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New South Wales State of the Environment
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Letter from the SoE Advisory Council

Dear Minister

The State of the Environment Advisory Council provided governance of the process of preparing New South Wales State of the Environment 2009. As the report has now been finalised, we are pleased to be able to provide you with our views on the preparation of SoE 2009 and the key messages.

We have found that the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water has again been thorough in the collation of data and information to prepare a report that is both objective and sincere on the current state of the environment in NSW. A number of structural and process changes were made to the SoE for this report. We wholeheartedly support the approach taken to align the indicators in the SoE Report with those from NSW State Plan 2006. This approach has helped to improve consistency in Government reporting where common data and interpretation has been used.

In particular we would like to acknowledge the improvement of data and information in the Land, Water and Biodiversity chapters as an outcome of the implementation of the Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Strategy for the 13 natural resource management targets in Priority E4 of State Plan 2006. While some information gaps still exist for reporting on these indicators, the alignment provides a solid foundation that will enable these gaps to be filled in future years.

We also note that this is the first NSW SoE Report to include a specific chapter on climate change. With projected effects of global warming to include changing rainfall patterns, increased evaporation and rising sea levels, this chapter stresses the importance of NSW continuing to be part of the collaborative effort of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while also preparing to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

It is pleasing to note the improvements of a number of environmental areas over the SoE reporting period. Those of particular significance include maintaining a high level of air quality in metropolitan areas, further increases in kerbside waste recycling, and the continued decrease in per capita urban water consumption. Increased use of recycled water has further reduced pressure on fresh water demand, conserving precious supplies already depleted due to the ongoing drought. We also note that despite the drought, progress has been made in providing water for the environment in rural NSW through water licence purchases.

We acknowledge the improvements in the management of native vegetation, including a reduction in approved native vegetation clearing as a result of the Native Vegetation Act 2003 coming into effect in 2005. As an issue of some concern in SoE 2006, we applaud the progress made in this area. The increase in land protected for Aboriginal cultural values is also a welcome improvement since the last report.

There are, however, some areas still in need of improvement. Invasive species, such as foxes and weeds, continue to have an impact on native flora and fauna across NSW and in particular threatened species. Corresponding with this risk, there has also been an increase in the listing of both populations and communities under the threatened species legislation.

The advisory council would like to highlight as an area requiring attention the continued growth of the ecological footprint for NSW and the risks of this continued growth on the environment. Improved energy efficiency is a key to controlling ecological footprint growth and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Responding to environmental issues and pressures clearly requires cooperative endeavour by the government and business sectors and the community. We note the important role of NSW Catchment Management Authorities in natural resource management and their evident contribution to the state of the environment through effective collaboration and monitoring of environment condition.

The advisory council wishes to thank you for the opportunity to participate and add value to the preparation of SoE 2009 and we commend the NSW Government for continuing to undertake state of the environment reporting of a high quality in NSW.

Yours sincerely

Tony Wright
NSW State of the Environment Advisory Council

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