SDG 14 - Life Below Water

SDG 14 - Life Below Water

Below are all Australian news items from all ESG Snapshot issues that are relevant to SDG 14 (life below water), listed with most recent items appearing first.

Issue 50, 1 July 2024

A Water Ministerial Council has convened for the first time in 20 years, with ministers agreeing to reinvigorate the 2004 National Water Initiative, which has long been Australia’s blueprint for sustainable water resource management. 

Ministers noted the Productivity Commission's 2024 final report on water reform (below) identified an urgent need to renew the National Water Initiative. 

The Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council also met on Friday, discussing mattersincluding water market reform. 

The Productivity Commission has released its final report on water reform, which recommends an overhaul of the National Water Initiative so it better addresses climate change and changing water demand, and strengthens commitments to protect the interests and values of First Nations peoples.

"Attention needs to be paid to the water planning and modelling aspect of climate change management to ensure Australia will have sufficient water to achieve its net zero transition," the report adds.

Meanwhile, DCCEEW has released a new framework that is designed to assess the water security status of towns and cities.

UNESCO has released its latest draft decision on the state of conservation of the Great Barrier Reef.

The draft decision requests Australia to report back to the Committee in 2025, with an update on progress on actions to protect and manage the Reef. It also requests that Australia to provide a state of conservation report by 1 February 2026, for consideration at the World Heritage Committee's 48th session in 2026.

Issue 46, 3 June 2024

A House of Representatives committee inquiry into plastic pollution in oceans and waterways has recommended the development of an updated National Plastics Plan in its final report.

It also recommends that a parliamentary committee next year conduct an inquiry into waste to energy, noting that "the Committee received some evidence suggesting that waste to energy technologies could be a solution for tackling plastic pollution". 

"There was a divergence of views, with support from the waste industry and concern expressed by other groups," the report says. 

In addition, it says the Environment Ministers meeting should urgently initiate the development of a national microplastic reduction strategy that would strengthen regulation with the aim of stopping microplastics entering the marine environment.

DCCEEW should also investigate whether to make mandatory some of the 2025 National Packaging Targets, the report says.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek, in conjunction with the Queensland government, has released the Reef water quality 2021 and 2022 report card

There was very poor progress towards the dissolved inorganic nitrogen target (0.7%) and poor progress towards the sediment target (0.8%) across the Great Barrier Reef catchments in 2021 and 2022.

Results show there was very good progress towards the particulate phosphorus target and moderate progress towards the particulate nitrogen target across the Great Barrier Reef catchments in 2021 and 2022.

The Queensland government will introduce a legislative ban on carbon capture and storage in the Great Artesian Basin in the state. The ban will also extend to oil or petroleum recovery activities that propose injecting CO2 to enhance oil and gas recovery.

Issue 43, 13 May 2024

The federal government is providing $3.5 million to help support and expand the Great Barrier Reef Catchment Loads Monitoring Program, which has operated since 2006.

Six organisations will share grants totalling $4.38 million to support sugarcane growers to implement improved management practices improve the quality of water flowing to the Great Barrier Reef.

The six organisations include Sugar Research Australia Ltd, Innisfail District Cane Growers Organisation Ltd, and Tully Cane Productivity Services Ltd.

Issue 42, 6 May 2024

A group of 14 Australian and international marine and climate scientists has written to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese describing the extent of bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, and saying Australia's new national nature protection laws must be delivered before the end of this term. 

"They must include a clear requirement to assess whether projects will cause more climate harm for nature as part of the assessment process," the letter says.

More than half of the branded plastic pollution found in the environment is linked to 56 companies, according to a new study by CSIRO and 12 other international organisations.

The top brands globally were: The Coca-Cola Company, linked to 11% of branded items, followed by PepsiCo (5%), Nestlé (3%), and Danone (3%). 

Issue 39, 15 April 2024

New research from CSIRO and the University of Toronto in Canada, estimates up to 11 million tonnes of plastic pollution is sitting on the ocean floor.

Issue 35, 18 March 2024

The Queensland government is reviewing the Gulf Water Plan, with an initial round of consultation open until 17 July. The Gulf Water Plan area covers 317,048 square kilometres in far North-West Queensland.

The review will identify the best ways to allocate and manage water within the Gulf water plan catchments, and will examine ways to unlock more water for agriculture and critical minerals.

Issue 33, 26 February 2024

A company has lodged an EPBC referral for a blue carbon project in the Northern Territory, which will be used as a research pilot for proposed other projects in the Gulf of Carpentaria. 

Verity Nature Pty Ltd's project will follow requirements of the international VERRA method for restoring tidal wetland and seagrass.

Verity Nature was founded by Duncan Van Der Merwe, a former managing director of Tellus Holdings Pty Ltd, and scientist Richard Phillips.

Issue 32, 19 February 2024

GeoNadir and the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN) have completed a project to make all TERN's current and future Australian drone-mapping data available on the GeoNadir global map.

TERN is Australia's national ecosystem observatory and has over 1,000 sites around Australia where drones are used to capture changes in vegetation and landscape characteristics. GeoNadir is a data repository allowing users to search, access, visualise, analyse, and share drone data.

"TERN is leading the way here for ensuring that drone Earth observation data collected using public funds are disseminated widely," said GeoNadir co-founder Dr Karen Joyce. 

The federal government has awarded a total of $8 million to projects delivering innovative solutions for lower-cost biodiversity monitoring. Grant recipients include CSIRO and WWF.

Grant opportunity - Reef water quality and natural capital. The state government is offering a total of $5.5 million for projects aimed at improving water quality in reef catchments.

Individual grants of up to $2.5 million, or possibly more, will be considered. Applications close on 30 April.

An additional notional allocation of up to $750,000 is potentially available for applications that demonstrate a capacity to undertake natural capital projects.

Grant guidelines define natural capital projects as those that use carbon and environmental markets, or such things as impact funds or natural capital accounting, to help connect private capital to the restoration or protection of natural assets.

Issue 31, 12 February 2024

New consultation - Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan. The federal and Queensland governments are seeking survey responses by 16 February.

New consultation - Murray Darling Basin. Comments are invited by 4 March on the draft framework for delivering the 450GL of additional environmental water.

Statutory development - seabed mining ban. The state government has introduced an Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Sea Bed Mining and Exploration) Bill, which would ban offshore mineral and petroleum mining, as well as associated activities, in the state's coastal waters.

Issue 30, 5 February 2024

Melbourne Water has lodged an EPBC referral for a proposal to add six hectares of constructed wetland to an existing wetland to compensate for the loss of habitat arising from the previous development of the Eastern Treatment Plant solar farm.

Issue 27, 15 January 2024

The Queensland government will strengthen protections for the rivers and floodplains of the Lake Eyre Basin by:

  • protecting more areas in the region through better mapping sensitive and fragile rivers and floodplains,
  • maintaining existing conventional production in those rivers and floodplains, but preventing future oil and gas production in those areas as well as ruling out unconventional gas extraction,
  • better recognising and conserving the special ecological features that make the region a global icon, such as braided channel networks and wildlife corridors, and unique species, and
  • working with First Nations Traditional Custodians to ensure their Country and cultural values are better protected, that their priorities and aspirations are supported.

The Queensland Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water has released a report on the state's water plans in a variable and changing climate.

The Victorian government has released the Port Phillip Bay Coastal Hazard Assessment, which examines and maps the likely extent of flooding, erosion, and groundwater change over the coming decades.

Issue 26, 8 January 2024

The water trigger for assessment under the EPBC Act has been expanded to require independent, scientific consideration of likely significant impacts on water resources for all types of unconventional gas, not just coal seam gas.

The change resulted from negotiations between the government and the Greens over the Nature Repair Market Bill.

Issue 25, 18 December 2023

At COP28, Australia became a signatory to a new Joint declaration on ocean and climate action, pledging to consider ocean-based action in its national climate goals, and to develop a Sustainable Ocean Plan.

Other signatories include the US, the UK, France, Indonesia, and Fiji.

Australia also endorsed the Mangrove Breakthrough, which aims to secure the future of more than 15 million hectares of mangroves globally by 2030, underpinned by US$4 billion of sustainable finance.

Consultation opportunity. The Queensland government is inviting survey responses by 2 February to a review of the Reef Water Quality Improvement Plan.

Issue 24, 11 December 2023

New consultation opportunity. The federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry is surveying shipping operators about maritime recycling waste management arrangements, with responses due by 1 April.

Issue 23, 4 December 2023

Statutory development. The Senate has passed the Water Amendment (Restoring our Rivers) Bill 2023, with amendments.

Issue 22, 27 November 2023

A new Reef Trust Water Quality Achievements report says Reef Trust investments have stopped 140,000 tonnes of fine sediment and 550,000 kilograms of dissolved inorganic nitrogen from entering the Reef since 2014.

Issue 20, 13 November 2023

A Senate Committee has released its report on the government's Water Amendment (Restoring our Rivers) Bill, with Labor senators calling for its passage with amendments.

Coalition senators opposed passage of the Bill, the Greens said the Bill should not be passed in its current form, and Senator Lidia Thorpe also called for amendments.

A Senate committee inquiring into climate change-related marine invasive species has unanimously recommended that the federal government develop a fishery for native sea urchins, known as Centro, which are becoming invasive in some areas due to climate change.

In additional comments, the Coalition said that "Australia’s fishing and broader marine industries have been exposed to a perfect storm of pressures", by the government.

"These have included the spread of marine seismic surveys, carbon storage, bans on different kinds of fishing and netting, and offshore wind farms," the Coalition said.

Issue 14, 25 September 2023

Australia has become a founding signatory to the High Seas Biodiversity Treaty, which is designed to strengthen protections for the ocean under the framework of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Signing of the treaty is a precursor to ratification.

The Queensland government has awarded Palladium and GreenCollar contracts to be brokers of Reef credits, which are earned by reducing dissolved nitrogen or fine sediment in Reef catchment waters.

The two organisations will help establish projects to generate Reef credits, and will also work to secure potential buyers of the credits.

Palladium will work with Griffith University on projects that rehabilitate eroded gullies on grazing properties. GreenCollar will work with a range of delivery partners and landholders.

Issue 13, 18 September 2023

The federal government has appointed Peter Harris AO to undertake an independent review into the Inspector-General for Water Compliance, which is responsible for water compliance in the Murray–Darling Basin.

Consultation opportunity. A Senate committee inquiry into the government's Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Bill is accepting submissions until 29 September.

Issue 11, 4 September 2023

The Office of the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer has released the findings of its independent review into the 2023 mass fish deaths in the Darling-Baaka River at Menindee, finding that further mass fish deaths are likely due to poor regulation and climate change.

Issue 9, 21 August 2023

Transcript is now available from an 11 August hearing of a Senate committee inquiry into plastic pollution of oceans and waterways.

Issue 8, 14 August 2023

Consultation opportunity. The federal government is seeking comments by 21 September on whether to ratify a new high seas biodiversity treaty that was adopted by the United Nations on 19 June 2023. The treaty deals with marine genetic resources, area-based management tools in the high seas, environmental impact assessments, and capacity building.

Issue 3, 10 July 2023

Transcript is now available of recent public hearings convened by the Senate committee inquiry into plastic pollution in oceans and waterways.

The SA EPA has released an Aquatic Ecosystem Conditions Report for the Southern Spencer Gulf marine ecosystem.

The Marine Stewardship Council has recertified Western Australia's pearling industry under its sustainability standard. The MSC first certified the pearling industry in 2017.

Issue 2, 3 July 2023

The Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development has released information guidelines on uncertainty analysis for groundwater modelling.

Issue 1, 26 June 2023

The Nature Repair Market Bill has passed the Legislative Assembly, with amendments, and is now in the Senate.

ESG Snapshot, 20 June 2023 (test issue)

Debate has started in the House of Representatives on the Nature Repair Market Bill.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has released its Roadmap to the 2026 Basin Plan Review.

Consultation opportunity
The Queensland government is seeking views on options to better protect the Queensland section of the Lake Eyre Basin, with comments due by 25 August.

The South Australian Budget provides funding to establish BioData SA, which will overhaul data held by the state and guide decision-making on biodiversity protection and restoration programs.

The Northern Territory government has released the first whole-of-government strategic plan for water.