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Notice given 22 October 2003

2315  Senator Bartlett: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Heritage—

(1) Will the Minister accredit regional natural resource management (NRM) plans under the Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) or National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality (NAP) if they are inconsistent with nationally-agreed NRM strategies, such as the National Water Quality Management Strategy, National Principles for the Provision of Water for Ecosystems and the National Framework for Management and Monitoring of Native Vegetation.

(2) Are regional NRM plans under the NHT and NAP intended to be vehicles for the implementation of the nationally-agreed NRM strategies; if so, what mechanisms are in place to ensure the nationally-agreed NRM strategies are implemented through the regional NRM plans.

(3) In determining the allocation of funds under the NHT and NAP, does the Government give priority to the implementation of the nationally-agreed NRM strategies.

(4) (a) Does the Government monitor the implementation of the nationally-agreed NRM strategies by the states and territories; and (b) has the Government found any instances in which a state or territory has failed to implement a nationally-agreed NRM strategy; if so, can details be provided of these instances and the action that has been taken to address this issue.

(5) How does the Government intend to improve water quality in, and environmental flows to, coastal Ramsar wetlands through the regional delivery model being employed under the NHT and NAP. 

(6) (a) How does the Government intend to address the matters protected under Part 3, Division 1 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (i.e. the so-called ‘matters of national environmental significance’) in accrediting regional NRM plans; and (b) will funding of priority projects for the protection and conservation of matters of national environmental significance take precedence over the priorities identified in regional NRM plans. 

(7) What criteria does the Government use to ensure regional NRM plans address the need to protect and conserve matters of national environmental significance. 

(8) Does the presence of matters of national environmental significance in a region influence the funds that are made available to the relevant regional body under the NHT and NAP. 

(9) How much money has been spent under the second phase of the NHT on priority projects outside the accredited NRM planning and investment framework. 

(10) Do all priority projects that have received funding under the second phase of the NHT include relevant resource condition targets; if not, why not.

(11) For each of the first and second phases of the NHT and the NAP, what percentage of funds spent (to date) were spent on: (a) planning; (b) implementation; (c) monitoring; and (d) reporting. 

(12) In respect of the NAP and the second phase of the NHT, what percentage of funds does the Government expect to spend on: (a) planning; (b) implementation; (c) monitoring; and (d) reporting.

(13) Does the Government monitor compliance by the states and territories with the terms and conditions in the bilateral agreements that have been entered into as part of the NHT and NAP; if so, how does it carry out this monitoring.

(14) Has the Government identified any instances of breaches of the conditions of the NHT and NAP bilateral agreements; if so, can details of these breaches and the action taken to address the breaches be provided. 

2317  Senator Bartlett: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Heritage—

(1) With reference to the second phase of the Natural Heritage Trust (NHT): How much money has been spent:

(a) on the National Vegetation Initiative;

(b) on the Murray-Darling 2001 Program;

(c) on the Coasts and Clean Seas Initiative;

(d) on the National Land and Water Resources Audit;

(e) on the National Reserve System;

(f) on ‘environment protection’ (as defined under section 15 of the Natural Heritage Trust of Australia Act 1997 (NHTA Act);

(g) on supporting ‘sustainable agriculture’ (as defined under section 16 of the NHTA Act).

(h) on ‘natural resource management’ (as defined under section 17 of the NHTA Act);

(i) on purposes that are incidental or ancillary to any of the purposes outlined in subsections 8(a) to (h) of the NHTA Act;

(j) for the purpose of making grants of financial assistance for any of the purposes outlined in subsections 8(a) to (h) of the NHTA Act;

(k) for accounting transfer purposes (as defined in section 18 of the NHTA Act).

(2) How much money in the Natural Heritage Trust of Australia Reserve that represents proceeds of the sale of shares in Telstra has been debited for the purposes of: (a) the National Vegetation Initiative; (b) the Murray-Darling 2001 Program; (c) the National Land and Water Resources Audit; (d) the National Reserve System; (e) the Coasts and Clean Seas Initiative; (f) environmental protection (as defined by section 15 of the NHTA Act); (g) supporting sustainable agriculture (as defined by section 16 of the NHTA Act); (h) natural resources management (as defined by section 17 of the NHTA Act); (i) a purpose incidental or ancillary to any of the purposes outlined in subsections 8(a) to (h) of the NHTA Act; and (j) the making of grants of financial assistance for any of the purposes outlined in subsections 8(a) to (h) of the NHTA Act.

(3) How do the four programs that are being funded through the second phase of the NHT, (i.e. Landcare, Bushcare, Coastcare and Rivercare) relate to the purposes of the Natural Heritage Trust of Australia Reserve that are set out in section 8 of the NHTA Act.

(4) How does the Government reconcile the purposes of the Reserve, as defined in section 8 of the NHTA Act, with the three overarching objectives of the NHT that are described in government policy papers (i.e. sustainable use of natural resources, biodiversity conservation and community capacity building and institutional change).

(5) Do the bilateral agreements that the Commonwealth has signed to date include frameworks for the achievement of outcomes that relate to ‘environmental protection’, ‘natural resource management’ and ‘sustainable agriculture’ (as defined in sections 15, 16 and 17 of the NHTA Act); if so, can the Minister explain how these outcomes will be achieved and how these outcomes relate to the three policy objectives of the NHT as referred to in question 4.

(6) With reference to Section 21 of the NHTA Act, which requires the Minister to have regard to the principles of ecologically sustainable development in making a decision to approve a proposal to spend money in the Reserve: can the Minister describe how these principles were considered in making the decisions to approve the funding for the following:

(a) the Queensland National Reserve System Program projects known as ‘The Seven Confidential Land Acquisition Projects in Queensland’ in 2001-02;

(b) the South-East Queensland Western Catchment project that was announced on 1 October 2003;

(c) the Burdekin Dry Tropics project that was announced on 1 October 2003;

(d) the $2.14 million and $967 000 of Queensland drought recovery measures that were announced on 7 May 2003 and on 28 March 2003 respectively;

(e) the South Australia Bushcare project known as ‘Improving the Quality of Biodiversity of Protected Areas on Private Land’ in 2001-02;

(f) the South Australia Bushcare project known as ‘Natural Heritage Trust Coordination’ in 2001-02;

(g)  the $134 149 and $29 928 of South Australia drought recovery measures that were announced on 7 May 2003 and on 28 March 2003 respectively;

(h) the New South Wales project known as ‘Integrated Delivery of Environmental Education in the Sydney Basin’ that was announced on 16 July 2003; and

(i)  the $3.17 million and $1.56 million of New South Wales drought recovery measures that were announced on 7 May 2003 and on 28 March 2003 respectively.

(7) How much money has the Commonwealth derived from interests in property acquired using funds from the Reserve. 

(8) How much money has the Commonwealth transferred to the Reserve from the Consolidated Revenue Fund on account of moneys derived from interests in property acquired using funds from the Reserve.

(9) Who are the current members of the NHT Advisory Committee and what qualifications or experience in natural resource management do they possess. 

(10) Has the NHT Advisory Committee provided advice to the NHT Board on:

(a) the program structure of the NHT (i.e. national, regional and envirofund), and relative expenditures of money under this structure;

(b) the relative expenditures of monies between the Coastcare, Landcare, Bushcare and Rivercare programs;

(c) the relative expenditures between regions and between national component programs;

(d) accounting for the commitment given by the Howard Government in 2001 to spend $350 million directly on water quality measures under the second phase of the NHT;

(e) the requirements for accreditation of regional plans; and

(f) priorities for expenditure to achieve environmental protection, natural resource management and sustainable agriculture outcomes.

(11) If the NHT Advisory Committee has provided advice on any of the matters outlined in question 10, can a copy of the advice be provided by no later than 2 November 2003.

(12) Can a copy of the Investment Strategy for the Reserve referred to in section 41 of the NHTA Act be provided by no later than 2 November 2003.

(13) (a) Which components of the NHT and programs under the national component currently have funding agreements for multiple years, including the 2003-04 and 2004-05 financial years; and (b) has the Natural Heritage Ministerial Board approved estimates for these components and programs, in accordance with section 41 of the NHTA Act; if so, can a copy of these estimates be provided by no later than 2 November 2003.  

(14) With reference to section 42 of the NHTA Act, what was the indexation for each of the following financial years: (a) 2002-03; and (b) 2003-04 .

(15) Can a copy be provided of the guidelines for the preparation of the financial statements for the Reserve that have been issued by the Minister for Finance and Administration.

(16) Can a copy be provided of any guidelines that have been prepared for accounting for in-kind contributions to projects funded under the NHT or the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality.