Land and Biodiversity
The Government recognises the importance of maintaining and restoring our natural assets. The Government aims to build healthy and resilient ecosystems in this time of climate change and by encouraging Victorians to work together as responsive, effective stewards of our land, water and biodiversity, and to explore greater use of market instruments to generate demand for ecosystem services, including clean water and air, pollination and food security.
Recommendations LW0.1, LW0.2, LW0.5, LB1.2, LB1.8, LB1.9, LB2.3, LB2.4, LB2.6, LB2.10, LB2.12, LB2.13, LB2.14 LB3.1, LB3.6, LB3.8, LB4.1, LB4.2, LB4.3, LB4.4, LB5.4, LB5.5, LB5.6, LB6.1, LB6.2, LB6.3, LB7.3, LB9.3, LB9.6, SoE1, SoE2 and SoE3 are fully supported and are being addressed by a range of policies, programs and legislation and especially by the upcoming Land and Biodiversity White Paper, the Climate Change Green and White Papers, the Climate Change Bill and Victoria’s Environmental Sustainability Framework and the review of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.
Recommendations I1 and I2 which relate to environmental data collection, monitoring and reporting are fully supported and will be considered in Victoria’s involvement in the Commonwealth led Environmental Information Initiatives Project. The Commonwealth is undertaking a stocktake and assessment of environmental information initiatives across all State and Territories. The Victorian Government is actively participating in this project which aims to further develop the progress towards a National Environment Information System to coordinate the collection, analysis, synthesis and delivery of environmental information.
Recommendations LW0.3, LW0.4, LW0.6, LB1.3, LB1.6, LB1.7, LB1.11, LB1.12, LB1.1, LB1.4, LB1.5, LB2.1, LB2.2, LB2.5, LB2.7, LB2.8, LB2.9, LB2.11, LB3.2, LB3.5, LB3.7, LB5.1, LB5.2, LB5.3 LB7.1, LB7.2, LB9.1, LB9.5, LB9.7, LB9.8 and LB9.10 are supported-in-principle.
Recommendation LB9.2 is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. Recommendation LB1.10 is also the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government but is supported-in-principle.
Recommendation LB1.6, LB1.7, LB9.4 and LB9.9 are noted with consideration of future funding. Recommendations LB3.3 and LB3.4 are noted and will be considered in any future review of legislation.
The Report makes a number of recommendations around fire risk and management9. These recommendations are noted and will be considered when the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission final report is released in July 2010.
The Government is addressing the supported and support-in-principle recommendations through the following policies, programs and legislation.
PolicyThe upcoming Victorian Land and Biodiversity White Paper will set a long-term policy framework and sets out actions to improve the health of Victoria's land, water and biodiversity.
The Government remains committed to the Native Vegetation Management Framework (NVMF), a three step approach to ‘avoid, minimise, and offset' the loss of native vegetation. The Government will continue to focus on the need for more strategic native vegetation quality assessments across the state, through strategically implementing offsets and promoting regional planning.
Victoria's public lands are managed to meet a diverse range of needs including timber production, water supply, conservation of biodiversity, conservation of cultural heritage, recreation, carbon sequestration and commercial activities such as tourism and bee-keeping. Victoria is committed to conserving and protecting its range of natural environments through an extensive protected area system of more than 3.3 million hectares. These include 41 national parks, 27 state parks and 3 wilderness parks, as well as a representative system of 13 marine national parks and 11 marine sanctuaries, which are protected under the National Parks Act 1975. In addition, there are reserves under the Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978 and the Wildlife Act 1975, and about 740,000 hectares of special protection zones designated in state forest across Victoria.
Victoria is committed to meeting National Reserve System objectives to further establish and manage a comprehensive, adequate and representative system of reserves. We are working towards this by adding under-represented ecosystems to the parks and reserve system in priority bioregions across the state; and by spending around $150 million annually to manage the system and provide appropriate visitor services and facilities.
The Government launched the Biosecurity Strategy in June 2009 to set a firm foundation to guide the planning, service delivery and partnerships required to meet Victoria's future biosecurity needs and protect Victoria's economic, environmental and social assets. The strategy will refocus and strengthen existing approaches to managing biosecurity risk by fostering collaboration between government, industry and the community, improving decision making and investment frameworks, building skills and capability, and enhancing surveillance and incursion response systems.
The Victorian Climate Change Green Paper recognises that the way we manage and use the land can help reduce carbon emissions. Through the Green Paper, the Government has outlined its priorities for land use, forestry and agriculture, including creating opportunities for new technologies, products and services. The Victorian Government also supports the Commonwealth to continue to improve the National Carbon Accounting Scheme. Both the Green Paper and upcoming Land and Biodiversity White Paper aim to maximise the biodiversity and land health benefits to be gained from reforestation and the opportunities for plantation owners to opt in to the national CPRS.
Through Living with Fire – Victoria’s Bushfire Strategy Victoria has a clear direction to meet bushfire challenges under six key themes:
- Managing the land with fire - increased planned burning effort, including large-scale mosaic burns, based on science and risk management frameworks, to reduce fuel loads, protect communities and promote healthy ecosystems
- Building community capacity to live with fire - improve the community’s understanding of the role of fire in the environment and increase shared responsibility for risk, prevention and preparedness for bushfire
- Enhanced response and recovery - continue to lead the way in bushfire response while building on recovery efforts
- Workforce/volunteer capability - build and maintain a skilled, fit and experienced fire fighting force to deliver an increased planned burning program, meet rising response needs and provide support to volunteers
- Planning for protection - provide the community and planners with better risk management and mitigation tools, including acceleration of Integrated Fire Management Planning
- Risk and adaptive management - continue to develop a more responsive approach to managing bushfires based on continuous learning and improvement through developing interagency risk modelling, state-wide scenario planning and improved ecological research and modelling.
ProgramsThe Government is working with key partners to improve delivery of land, water and biodiversity outcomes.
The Government has demonstrated its commitment through the $110 million Natural Resources Investment Program (NRIP) over five years, starting in 2008/09. NRIP is guided by state-wide natural resource management priorities, which the NRM Plan will articulate for the short term.
The Government recognises that supporting landholders and the wider community to protect the natural environment is vital in improving the health of our rural landscapes. Programs that invest directly in managing land health issues and community education initiatives across Victoria include the Sustainable Landscapes and Landcare programs (approximately $10 million per annum). The Government has also invested $10 million in 2008-09 to extend the Drought Employment Program administered by catchment management authorities to employ people directly impacted by drought to undertake work to protect environmental assets on public and private land.
In the area of monitoring and reporting the Government is looking at ways to build state-wide datasets and dynamic models that can be used to better articulate ecosystem function, with locational priorities, enabling us to more accurately reflect ecosystem function and the needs of key biodiversity components. This will be supported by working with the Commonwealth to develop and report against a set of natural resource management indicators as part of the Commonwealth led Environmental Information Initiatives Project. The Commonwealth is undertaking a stocktake and assessment of environmental information initiatives across the Australian, State and Territory jurisdictions.
The Future Farming Strategy acknowledges the work of good farm businesses that recognise that the long-term productivity of the farm sector relies on resources being used in a sustainable manner. Many Victorian farmers have adapted their practices to manage land, water and environmental risks and improve the natural resource base. The Government has invested in educative, supportive and market enabling activities towards a more sustainable farm sector.
For the past 10 years, the Government has pioneered a world leading approach to conservation on private land through developing market-based programs including EcoTender, BushBroker and BushTender. The Government has already committed $14 million through the 2006 Environmental Sustainability Action Statement (ESAS) into market-based schemes that will for the first time put a value on the services our ecosystem provides. Funding under the EcoMarkets program has resulted in the restoration or revegetation of more than 2300 hectares of private land. Expressions of interest for a second EcoTender funding round in the Port Phillip and Westernport catchment area are now being sought.
In response to the increased threat of incidences and severity of fires, the Government is also undertaking:
- A state-wide community consultation process undertaken via the Fire Operation Planning (FOP) process. FOPs provide a multi year strategic direction for the planned burning program at the district level. They include identifying asset protection as well as ecological, fuel management and regeneration objectives
- Developing, funding and implementing the Landscape Mosaic Burning program. This $10 million five-year program will implement landscape scale planned burns. These burns will achieve a variety of outcomes including: ecological outcomes, fuel management and asset protection
- Developing and implementing emergency stabilisation plans for each of the major fires, which include identification and control measures required for erosion control, water catchment protection, rehabilitation of control lines, repairing fences and constructing silt fences
- Post-fire recovery works including, protecting key species such as the Barred Galaxias, New Holland Mouse and Southern Brown Bandicoot. Additional ongoing work is underway for fox, cat and weed control and ongoing flora and fauna research and monitoring projects.
The Government is reviewing the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. The review will address the specific issues that may be raised in the upcoming Land and Biodiversity White Paper and will consider streamlining the listing provisions to ensure that the Act’s Threatened List and Processes List are as comprehensive as current scientific knowledge allows. This review will also complement the review of the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 scheduled for completion in late 2009.
Victoria’s parks and reservesVictoria’s parks and reserves system were significantly enhanced in 2008/09.
The highlight was the creation of the 18,510 hectare Cobboboonee National Park and the 8685 hectare Cobboboonee Forest Park in south-west Victoria on 9 November 2008. Seven existing parks under the National Parks Act 1975 also had areas added.
In June 2009, the 90-hectare Quarantine Station at Point Nepean was transferred to the Victorian Government for inclusion in the Point Nepean National Park.
Planning for the protection of Victoria’s River Red Gums was also a key focus in 2008/09. The Government has committed $38 million over four years to establish new and expanded River Red Gum parks and protected areas along the Murray River and its tributaries. This substantial expansion of Victoria’s parks in the River Red Gum area will contribute significantly to Victoria’s protected area system.
Stock grazing will cease in the River Red Gum parks, conservation reserves and State forest. On public land outside these areas, cessation of grazing will be voluntary. Commercial timber harvesting licences have ceased in the new national parks.
Indigenous communities will also have increased involvement in managing River Red Gum areas, in particular through boards of management for Barmah National Park and Nyah-Vinifera Park.
In East Gippsland, 45, 000 hectares will be added to the parks and reserves system. These additions will protect old growth forest, rainforest and other forest values, as well as link Snowy River and Errinundra national parks.
Another focus was the permanent protection of highly threatened, under-represented native grasslands in priority bioregions. Grasslands and grassy woodlands are severely under-represented in the protected area system in Victoria, particularly in the Victorian Riverina and the Victorian Volcanic Plains bioregions. The land that makes up these two bioregions is predominantly in private ownership. It has a long history of European settlement and has often been grazed, sown to pasture to support intensive grazing or produce hay, cropped regularly, or prepared for irrigation. Grasslands in these bioregions are therefore under considerable threat due to agricultural pressures.
The Department of Sustainability and Environment’s Conservation Land Purchase Program funds the acquisition of priority areas to the parks and reserves system. It receives an annual appropriation of approximately $1 million for land purchase and associated costs. In 2008/09 an 1800 hectare native grassland was purchased and added to the protected area system, marking a significant contribution towards NRS targets in the Victorian Riverina bioregion.
In June 2009, the then Environment and Climate Change Minister announced the Government would acquire and reserve 15,000 hectares of native grasslands in the western metropolitan Melbourne region. It is expected that the establishment of the reserve(s) will be completed within 10 years. This represents a significant contribution to meeting adequacy targets for the National Reserve System Strategy in Victoria’s high-priority Volcanic Plains bioregion
9 Recommendations are: LB8.1, LB8.2, LB8.3, LB8.4, LB8.5 and LB8.6.