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Wednesday, 18 June 2003
Page: 16963

Dr STONE (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage) (6:48 PM) —The member for Wills began by talking about the funding for Coastcare—a very important program that was one of the early NHT initiatives and in particular it involved local councils. We absolutely commend local councils and community groups who did extraordinary work revegetating coastal regions and sand dunes, fencing off areas, and doing a lot of rubbish collection and replanting of indigenous species. That was part of the Natural Heritage Trust mark 1, when we were looking at some 17 programs across Australia.

As a result of careful evaluation of that first Natural Heritage Trust program, there was an understanding that—with the development of so many community groups' understanding of the environment, stimulated by the funding they had received—we needed to be more regionally or catchment focused and more strategic in the way in which we allocated funds into the future. This meant that, instead of taking small groups—local councils, in fact—as a focus of funding, we should take a total catchment or integrated catchment management approach. This is not new. We have advocated integrated catchment management across Australia for some 20 years. Rather than saying that coastal funding or funding for Coastcare type projects has ceased, we are asking for coastal communities to integrate with or be part of the catchment wherein they find themselves and participate with others who live inland, whose activities impact very much on the coastal regions.

As the member for Wills said, these communities are eligible to apply for enviro grants as individual land care groups or community based groups, but we are looking to phase out the enviro grants. These grants are still part of the older system that was not as strategic or based on a sense of total catchment management. We are not in any shape or form abandoning, forgetting or not caring about the coastal regions of Australia. In the future we will be looking at a much better approach whereby volunteers can feel that their efforts are being even better integrated into the landscape in which they find themselves.

The member for Wills is also concerned about the six regional coordinators, particularly those of New South Wales. He quoted from a Sydney Morning Herald article that was printed today. I find it interesting that the member for Wills has to rely on newspaper reports to know what is going on in the environment—but there you go!

Mr Kelvin Thomson —We would never get anything out of the department.

Dr STONE —If you were tuned in to what was going on around Australia, you would not need to rely on media releases. With the reconfiguration of the Natural Heritage Trust mark 2, which continues to deliver the biggest environment fund this country has ever seen, we wanted to make sure that our facilitators and coordinators were as appropriate and as best placed as possible. In April 2003 we announced the future arrangements for facilitators and coordinators. The Commonwealth and the states announced a model in April 2003. Public submissions were received in response to the Commonwealth discussion paper on the future of facilitators and coordinators, there was an evaluation of the NHT mark 1 networks and a lot of discussions took place with the facilitators and coordinators about the places where they were located. We found that some facilitators and coordinators were extremely effective in their places of employment, but there was a need for some new arrangements and these arrangements will be implemented as close as possible to 1 July 2003. Support at the state and Commonwealth level is an essential part of the facilitator and coordinator framework. We understand that, unless you have some human capital—someone to help resource, facilitate and catalyse local communities—often the project does not progress well. (Extension of time granted)

I do not share the concern of the member for Wills about facilitators and coordinators.Coastal regions need to look to the appropriate natural resource management planners in their part of New South Wales. Within that natural resource management planning group they will find access to facilitators and coordinators who have been very carefully organised with longer terms of employment than before and placed in agencies that will facilitate their work.