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Joint Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
&
Peter McGauran
Member for Gippsland

25 October 2001

OVER $3 MILLION NATURAL HERITAGE TRUST FUNDING FOR GIPPSLAND


Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill and Member for Gippsland, Peter McGauran, today announced almost $3.5 million in Natural Heritage Trust funding for 41 Gippsland environment projects.

Senator Hill said the funding supported the Gippsland community in its vital on-ground environmental work to conserve remnant vegetation, native fauna and to improve the health of local waterways.

"This year the Gippsland Lakes are a key target in funding allocations with four specific projects receiving $440,000 in support for works addressing the serious problems of water quality, erosion and biodiversity," Senator Hill said.

"The Gippsland Lakes are suffering from the impact of salinity, algal blooms associated with high nutrient levels and habitat degradation. It is absolutely vital to support projects tackling these issues to ensure we protect this area for future generations.

"Funding will support a range of works including important research through Monash University targeting the incidence of algal blooms. This research will make a considerable contribution to the current understanding of water quality in the Gippsland Lakes and has the potential to alleviate a problem that causes significant environmental degradation."

Other projects to be funded include on-farm work to significantly reduce nutrients reaching the water from the MacAlister Irrigation District, erosion prevention and rehabilitation around the Gippsland Lakes foreshore area, works to rehabilitate Ramsar wetlands subject to salt-water intrusion, and estuarine reach works along the lower end of Mitchell and Tambo Rivers.

Senator Hill said other important work to protect Gippsland waterways and threatened vegetation would be undertaken through the Natural Heritage Trust funding.

"Greening Australia Victoria will use its $100 000 Bushcare funding to improve the biodiversity, land stability and water quality on Gippsland's Strzelecki Ranges, with plans to establish 500 hectares of native vegetation on the region's steep, unstable and remote slopes," Senator Hill said.

"Friends of Nyerimilang will revegetate three endangered rainforest communities in east Gippsland with landholders to be shown the best ways to restore threatened warm temperate and dry rainforest communities. This will not only benefit a number of threatened species but also reduce sediment and phosphorus in the Gippsland Lakes, helping to reduce blue green algae outbreaks."

Member for Gippsland, Peter McGauran, welcomed the Trust funding, saying it would help local residents - from school students to landowners and conservation groups - in their work to protect and restore the environment.

"With $1100 Bushcare funding, students from Paynesville Primary School and a local community group will re-establish a wetland habitat on school grounds. The project will demonstrate revegetation techniques with native species, helping to increase awareness within the local community of the importance of wetland communities.

"Once completed, the wetland will help to conserve the habitat of three key threatened frog species identified by students - the Green and Gold Bell Frog, the Whistling Tree Frog and the Eastern Banjo Frog."

"Other projects being undertaken in and around Gippsland include the establishment of wildlife corridors to protect native species, riverbank revegetation to enhance the health of waterways and priority remnant vegetation protection," Mr McGauran said.

"All these projects will build on the achievements of the past four years in bringing together community groups and governments to tackle environment problems at their source.

"Hundreds of residents in our local area are joining almost 400,000 people volunteering their time and energy to work on Natural Heritage Trust projects throughout Australia.

"In this the International Year of Volunteers I congratulate the groups behind these projects and look forward to seeing work they are doing on the ground.

A list of these projects is available at http://www.nht.gov.au/projects/2001-2002

October 25 2001

Media Contacts:
Belinda Huppatz (Senator Hill) 0419 258364
Peter McGauran 03 51446744

Commonwealth of Australia