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Farmers back Government bid for better environmental programs

30 January 2008

AN OVERHAUL of the Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) – flagged in the media today by Federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke and Environment Minister Peter Garrett – could be a major win for the environment, especially if the Government cuts excess baggage around bureaucracy and regulatory costs to properly fund programs that actually deliver environmental outcomes.

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), which drove the Environmental Stewardship funded under NHT in last year’s Budget, says the Government should use the review both Ministers announced in The Weekly Times today to streamline processes and reform state regulation to better target funding.

“We are heartened by comments in today’s press that the Government is not on a wholesale cost-cutting exercise, but rather a process to review and strengthen both NHT and Environmental Stewardship to see tangible improvements to environmental outcomes on-the-ground,” NFF President David Crombie said.

“Streamlining funding to boost the NHT’s focus on program delivery on-the-ground is overdue and much-needed.

“The review should acknowledge the sound science-backed fundamentals that underpin our Stewardship initiative, those being a flexible market-driven incentives-based program that actually delivers environmental benefits relevant to local area needs.”

Environmental Stewardship – developed in consultation between the NFF, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Environment and Water – is funded over 15-year contracts through a partnership between landowners and the Australian Government.

“The science has long-held that environmental outcomes can only be delivered through long-term commitments,” Mr Crombie added.

“Breaking the short-term funding cycles that previously plagued the NHT was a world-first... we should be building on that and better empowering farmers to deliver on Government and community expectations.

“Every year modern Australian farmers go ‘above and beyond’ their normal duty of care to protect and preserve environmental icons, which are, literally, in their backyards – that’s a benefit to the entire community.

“Sound environmental management is not only good for the environment, but it makes good business sense. By helping to deliver more effective and efficient farming and natural resource management systems, it makes the sector more vibrant and sustainable.

“This fundamental shift in the way Australia sets about achieving long-term environmental goals overcomes the inhibitors to the essential forward planning and certainty needed by landowners to invest their time and money.

“This was recognised last May, when Environmental Stewardship was loudly applauded by environmental and conservation groups, business leaders and the scientific community... not to mention farmers.”

[ENDS]

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250.

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