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Joint Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp
&
Acting Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Senator Ian Macdonald
&
South Australian Minister for Environment and Conservation
John Hill

South Australian Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries
Paul Holloway

3 September 2003

$49.3 Million for Environmental Action in SA's Upper South East


More than $49.3 million will be invested into salinity and flood management work in South Australia's Upper South East region, funded under the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality and from landholder contributions.

Acting Federal Agriculture Minister, Senator Ian Macdonald, Federal Environment Minister, Dr David Kemp, South Australian Environment and Conservation Minister, John Hill, and South Australian Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Minister, Paul Holloway, today announced the funding under the Plan's Upper South East Dryland Salinity and Flood Management Program.

Senator Macdonald said dryland salinity has had a significant impact on agricultural production in the Upper South East region, which is known for its large-scale sheep and beef cattle properties, cereal crop and pasture seed production.

"Dryland salinity reduces the value of production in the Upper South East region by around $36 million each year," he said.

"In 2001, the National Land and Water Resources Audit identified the Upper South East region as the largest, most severe and most costly example of dryland salinity in South Australia.

"This was caused by large-scale native vegetation clearing in the 1950s, then destruction of lucerne crops in the 1970s, followed by massive flooding in 1981 that caused a rapid rise in the underlying saline water table.

"Investing in the Upper South East Dryland Salinity and Flood Management Program will greatly contribute to the goals of the National Action Plan as it provides incentives to encourage significant changes in land use and management practices."

Senator Macdonald said these incentives included:

Dr Kemp said the funding combined cash contributions from the Australian and State Governments as well as an $11 million in-kind or cash contribution from landholders.

"This is a great example of governments joining forces with the community to address natural resources and environmental issues," he said.

"Proposed activities under the Upper South East Program will help the local community combat the impacts of dryland salinity and waterlogging on internationally significant wetlands and remnant vegetation in the region.

"These include the Coorong National Park, Tilley Swamp, Morella Basin, Gum Lagoon, Morambro Creek, Mt Charles wetlands complex, Bakers Range Watercourse, Willalooka Wetlands, Higgins Lagoon and the Deep Swamp wetland complex.

"These wetland habitats support a range of freshwater vertebrate and invertebrate species and flora which are threatened by wetland degradation through changing salinity levels, permanent inundation and the presence of stock.

"In particular, increasing salinity may have a significant impact on at least 79 waterbird species, including 20 migratory waterbirds. These include the grey teal, the Australian shelduck, the hoary-headed grebe, the Australian pelican, the crested tern, the silver gull, curlew sandpipers, sharp-tailed sandpipers and red-necked stints."

The Upper South East Program was developed in the 1990s to address community concerns about dryland salinity, waterlogging and ecosystem fragmentation and degradation. The affected area is loosely bordered by Salt Creek to the North, Keith and Padthaway to the east, and Lucindale and Kingston SE to the south and west. It also includes sections of the Lacepede-Tatiara, Kingston and Naracoorte/Lucindale council areas.

Measures used to address the concerns since the program began in 1996 include a combination of drainage, saltland agronomy, revegetation and wetland management with Australian Government funding from the National Landcare Program and the Natural Heritage Trust. The Australian and State Government have each previously invested $9 million in the program with a landholder contribution of $6 million dollars.

Mr Hill said the latest funding extended the program until 2008, enabling completion of the drainage system, establishment of an environmental management system for the drains and wetlands, and an environmental enhancement and sustainable production program. To date, 255 km of drains have been completed, 6,560ha of native vegetation fenced and 2,650 ha of wetland protected.

"Today's funding will allow a further 350km of additional salt interception drainage works, and improved management of 64,000 ha of remnant vegetation and wetland habitat," he said.

"Work will also focus on the Coorong's southern lagoon and the ephemeral lakes which have a unique environment and are significant water and shorebird habitats - ensuring the long-term protection of all these eco-systems will be a valuable outcome."

Mr Holloway said the program allowed landholders to participate and contribute by making in-kind biodiversity contributions instead of facing a cash levy towards the cost.

"Landholders will be able to make environmental offsets such as protecting and enhancing areas of native vegetation and setting aside vegetation corridors, fencing and weed and feral animal control," he said.

"We will be happy to negotiate equitable and transparent management agreements with landholders who wish to protect native vegetation as an alternative to paying a levy for the works."

The Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation will manage the program. There will be an on-going review of progress by the Upper South East Program Board and the regional body, the South East Natural Resource Consultative Committee.

More information about the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality is available at www.napswq.gov.au.


Summary of Activities

Project Contact: Andrew Johnson, Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation (South Australia)
Ph (08) 8303 9532

Tilley Swamp risk management, land acquisition and management $1.84million
This activity will involve risk assessment for the use of Tilley Swamp as a buffer and provide complementary wetland management to the Upper South East wetland complex and the southern lagoon of the Coorong.

Drain Construction Project $20.9million
A total of 350km of drains are to be constructed and a further 60km of privately constructed drains are to be incorporated into a regional drainage network. The network aims to control and manage surface water flows and remove saline groundwater where possible.

Investigations to Determine Threshold Criteria for the Management of the Southern Lagoon of the Coorong $1.235million
The project aims to maintain the ecological values of the Southern Lagoon of the Coorong.
Three activities to establish baseline criteria for the management of the Southern Lagoon of the Coorong will be undertaken: coring; modelling and monitoring.

Watercourse Restoration Project - Upper South East $2.84million
The project aims to provide wetland habitat for aquatic species, wetland refuge for waterbirds, and assist in the protection and regeneration of riparian vegetation. It includes weed control and improved water quality.

Biodiversity Conservation and Enhancement Project $17.15million
This is a habitat protection and improvement program aimed at achieving substantive biodiversity outcomes while complementing the water-use objectives of the Upper South East Program. Activities include: protection and enhancement of native remnant vegetation greater than 10ha and establishment of strategic wildlife corridors.

Review and Establishment of Regional Targets for Revegetation and Vegetation Enhancement $100,000
This activity aims to identify appropriate regional targets for revegetation and vegetation enhancement, and establish the location of priority areas for revegetation to maximise recharge interception and enhance regional biodiversity values.

Reclaiming the Productive Potential of the Upper South East $396,000
This project involves information exchange from salinity and agronomy research into and within the farming community through field trials and investigations, education and awareness, on-ground works, new initiatives and evaluation and monitoring.

Integrated Environmental Management and Monitoring Strategy $2.99million
Environmental approval for the Upper South East Program requires the establishment of an environmental management strategy and monitoring program, which incorporates a regional water management plan.

Implementation of Upper South East Communication Strategy $360,000
This project will undertake communication activities to regularly convey project achievements, objectives and other developments to stakeholders, the local community and wider public; set agendas with the media; eliminate misconceptions and misinformation particularly among the local community.

Upper South East Program Support $1.472million
This is a management and administrative project that will contribute to the Upper South East Program's outcomes at the highest level. Activities include: implementing and managing the Program legislation, facilitating the work of the Program Board and providing management expertise. This project is tailored towards ensuring that the Program is delivered on time, on budget and in accord with its specified work plans.

Commonwealth of Australia