The Labor Government announced last week they would be making major changes to the carbon price and would bring forward the start date of an emissions trading scheme to July 1 next year. The decision requires a very large investment:$3.8 billion in budget cuts to fund it. Unfortunately in the cross fire is the Federal Biodiversity Fund.
The Biodiversity Fund was established to support the enhancement and protection of native vegetation to store carbon, enhance biodiversity and build greater environmental resilience across the landscape. The recent announcement saw the unallocated funds of $213m withdrawn.
This is a significant issue for Catchment Management Authorities and Natural Resource Management Groups. Many of these organisations rely heavily on federal funds and across Victoria and New South Wales in particular, have suffered substantial cuts to state funds to add to the pain. The loss of $213 million substantially decreases our capacity in the natural resource management sector to protect key habitat values and given there is always strong matching state funds, it is fair to say we have reduced our investment into native vegetation management somewhere in the order of half a billion dollars.
The cuts also do not bode well for the current unallocated Caring for Our Country funds. These announcements are long overdue and nervous industry wonders if these will form part of the Labor party’s election commitments rather than following the intended process. For the sake of the people who work hard to manage our natural resources, let’s hope we hear some good news in the next few weeks.
Barmah Forest wetlands image from Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority