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4613.0 - Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends, 2003  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 31/07/2003   
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MEDIA RELEASE

July 31, 2003
Embargoed: 11:30 AM (AEST)
78/2003

ABS releases latest environmental snapshot

The latest snapshot of Australia's environment released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today shows that there are many pressures on the environment but steps are being taken by individuals, industries and the government to reduce and manage impacts.

Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends (cat. no. 4613.0) contains a range of statistics collected by the ABS and other sources presented in a format that is easy to read and understand.

Statistics contained in the compendium include:

The decade of Landcare
  • Awareness of Landcare has increased from 20% to 70% between 1991 and 1997 (p. 45);
  • Participation in Landcare increased from 164,000 people in 1998 to 220,000 in 2001(p. 48);
  • People are implementing Landcare strategies -e.g. planting trees (153,000 hectares in 2000), protecting native vegetation and rivers, creeks and streams from grazing (49,000 km of fencing built in 2000) and are using more water efficient irrigation methods (pp. 36, 49 and 50);
  • The agricultural industry spent $221 million on protecting the environment in 1999-2000 (p. 52); however
  • Concern about land degradation declined from 15.3% to 10.2% between 1992 and 1999.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
  • The main GM crops grown in the world are soya beans, canola, corn and cotton (pp. 40, 41);
  • Internationally, there were approximately 44 million hectares of GM crops planted in 2000 (p. 40);
  • In Australia, it was estimated that 220,000 hectares of GM cotton were grown in 2001-02 (p. 44); and
  • There were 112 field trials involving GMOs in Australia in 1999 (p. 43).

Forests
  • Australia has 164 million hectares of forest (p. 60);
  • 12% of Australia's forests are in conservation reserves (p. 64);
  • Regional Forest Agreements have added one million hectares of old growth forests to the conservation reserves (p. 90);
  • Approximately $5.9 billion was contributed to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by the forest and wood and paper product manufacturing industries in 1999-2000 (p. 84);
  • Almost 78,000 people were employed in the forest and wood and paper product manufacturing industries in 1999-2000 (p. 84); and
  • Plantations are increasing in importance -they make-up less than 1% of forest area but supply more 50% of wood (p. 65)

Mining and the environment
  • Mining contributes 4% to GDP, accounts for approximately 40% of Australia's exports and provides jobs for over 60,000 people (pp. 101, 105 and 106);
  • Australia has the largest identified reserves of bauxite, lead, nickel, tantalum, mineral sands, zinc and uranium (p. 99);
  • The rate of discovering of new mineral resources is keeping pace with production (pp. 108 and 162); and
  • Over $390 million was spent on environmental protection by the mining industry in 2000-01 (p. 120).

Wastes
  • Australia is in the top 10 solid waste generators in the OECD (p. 141);
  • Approximately 21 million tonnes of waste was sent to landfills in 1996-97 (p. 141);
  • According to the National Pollutant Industry, 3.24 megatonnes of pollutants entered the environment in 1999-2000 (p. 139);
  • Nearly $6 billion was spent by industry, governments and the public on managing waste in 1996-97 (p. 155);
  • Many households disposed of hazardous wastes inappropriately - e.g. 93% of household batteries were put into household garbage bins as were 71% of garden chemicals (p. 142);
  • More than 80% of households recycled paper and glass in 2000 (p. 151); and
  • Australia had approximately 3,200 cubic metres of low-level and short-lived intermediate radio active wastes in 2001 (p. 146).

Further details are in Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends (cat. no. 4613.0).


AUSTRALIA'S ENVIRONMENT: ISSUES AND TRENDS - NEW SOUTH WALES

Household environmental practices:
  • NSW had the highest number of people (181,000) reporting to be members of environmental organisations in any state or territory in 2001 (p. 49); and
  • More than one-third (34%) of households used unbleached paper and almost half (48%) used recycled paper in 2001 (p.149).

Environment protection expenditure:
  • Combined, the local governments of NSW spent $893 million on environment protection expenditure in 1999-2000 (p. 155); and
  • The manufacturing industry in NSW spent $212 million on environmental protection expenditure in 2000-01 (p. 6).

Water:
  • NSW, combined with the ACT had the highest net water consumption of any state or territory (8,716,000 megalitres) with 7,181,000 megalitres or 82% being used in agriculture in 1997 (p. 35).*

Forests:
  • One-third (26.7 million hectares) of the state was covered by forest in 2001 (p. 60);
  • 4.9 million hectares or 18% of the state's forests was in conservation reserves in 2002 (p. 64); and
  • On average NSW cleared 30,000 hectares annually between 1996 - 1999, the second highest of any state or territory (p. 37).

Agriculture:
  • NSW had 24.7 million hectares of sodic soils, estimated to cost the agricultural industry $280 million in 2000 (p. 39);
  • In the year 2000, NSW had 4.1 million hectares of acidic soils, estimated to cost the agricultural industry $379 million (p. 39); and
  • NSW had 89,000 hectares of saline soils which was estimated to cost the agricultural industry $6.3 million in 2000 (p. 39).

* Please note more recent figures are scheduled for release later this year.


AUSTRALIA'S ENVIRONMENT: ISSUES AND TRENDS - VICTORIA

Household environmental practices:
  • Victoria had the second highest number of people (164,000) reporting to be members of environmental organisations in any state or territory in 2001 (p. 49); and
  • Victoria had the highest number of people reporting to be members of Landcare or Catchment Management Groups (73,000), and Marine Conservation Groups (20,000) of any state or territory in 2001 (p. 49).

Environmental protection expenditure:
  • Local governments in Victoria spent a combined $342 million on environmental protection expenditure in 1999-2000 (p. 155).

Water:
  • Victoria had the second highest net water consumption of any state or territory (6,687,000 megalitres) and agriculture accounted for 61% of this in 1997 (p. 35)*.

Forests:
  • One-third or 7.7 million hectares of the state was covered by forest in 2001 (p. 60);
  • 3 million hectares or 39% of the state's forests were in nature conservation reserves in 2002, the second highest proportion of any state or territory (p. 64); and
  • On average Victoria cleared 2,450 hectares annually between 1996 - 1999 (p. 37).

Agriculture:
  • In Victoria, sodic and acidic soils cost agriculture $343 million and $471 million respectively in the year 2000, the highest cost of any state or territory (p. 39).

Mining:
  • Victoria had 38 historical mining sites listed on the Register of the National Estate in 2001, the most of any state or territory (p. 107).

Waste:
  • Almost one-quarter (5 million tonnes or 24%) of all waste in Australia was received and disposed of in Victorian land fills in 1996-97, making Victoria the second highest disposer of solid waste of any state or territory (p. 141).

* Please note more recent figures are scheduled for release later this year.


AUSTRALIA'S ENVIRONMENT: ISSUES AND TRENDS - QUEENSLAND

Household environmental practices:
  • In 2001, 97,000 people reported themselves to be members of environmental organisations in 2001, including 31,000 who were members of a Landcare or Catchment Management Group (p. 49);
  • 86% of households recycled plastic bags in 2000, the second highest level of any state or territory (p.151); and
  • 29% of households did not use recycled paper in 2001 (p.149).

Environmental Protection Expenditure:
  • Local governments in Queensland spent $926 million on environment protection expenditure in 1999-2000, the most of any state or territory (p. 155).

Water:
  • Queensland had the highest growth in irrigated land area of any state or territory in 2000 - from 312,000 hectares in 1990 to 548,000 hectares in 2000 (p. 36); and
  • Queensland had a net water consumption of 3,680,000 megalitres, of which agriculture accounted for 2,542,000 megalitres, or 69% of consumption in 1997 (p. 35)*.

Forests:
  • Queensland had 46.2 million hectares, the largest area of forest of any state or territory, and 28% of Australia's total forest area in 2001 (p. 60);
  • Queensland had 9.2 million hectares of forests on private land (the second largest area of any state or territory), 3.9 million hectares of multiple use forests and 28.2 million hectares of forests on leasehold land in 2002, the largest areas for each tenure in Australia (p. 64); and
  • On average Queensland cleared 382,500 hectares annually between 1996 - 1999, more than ten times higher than other states and territories (p. 37).

Agriculture:
  • Queensland had 42.2 and 6.2 million hectares of sodic and acidic soils respectively, the largest areas of any state or territory in 2000. The cost of this to agriculture was $180 million and $233 million - not as severe as either NSW or Victoria which had smaller areas of land affected (p. 39).

Mining:
  • Queensland had 141 mining establishments in 1999-2000, the second highest number of any state or territory (p. 103).

* Please note more recent figures are scheduled for release later this year.


AUSTRALIA'S ENVIRONMENT: ISSUES AND TRENDS - SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Household environmental practices :
  • In South Australia 58,900 people reported themselves as members of environmental organisations in 2001, including 15,500 who were members of Landcare or Catchment Management Groups (p. 49);
  • More than one-third (38.4%) of households did not use refillable containers in 2001, the highest proportion of any state or territory(p.149); and
  • In South Australia, 9.9% of households recycled motor oil in 2000, the lowest proportion of any state or territory (p. 151).

Environmental protection expenditure:
  • Local governments in South Australia spent $115 million on environment protection expenditure in 1999-2000 (p. 155).

Water:
  • South Australia consumed 1,261,000 megalitres of water in 1997, with agriculture accounting for 79% of total consumption (p. 35)*.

Agriculture:
  • South Australia had 7.6 million hectares of sodic soils respectively. The cost of this to agriculture was $126 million (p. 39).

Forests:
  • South Australia had 10.8 million hectares of forest in 2001, the lowest proportion of forested area (11%) of any state or territory (p. 60);
  • 3.9 million hectares or 36% of the state's forests were in conservation reserves in 2002 (p. 64); and
  • On average South Australia cleared 2,088 hectares annually between 1996 - 1999, increasing from 1,370 hectares from 1991-1995 (p. 37).

* Please note more recent figures are scheduled for release later this year.


AUSTRALIA'S ENVIRONMENT: ISSUES AND TRENDS - WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Household environmental practices:
  • In Western Australia 71,300 people reported themselves to be members of environmental organisations in 2001, including 23,000 who were members of a Landcare or Catchment Management Group (p. 49);
  • 44% of households recycled kitchen or food waste in 2000, the lowest proportion of any state or territory (p.151); and
  • More than half (59%) of households did not use organically grown fruit and vegetables and 47.2% did not use unbleached paper in 2001, the highest proportions for Australia (p.149).

Environmental protection expenditure:
  • The local governments of Western Australia spent $127 million on environment protection expenditure in 1999-2000 (p. 155).

Water:
  • Western Australia consumed 1,424,000 megalitres of water, with agriculture accounting for 43% of total consumption in 1997 (p. 35)*.

Forests:
  • Western Australia had 34.8 million hectares of forest in 2001, the third largest area of any state or territory. However, just 14% of the state was forested, the second lowest proportion of any state or territory (p. 60); and
  • On average Western Australia cleared 3,145 hectares annually between 1996 - 1999, a significant decrease from 1991-1995 when the annual clearance rate was 21,150 hectares (p. 37).

Agriculture:
  • Western Australia had 2.2 million hectares of saline soils which cost the agricultural industry $111 million in 2000. This was the largest area of saline soils and the highest cost to agriculture in Australia (p. 39).

Mining:
  • Western Australia had the most mining establishments (184) of any state or territory in 1999-2000 (p. 104); and
  • The mining industry in Western Australia spent $166 million on environmental protection 2000-01, the most of any state or territory (p. 6).

* Please note more recent figures are scheduled for release later this year.



AUSTRALIA'S ENVIRONMENT: ISSUES AND TRENDS - TASMANIA

Household environmental practices:
  • 15,500 Tasmanians reported themselves to be members of environmental organisations in 2001 (p. 49); and
  • Almost one-third (30%) of households used phosphate-free cleaning products and 27% used organically grown fruit and vegetables, the highest proportions of any state or territory, in 2001 (p. 149).

Environmental protection expenditure:
  • Local governments in Tasmania spent a combined $90 million on environment protection in 1999-2000 (p. 155).

Water:
  • Tasmania had the second lowest net water consumption of any state or territory (314,000 megalitres), with agriculture accounting for 36% of consumption in 1997 (p. 35)*.

Forests:
  • Forest covered 3.1 million hectares or 46% of Tasmania in 2001, the second highest proportion of any state or territory (p. 60);
  • Almost one-third (0.9 million hectares or 30%) of the state's forests were in conservation reserves in 2002 (p. 64);
  • On average Tasmania cleared 940 hectares annually between 1996 - 1999, the second lowest level for any state or territory (p. 37);
  • More than two-thirds (67%) of Tasmanian households used firewood in the year 2000, which corresponded to 5.81 tonnes per household per year - the highest proportion and quantity on Australia (p. 72); and
  • Tasmania had the highest proportion (2.7%) of people employed in the forestry sector in 1999-2000. Of the 5,430 employees, 63% were employed in the Wood and Paper Products Manufacturing industry, while 37% were employed in the forestry and logging industry (p. 84).

* Please note more recent figures are scheduled for release later this year.



AUSTRALIA'S ENVIRONMENT: ISSUES AND TRENDS - NORTHERN TERRITORY

Household environmental practices:
  • Households in the Northern Territory recycled the lowest proportion of household items in the year 2000 (p. 151).

Environmental protection expenditure:
  • Local governments in the Northern Territory spent a combined $12 million on environmental protection in 1999-2000, the lowest amount of any state or territory (p. 155).

Water:
  • The Northern Territory had the lowest net water consumption of any state/territory (103,000 megalitres), with agriculture accounting for 8.5% of consumption, the lowest proportion for any state or territory in 1997 (p. 35)*.

Forests:
  • More than one-quarter (34.9 million hectares) of the territory was covered by forest in 2001, the second highest forest area of any state or territory (p. 60);
  • 16.7 million hectares of forests were on private land in 2002, the largest area of any state or territory (p. 64);
  • 46,000 hectares or 0.1% of the state's forests was in conservation reserves in 2002, the lowest proportion of any state or territory;
  • The Northern Territory supported 445,000 hectares of mangroves forest type and has more mangroves than any other state in 2001 (p. 63); and
  • On average the Northern Territory cleared 3,320 hectares annually from 1996-1999 (p. 37).

* Please note more recent figures are scheduled for release later this year.



AUSTRALIA'S ENVIRONMENT: ISSUES AND TRENDS - AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY

Household environmental practices:
  • The ACT had 15,500 people who reported being members of environmental organisations in 2001 (p. 49);
  • More than half (57%) of households used recycled paper, 39% used unbleached paper and 61% refillable containers, the highest proportions of any state or territory in 2001(p. 149);
  • 51.5% of households did not use phosphate-free cleaning products, the highest proportion of any state or territory in 2001 (p. 149); and
  • ACT households recycled the highest proportion of household items such as paper, glass, cans, plastic bottles, plastic bags, motor oil, kitchen or food waste, garden waste, and old clothing or rags in the year 2000 (p. 151).

Forests:
  • Although it had just 121,000 hectares of forest, the smallest area of forested land of all the states and territories in 2001, the ACT had the highest proportion of its area forested (51%) (p. 60);
  • 108,000 hectares or 89% of the state's forests were in conservation reserves in 2002, the highest proportion of any state/territory (p. 64); and
  • No forest was cleared in ACT from 1996-1999, making it the state or territory with the lowest annual clearing rate (p. 37).

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