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Tuesday, 25 November 2003
Page: 22869


Mr Kelvin Thomson asked the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, upon notice, on 16 October 2003:

(1) Will he provide a copy of his department's Natural Resource Management (NRM) Programme Delivery Advice document #1: Acquittal of investments against the commitment to spend at least $350m of Trust funds “directly on measures to improve water quality”.

(2) Will he provide a copy of other NRM Programme Delivery Advice documents.

(3) Who are these advice documents prepared for, who uses them and why are they not available on the internet.


Dr Kemp (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) A copy is attached.

(2) No.

(3) These documents are prepared for use by officers of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Department of the Environment and Heritage. They are designed to provide guidance to these officers on the management of Natural Resource Management Programs particularly the Natural Heritage Trust and the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality. They are not publicly available documents as they are internal Departmental working documents and are revised on a regular basis.

Attachment A

No. 3.1.2.04

14 April 2003

Review date: 31/6/03

NRM PROGRAM DELIVERY ADVICE

Natural Heritage Trust -All Investment Levels.

Acquittal of investments against the commitment t o spend at least $350m of Trust funds `directly on measures to improve water quality'

POLICY CONTEXT

1. In the 2001 election, the Prime Minister committed to spend at least $350 million of the Extension of the Trust directly on measures to improve water quality.

2. The Framework for the Extension of the Trust notes “investment under the Trust will be available for salinity and water quality measures across Australia, including NAP regions. At least $350 million of the Trust funds will be invested directly on measures to improve water quality”.

3. The Bilateral Agreements for the delivery of the Trust note that the joint Commonwealth State Steering Committees will identify expenditure against this commitment.

National Water Quality Management Strategy (NWQMS)

4. The NWQMS provides a national framework under which all stakeholders can contribute to better water quality outcomes. The Strategy provides a consistent approach to water quality management through guidelines that promote a shared national objective while allowing flexibility to respond to regional and local differences.

5. The NWQMS defines water quality as “the physical, chemical and biological attributes of water that effect its ability to sustain environmental values”. Environmental values are the agreed `beneficial uses' of water, and the NWQMS specifies five values, as follows:

(i) Aquatic ecosystems (general ecosystems, production of edible fish, crustacea and shellfish; water associated with wildlife);

(ii) Recreational water quality and aesthetics;

(iii) Raw water for drinking water supplies;

(iv) Agricultural water use (irrigation, livestock, farmstead water supplies); and

(v) Industrial water use.

6. The guidelines under the NWQMS provide a set of scientific criteria for water quality to match each environmental value. The set of criteria that satisfy all of the environmental values selected for a particular water body become its water quality objectives. These objectives are the numbers to aim for in water quality management programs.

7. The states and territories have agreed to the approach to managing water quality, which includes the determination of environmental values and water quality objectives, set out in the NWQMS.

Water Quality and Salinity

8. The National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality (NAP) clearly distinguishes between salinity and water quality, as reflected in the two specific goals for the Plan:

(i) to prevent stabilize and reverse trends in dryland salinity....

(ii) to improve water quality and secure reliable allocations for human uses, industry and the environment...

9. While salinity targets may be established as primary water quality targets (eg instream salinity concentrations) where the primary process driving deterioration in this aspect of water quality is dryland (ie non-agricultural induced) salinity, a distinction has been made between the issues by the Prime Minister.

I SSUES

10. There is a clear expectation from the NH Ministerial Board that there will be periodic, and probably public, reporting against this commitment.

11. Operational guidelines are therefore required to assist in the acquittal of Trust investments against this commitment at all levels - Envirofund, regional and national.

12. Given the number of managers overseeing Trust investments, there is a need to ensure that any guidelines are applied consistently by different managers, and across investment levels.

PROCEDURAL ADVI CE

13. All Trust investment managers must assess their investments to determine whether or not the constituent activities (or parts thereof) can be acquitted against this commitment.

14. Where activities are identified as contributing to this commitment, both the assessment, and the subsequent level of funding acquitted, must be recorded on Program Administrator within 30 days of the Ministerial Board or relevant Minister approving the investment.

Recording the information on Program Administrator.

15. (i) Go to your individual project, pull up on screen and click the “Key Result Area” tab. The screen that appears will have a section on the bottom called “Water Quality Commitment”.

(ii) Select yes from the “Yes/No” drop down box. Each funding year with approved dollars will be automatically populated on the screen.

(iii) Calculate the percentage of each years funding that you are attributing to directly improving water quality, and type this in - the actual quantum of funding will then be automatically generated. Alternatively, if you know the exact quantum, you can put this directly into the relevant field. Save.

(iv) Click on the “Assessment” tab and insert a new assessment. Select assessment type “$350M Water Quality Component”, the year, and the “recommended” assessment grade. In the comments field, summarise your answers to questions 20, 21 and 22 (as set out below). Save.

These instructions can also be found in the PA User Guide.

16. Review of assessments

The activities identified as contributing to this commitment will be reviewed periodically by an expert group appointed by the AFFA / EA NRM Forum.

17. The expert group will also review the Assessment Advice from time to time, as appropriate.

COMMONWEALTH ASSESSMENT ADVICE

18. Definitions

Water quality is defined as “the physical, chemical and biological attributes of water that effect its ability to sustain environmental values”.

19. There are five environmental values (beneficial uses) as follows: aquatic ecosystems, primary industries, recreation and aesthetics, drinking water, industrial water and cultural and spiritual values.

20. Assessment criteria

The marine or aquatic ecosystem and/or waterbody that will benefit from the water quality improvements arising from the Trust investment must be clearly identified.

21. The Trust funded activity (or part thereof) must contribute:

(i) to directly improving one or more of the physical, chemical or biological attributes of the identified marine or aquatic ecosystem and/or waterbody; or

(ii) to establishing specific management plans and baseline data for, and/or monitoring of, marine or aquatic ecosystems and/or waterbodies.

22. The projected water quality improvements must be ascertained with reference to:

(i) the water quality objectives and associated environmental values identified through the NWQMS process for the marine or aquatic ecosystem and/or waterbody in question;

(ii) marine and aquatic targets established in the accredited regional NRM plan under the National NRM Standards and Targets Framework: or

(iii) management action targets which have a water quality output.

23. Water quality improvement activities

The key question to be asked in ascertaining whether or not an investment contributes to this commitment is “will the investment bring forward a water quality output”?

The following list is illustrative of activities which would be consistent with this commitment:

(i) salts and nutrient discharge reductions from irrigation areas;

(ii) acid and heavy metal discharge reductions from acid sulphate soils;

(iii) sediment discharge reductions from river banks and streambeds;

(iv) pollutant discharge reductions from industrial or urban areas; and

(v) nutrient discharge reductions from agricultural activities (both intensive - such as diaries and feedlots; and broadscale such as cattle ranching).

24. Typical water quality improvement projects include activities that:

(i) prevent erosion and soil loss in actively eroding sites;

(ii) repair and restore riparian vegetation;

(iii) exclude stock from waterways;

(iv) prevent discharges from oxidized acid sulphate soils;

increase the area and water quality functions of wetlands;

(vi) treat, reuse or recycle wastewaters from intensive agricultural or urban sources;

(vii) implement effective treatment technologies for industrial point sources;

(viii) implement water pollution source controls;

(ix) implement water sensitive urban design practices; and

(x) establish water quality baselines and monitor water quality.

MATCHING FUNDING

25 NAP investments cannot be acquitted against this commitment.

26. Matching funding contributions from states and territories (as required under the Bilateral Agreements), and any other investment leveraged through Trust investment (for example from the private sector), cannot be acquitted against this commitment.