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Tuesday, 8 February 2005
Page: 226

Senator Brown asked the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, upon notice, on 18 November 2004:

(1)   What is the Commonwealth’s role in protecting Australia’s freshwater ecosystems.

(2)   Are these ecosystems adequately protected.

(3)   Is there a national program to protect these freshwater ecosystems; if not, why not.

Senator Ian Campbell (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:

(1)   The provision of national policy leadership and programme funding, and the administration of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The Government has been instrumental in driving national water reforms, including the focus on achieving environmental outcomes for freshwater ecosystems through the National Water Initiative and the Living Murray initiative.

(2)   Many are. The Australian Government, through the Natural Heritage Trust National Reserve System, has conserved many freshwater ecosystems including wetlands, riverine ecosystems and groundwater springs in the acquisition and covenanting of over 20 million hectares of land as state conservation reserves, non-government reserves and Indigenous reserves. Australia is a world leader in the protection of wetlands, with 64 Ramsar listed wetlands covering over 7.3 million hectares.

(3)   The Australia Government is committed to the development of a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system that includes aquatic ecosystems.

The Raising National Water Standards programme of the Australian Water Fund will support the improved conservation of high environmental value water systems.