The Northern Territory Government missed the chance yesterday to deliver Australia’s first climate change budget when Treasurer Delia Lawrie handed down her first budget in Parliament.

Environment spending from the Department Natural Resources Environment and the Arts (NREATA) declined again in real terms, delivering a significant cut in the inflation adjusted environment budget. Clearly the need to mitigate the effects of climate change on the environment through effective conservation management has not yet been recognised by the Territory Government.

Output Group 2006-7 Budget Estimate 2007-8 Budget Estimate 2008-9 Budget
Parks and Reserves $35,054,000 $33,033,000 $34,117,000
Natural Resources $48,576,000 $48,642,000 $46,066,000
Environment and Sustainability (Formerly: Env Protection) $6,035,000 $5,937,000 $7,588,000
EPA (Assessments formerly included in Env Protection) $0 $251,000 $783,000
Climate Change (Dept Chief Minister) $0 $0 $200,000
Total Environment Budget $89,665,000 $87,863,000 $88,754,000
Territory Budget $3,100,000,000 $3,700,000,000 $3,800,000,000
% of Environment Funding in Territory Budget 0.0289 0.0237 0.0234

This reduction in environment spending comes against a record $3.85 billion dollar budget and a growth rate predicted at 6.5% to 7%. The Treasurer proudly announced a tripling of the roads budget since 2001 with a record $271m to be spent in 2008-9, more than three times the environment budget.*

There were some highlights; such as the $11 million for renewable energy for remote communities (included in the infrastructure budget), $100,000 to reduce water use in Darwin and Alice Springs, $5 million to support business and households to reduce energy consumption, $830,000 for targeted Indigenous ranger programs and $870,000 for the new Environment Protection Authority.

Unfortunately, the scale of these initiatives is unlikely to allow us to address our environmental challenges let alone dent the ever increasing greenhouse gas emissions from the Territory as we continue business as usual.

Maybe next year (sigh).

* As detailed in the NREATA budget paper on conservation specific items as seen in graph.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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