million Trees Programme works with the community to re-establish green corridors and urban forests. It supports local environmental outcomes by improving the extent, connectivity and condition of native vegetation, providing habitat for threatened species and contributing to Australia's carbon abatement. The Australian Government has allocated $20.0 million from 2018-19 to 2019-20 to the 20 Million Trees Programme. This new funding brings the Australian Government's total commitment to the programme to $70.0 million over six years from 2014-15. A significant share of the trees are being planted in regional Australia, which are providing the opportunity for local economic benefits such as supporting crop pollination, improving water quality, improving nutrient cycles to maintain the productive capacity of land, and enhanced amenity value.

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Current Initiatives

Emissions Reduction Fund

The Emissions Reduction Fund Emissions Reduction Fund is the centrepiece of the Australian Government's climate change policy. With funding of $2.55 billion announced in the 2014-15 Budget, the Fund creates a positive incentive for Australians to adopt smarter practices and technologies to cut the amount of greenhouse gases they create.

In under two years the Emissions Reduction Fund has achieved outstanding results. Funding of $1.2 billion has been committed under contracts with 275 projects to deliver 92.8 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Regional Australia is benefiting, with a large proportion of projects outside capital cities. Land sector projects such as avoided deforestation, human-induced regeneration of native vegetation and savanna fire management will contribute around 65 million tonnes of emissions reductions—equating to over $800.0 million flowing to the land sector. In addition to reducing emissions, these projects have a range of economic and environmental benefits. For example, farmers are reinvesting revenue generated through the sale of carbon credits to improve farm productivity and better manage livestock and feral animals. Indigenous groups are using savanna fire management to help enable communities to continue working and living on their land.

National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility

Australia faces challenges in addressing adverse impacts of climate change in coastal regions. In the 2014-15 Budget, the Australian Government committed $9.0 million to the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, hosted by Griffith University on the Gold Coast. The National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility is equipping local decision makers in the coastal zone to make better informed decisions about when and what action to take in relation to climate risks. In 2016-17 the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility will deliver CoastAdapt, a practical online tool to help local governments and other relevant organisations understand and address sea level rise, storm surges and other coastal hazards.

Australian Renewable Energy Agency

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency manages a portfolio of grants that are improving the affordability of renewable energy and increasing the supply of renewable energy in Australia. Many of these projects are located in regional Australia, for example the Australian Renewable Energy Agency has provided:

  • $166.7 million support for two large solar photovoltaic plants at Nyngan and Broken Hill; and
  • $8.4 million support for the construction of a 5 megawatt solar farm near Normanton in far North-West Queensland.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency is also delivering a $100.0 million large-scale solar photovoltaics competitive funding process. As part of this process, 22 projects in regional Australia have been invited to proceed to the full application stage.

National Environmental Science Programme

The $145.0 million National Environmental Science Programme assists decision-makers to understand, manage and conserve Australia's environment by funding world-class biodiversity and climate science. The National Environmental Science Programme supports on-the-ground scientific research across regional Australia delivered through six research hubs:

  • the Marine Biodiversity Hub is researching Australian oceans and marine environments, including temperate coastal water quality and marine species, based in Hobart;
  • the Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub which is supporting the sustainable development of our northern landscapes, based in Darwin;
  • the Threatened Species Recovery Hub which is supporting the recovery of threatened species and the management of threats and improving recovery of threatened species, based in Brisbane;
  • the Tropical Water Quality Hub which is researching coastal water quality and coastal management focused on the Great Barrier Reef and other tropical waters, based in Cairns;
  • the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub which is supporting environmental quality in urban areas, based in Melbourne; and
  • the Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub which is increasing our understanding of the drivers of Australia's climate, based in Melbourne.

Green Army Programme

The Green Army is making a real difference to regional environments and local communities through projects such as rebuilding, reconnecting and restoring habitat, tackling feral cats, weeding, planting, cleaning-up creeks and rivers and restoring cultural heritage places. The Australian Government is providing $362.8 million for the programme from 2016-17 to 2019-20. Of the 1,145 approved Green Army projects, 690 are located in regional Australia.

Commonwealth Environmental Water

The Commonwealth Environmental Water holdings are managed so that increased flows of water are provided to protect and restore water dependent ecosystems throughout the Murray-Darling Basin. As at 29 February 2016, a total of 5,357 gigalitres of Commonwealth environmental water had been delivered to rivers, wetlands and floodplains of the Basin, contributing to the sustainability and amenity of these unique regional landscapes. Early results of the long term intervention monitoring programme indicate that Commonwealth environmental watering has already made contributions to key environmental objectives in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder has also recruited six local engagement officers working within the Basin, to assist members of the community to participate in environmental water planning and decision making.

Director of National Parks

The Director of National Parks manages Australia's six Commonwealth national parks, the Australian National Botanic Gardens, and Australia's network of Commonwealth marine reserves. The Director of National Parks employs around 200 staff in regional Australia. The majority are located at Booderee, Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta national parks and in Hobart. There are also small offices in the remote locations of Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

In Kakadu, Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Booderee national parks, the Aboriginal owners lease their land to be managed jointly with the Director of National Parks, to be protected as national parks to be enjoyed by all Australians. In addition to Aboriginal staff, trainees and apprentices, the parks provide service delivery agreements with local Aboriginal organisations and businesses. Trainee programmes are designed to provide employment pathways for local people through on-the-job training in various aspects of park management, and the completion of nationally accredited certificates in conservation and land management.

Community Heritage and Icons Grants

The Community Heritage and Icons Grants programme supports community groups across Australia in their efforts to promote community engagement and awareness of our National Heritage listed places. The Australian Government has allocated $1.4 million over three years from 2014-15 for this programme. The grants benefit regional areas by strengthening local community involvement and engagement with our national heritage. This results in positive on-ground impacts for local communities and heritage in regional Australia and supports regional tourism as a result of national heritage sites being better managed and promoted to visitors.

Protecting National Historic Sites

The Protecting National Historic Sites programme supports activities that protect, manage and conserve places on Australia's National Heritage List recognised for their historic values. The Australian Government has allocated $11.5 million over three years from 2014-15 for this programme. Many of the 62 eligible National Heritage places are found in regional Australia, each listed for local historic heritage values that have been considered of outstanding heritage value to the Australian nation. Grant funding will support owners and managers in their efforts to better manage these places and to help them promote the values for which they were listed to local and regional communities and to visitors more broadly.

Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development

The Australian Government has provided over $100.0 million to initiatives that strengthen the science underpinning regulatory decisions on the water-related impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining development and help build community confidence in coal seam gas and coal mining developments.

The Department of the Environment continues to support the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development, which provides advice to Australian governments on the water-related impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining development proposals. The Department of the Environment is addressing critical gaps in the scientific understanding of the water-related impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining development. This includes continuing to deliver targeted bioregional (regional scale) assessments of the impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining development on water resources in areas across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia with significant coal resource deposits and development pressure.

Bureau of Meteorology—Stronger Farmers, Stronger Economy

Under the Stronger Farmers, Stronger Economy—new drought management framework, the Australian Government is improving the seasonal climate forecast services for the Australian agricultural sector. This funding is providing more regular, detailed and accurate climate forecasts, and supporting drought preparedness and drought-affected regional communities.

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