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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

25 October 2002

Lake Eyre Basin Agreement may be Extended to Include NSW - NT

New South Wales and the Northern Territory have been invited at Birdsville to become signatories to the Lake Eyre Basin Agreement by the existing signatories - the Commonwealth, Queensland and South Australia.

Environment and Heritage Minister David Kemp said the invitations reflect the fact that the Basin, the largest internally draining river system in the world, covering 1.2 million square kilometres, reached into each of the three States, the Territory, and the Commonwealth and "deserved the engagement of all governments."

The Basin covers almost one sixth of Australia and extends from Camooweal in Queensland in the North, to south of Port Augusta in South Australia, from east of Longreach in Queensland to Alice Springs in the NT in the West. The New South Wales town of Tibooburra, and the major mining centre of Broken Hill, are just outside the boundaries of the Basin.

Almost half the 57,000 population of the basin live at Alice Springs.

Dr Kemp said he hoped both governments would accept the invitation.

"This Basin represents a vast area of the nation, and it deserves the commitment of all relevant governments to protect its unique values - both as an important grazing and mining province, and reflected in its many great natural wonders which obviously include Lake Eyre itself, the Coongie Lakes, and many of Australia's unique plants and animals," Dr Kemp said.

"I welcome the interest of the New South Wales and Northern Territory governments, and hope that they join the existing signatories in the challenging task of protecting the sustainability of both the environment and production across this large and iconic section of our country."

Dr Kemp made his comments at the Lake Eyre Basin Ministerial Forum meeting in Birdsville today, which he chaired and which was held in conjunction with a meeting of the community based Lake Eyre Basin Conference.

Queensland was represented at the Ministerial Forum by Natural Resources and Mines Minister Stephen Robertson and SA by Environment Minister John Hill.

The meeting, the second since the Agreement was signed in 2000, also agreed to enhance scientific advice to the forum, to reconstitute a community advisory group, and to an increased engagement of indigenous people and issues.

The Ministers also requested the Forum's Scientific Advisory Panel established under the agreement examine the river-health implications of current land and vegetation management practices in the upper catchment area.

Media contact:
Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia