Climate, land, biodiversity face biggest cuts

Spending on environmental programs will be cut by $130.6 million next financial year - the biggest reduction for any department.

The cuts to the Department of Sustainability and Environment reflect some programs introduced after the Bushfire Royal Commission have finished, but also that climate change programs are being wound back as the national carbon price starts on July 1.

Less will be spent on water and land management, biodiversity and environmental protection. There was new spending on water including more than $100 million over four years to improve river and wetland health and $50 million to study water resources.

”The Coalition government understands the community are often the best ambassadors when it comes to health of their local waterways, so it makes sense to get community members involved,” Environment Minister Ryan Smith said.

Further savings will come through cuts to use of contractors, stocks and materials, staff training and development and unspecified grants programs.

A spokeswoman for Mr Smith said the fall in funding was due to several factors - programs finishing, flooding causing delays on some projects and climate schemes being dropped to avoid duplication with federal policies.

Opposition environment spokeswoman Lisa Neville said the cuts were evidence the government had ”abandoned its responsibilities to enhance and protect Victoria’s environment”.

“This puts paid to the claim by Environment Minister Ryan Smith there will be no impact to frontline services,” she said.

She said the reduction in spending on environmental policy and climate change - down by more than a third to $37 million - followed the government abandoning its commitment to the state target of a 20 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and ending the $106 million Climate Communities Fund.

Environment Victoria campaigns manager Mark Wakeham said the budget was ”deeply disappointing”, noting Treasurer Kim Wells had mentioned ”cleaner coal” in his budget speech but not climate change.

In what critics said was indicative of the government’s stance, the budget noted that a farming-related program called Sustainable Practice Change has had the word sustainable removed from its title.

The papers said it reflected the ”changing emphasis of departmental objectives”.

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