Australia`s Native Vegetation Framework Consultation Draft

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Australia’s Native Vegetation Framework Consultation Draft

Stakeholder Comments - Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority

General comments

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on Australia’s Native Vegetation Framework

Consultation Draft.

The GBCMA has a responsibility for native vegetation management in the Goulburn Broken

Catchment and understands the general nature of the Consultation Draft. The GBCMA is updating its Biodiversity Strategy and can provide a Draft upon request.

The Consultation Draft identifies the majority of issues associated with the inherent complexity in native vegetation management. At such a high level, the draft framework has limited application especially for states and catchments that are more advanced in native vegetation management. The role of the document in improving broad and consistent outcomes at a national level is however welcomed.

Regarding the issue of lack of data, we agree there is a need to acknowledge that there must be an increase in our knowledge base (benchmarks) upon which to set targets. Nevertheless this should be tempered with the need to get on with the job, including the setting of targets to provide direction. All States and Territories need to achieve a minimum standard of vegetation mapping. In addition, tracking of native vegetation clearing and offsets is critical. Mapping projects should be developed in conjunction with developing methods sensitive enough to detect change in biodiversity condition. The GBCMA’s Biodiversity Program is working collaboratively with the University of

Melbourne, the Landscape Logic CERF Hub and others to address this issue through an adaptive management research project.

Given the complexities of natural ecosystems, it remains difficult to set catchment-scale (or state / national) targets with certainty that they will lead to the achievement of a broader vision. The

GBCMA acknowledges the difficulty in communicating uncertainties inherent in most targets and the distraction that a fixation on counting precise progress towards these uncertain targets can cause.

However, the GBCMA believes that targets play a very useful role, despite the level of uncertainty and precise benchmark information. An effort in creating different tools, including measures, for communicating progress to different audiences is needed. The GBCMA sees targets as highly valuable because they help to:

 quantify the current understanding of the type, amount and distribution of biodiversity assets that need to be conserved to achieve the vision

 communicate the large scale of on-ground change needed. The target amount may not be precise, but the scale of the target is more certain, and more important.

 provide a reference point to aim towards. In doing so they create a common sense of purpose and direction at all scales (from catchment to paddock).

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 convey that individual actions have impacts at a catchment scale. For example, a two hectare revegetation project has positive impacts at the property scale while also contributing to the catchment/state/federal scale targets and outcomes. develop key research questions. This research helps us to improve our understanding of the Biodiversity Outcomes that we are after, and the actions required to achieve these. satisfy the needs of important external stakeholders (including government investors) improve decision-making.

National Measurable Targets

Strategic targets, identified at a range of scales would be meaningful in determining change for the types of vegetation that we want extended / improved and why, e.g. to increase landscape connectivity, function and resilience. Having national targets to increase native vegetation extent and condition is of little value unless each state is responsible for increases in appropriate areas, e.g. under-represented vegetation types and where efforts to build resilience are most needed. The

GBCMA acknowledges that extreme care is needed when introducing new targets because having a target generates the requirement for a report on progress and this comes at a cost.

Suggestions for each of the stated goals

Goal 1: Increase the national extent of native vegetation to build ecosystem resilience and improve the productive capacity of the landscape.

All states and territories to have mapped native vegetation extent 1750 and current to the

 level of Broad Vegetation Types (BVT) (at a finer scale than Major Vegetation Groups) and

Ecological Vegetation Classes (EVC) (as called in Victoria).

All states and Territories have mapped native vegetation in terms of its landscape context

(proximity to other native vegetation at a landscape scale).

All States and Territories have a native vegetation tracking system, where all losses due to statutory planning clearance, and location of offsets, are mapped and statistics from the system are meaningful and easily accessible.

By 2015 the extent of native vegetation is maintained to 2005 levels (net gain).

By 2015 there is an increase of 5% in the extent of each EVC that is <30% extant.

By 2015 all States and Territories have identified priority areas for the protection and enhancement of biodiversity values (e.g. biosites) that build resilience into the landscape.

By 2015 all states and territories have, in order of priority, ‘avoid, minimise, offset’ as the basic tenet of strategic and statutory planning.

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Goal 2: Maintain and improve the condition of native vegetation

By 2015 all states and territories have a vegetation condition map of extant native vegetation.

By 2015 the quality of native vegetation within the National Reserve System has increased

 by 10%.

By 2015 the condition of 90% of extant native vegetation outside the National Reserve

System has been improved by 10%. (The GBCMA has a target of ‘improving 90% of existing native vegetation by 10% by 2030’, although the needs will vary at a national level).

By 2015 there will be an increase in the National Reserve System of 5% of native vegetation, of which 2% will be EVCs under high threat (e.g. Victorian Volcanic Plains grasslands).

By 2015 key areas that act as refugia to reduce the threat of climate change are identified.

Goal 3: Maximise the native vegetation benefits of carbon markets

By 2015 all states and territories will have mapped areas where monoculture plantings for carbon sequestration are not appropriate (where there are perverse outcomes for biodiversity) and these principles and maps are embedded in planning processes.

By 2015 national standards have been developed for accreditation and reporting of schemes that promote biodiverse native vegetation outcomes along with carbon sequestration and other environmental benefits.

By 2015 all native vegetation plans, policies and programs will be designed to maximise native vegetation condition outcomes (not negatively impact on existing biodiversity values) of carbon market opportunities.

Goal 4: Build capacity to understand, value and effectively manage native vegetation by all relevant stakeholders.

It may be better to look at outcomes rather than attitudes and understanding for this goal as attitude change does not always equate to behavioural changes ‘on the ground.’ Capacity will be reflected in the relative amount of funding available to native vegetation management, which reflect societal attitudes, understanding and values.

There is an ongoing need to use and improve methods for economic valuation of native vegetation conservation so that continued and increased government intervention can be justified (to address market failure associated with public goods).

Other measures may include:

By 2015 all states and territories will have a covenant program.

By 2015 all states and territories will have incentive schemes for the protection and enhancement of native vegetation.

By 2015 there will be an increase of 5% of landowners in the uptake of conservation covenants compared to 2010 levels.

By 2015 there will be an increase of 10% in the amount of native vegetation enhanced through government incentive schemes compared to 2010 levels.

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By 2015 there will be an increase of 20% in the amount of native vegetation enhanced through both private landholder contributions and corporate investment compared to 2010 levels.

By 2015 there is at least an increase of 5%, compared to 2010 levels, in commonwealth budgets given to research in the best ways to manage native vegetation at local, landscape and regional scales and identify knowledge gaps.

By 2015 there is at least an increase of 10%, compared to 2010 levels, in commonwealth budgets given to on-ground native vegetation management.

Goal 5: Progress the engagement and inclusion of indigenous peoples in management of native vegetation

By 2015 Indigenous management practices are identified and considered in 50% of all

 national reserve management plans.

By 2015 Indigenous people are equally represented in land management agencies in proportion to the population.

By 2015 cultural heritage is incorporated into 50% of native vegetation management programs.

3.2 Actions

Action 9: dot point 2, linking may be a better term as we will not always want to ‘connect’ which implies continuous vegetation.

Action 13: Offsets should result in an increase in vegetation extent and condition and be strategic to enhance existing vegetation and biodiversity values.

Specific comments

Pages 16-17: It is difficult to interpret Figure 2 in terms of areas that have been cleared. Perhaps it would be better to have cleared areas in red or contrasting colour. It would be easier to interpret figure 3 if the Major Vegetation Groups were in the same order and same colour as the figures 1 and

2. In future, it may be useful to incorporate condition of each MVG.

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