Caring for our Country is making vital improvements in the sustainability of our productive farmlands and in conserving our natural environment.
We are delighted to report to you a second year of valuable progress in Caring for our Country outcomes which will make a real and measurable difference to managing Australia's natural resources and maintaining the productive capacity of our agricultural businesses.
This successful Australian Government initiative, which began in July 2008, supports individuals, regional natural resource management organisations, Landcare and other non-government organisations, community and Indigenous groups working to conserve Australia's natural environment and productive farmland.
The first report card revealed valuable progress towards many of the Caring for our Country outcomes. This progress has increased, with many projects now clearly moving towards their goals.
In 2009–10, the Australian Government spent $408.8 million on projects undertaken by individuals, regional natural resource management organisations, non-government organisations, community, and Indigenous and Landcare groups.
Highlights in 2009–10 include:
- over 3.75 million hectares added to the National Reserve System to protect and conserve Australia's unique ecosystems
- multi-year projects beginning to eradicate exotic rodents and mice on several important islands around Australia
- captive breeding of Tasmanian Devils at zoos and wildlife parks to help maintain viable devil populations
- through the Reef Rescue Program over 860 farmers and pastoralists have adopted land management practices that reduce the discharge of sediments and nutrients to the Reef lagoon
- a national network of Regional Landcare Facilitators is helping farmers to adopt sustainable farm management practices
- over 11 000 farmers adopting sustainable farm practices to protect their properties' natural resources
- over 200 private landholders conserving over 26 000 hectares of critically endangered box gum grassy woodland through the Environmental Stewardship Program.
The Government has also been promoting skill and knowledge sharing through regional organisations and is continuing its commitment to funding national networks of Regional Landcare Facilitators and Weeds of National Significance coordinators so they can build community capacity to manage and protect Australia's unique landscapes.
Community Action Grants saw 425 community-based projects funded in 2009–10. These projects help Indigenous, urban and regional groups to protect and enhance natural resources.
Unforeseen environmentally damaging events are part of Australia's natural history. In 2009–10, the Australian Government helped disaster-struck communities to repair their local environments, including:
- $2 million for local government, community and Indigenous groups to repair damage from a major oil spill to Moreton Bay Marine Park and its surrounds
- $2.4 million to land managers and farmers across six regions in Victoria to restore damage from the devastating Victorian bushfires. This builds on the $7.6 million bushfire funding provided in 2008–09.
The results achieved during the second year of Caring for our Country are testament to the importance of working with urban and rural communities to secure both our farming resource base and our unique environment over the longer term.
Once again, we thank all those organisations and individuals who are providing their time and energy and working to achieve a healthy, better protected, well-managed and resilient environment and look forward to working with you in the future.