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Joint Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp
Federal Member for McEwen
The Hon. Fran Bailey

24 July 2003

$110,000 to Improve Yarra River Health

Up to 15 kilometres of the Yarra River will be rehabilitated and protected with the help of $110,000 in Natural Heritage Trust funding announced today.

Federal Environment Minister, Dr David Kemp, and the Member for McEwen, Fran Bailey, jointly launched the Yarra River Restoration Project at two Yarra River sites in Thomas Street, Warburton, and at Vasey Houghton Bridge.

Dr Kemp said the project - funded through the Howard Government's Coastal Catchment Initiative and starting next month - is in addition to more than $7.58 million in Natural Heritage Trust funding already spent improving the environment in the McEwen electorate since 1997.

"Today's funding will complement important environmental work already underway or completed in the region," he said. "It will fund restoration work along 15 km of the Yarra River, taking in Spadonis Reserve at Lilydale, Everhard Park at Healesville, the Yarra Flat Billabongs at Yarra Glen, and the Warburton River Frontage at Warburton, East Warburton and Millgove."

Restoration work will include extensive native revegetation and weed control carried out by local community and environment groups such as the Warburton River Frontage Committee of Management, the Yarra Valley Tree Group, Healesville Environmental Watch, Group for Lilydale and District Environment, and the Australian Platypus Conservancy, along with the Wurrindjeri Tribal Elders, Warburton Advancement League, Yarra Ranges Shire Council, and Melbourne Water.

Eco-friendly tracks and fencing will also be built to protect fragile biodiversity along the river. The work is expected to be finished by May next year.

"This project will restore important platypus habitat and remnant vegetation and improve water quality, while enhancing the recreational amenity of this popular area. The work will not only benefit the immediate project area, but will also improve the river's health further downstream," Dr Kemp said.

Mrs Bailey commended the ongoing efforts of local community groups in restoring the Yarra's fragile riverbanks and preserving the area's important natural, cultural and functional values.

"This new project will deliver substantial benefits such as increased biodiversity through weed removal, recovery of native vegetation from reduced grazing pressure and human traffic, and restoring natural filtration in the Yarra River," she said.

"It also aims to reduce erosion and sedimentation through planting native vegetation and therefore stabilising the river banks and improving the river's water quality."

According to National Land and Water Audit (NLWA) - Australian Water Resources Assessment 2000 - 33% of the Yarra River catchment was affected by excessive nutrients and turbidity, the water quality exceeded safe levels of nitrogen and phosphorus content, and between 70% and 100% of the sustainable water flow was diverted from the river.

Another NLWA audit - Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Assessment 2002 - shows the condition of the Yarra River catchment ranged from good to deteriorating. It also found more than half of the river's ecosystem was under threat, more than 150 species were also threatened, and that there was a significant decrease in bird abundance.

"These sobering findings are the result of a combination of factors, in particular grazing pressure, exotic weeds, changed river flow and runoff patterns, habitat fragmentation, feral animals and changed fire regimes," Dr Kemp said.

"They also highlight the importance of targeted environmental work like the Yarra River Restoration Project which will have a significant impact in reversing this decline."

Dr Kemp said the Yarra River Restoration Project is an excellent example of how the Howard Government's $2.7 billion Natural Heritage Trust is helping communities deliver real on-ground results in improving their local environment. The Natural Heritage Trust is the largest environmental rescue package funded by any Australian Government.

"The McEwen electorate is just one of the many Natural Heritage Trust success stories with more than $7.58 million invested in the region's environment since 1997," he said.

Aside from ongoing restoration work along the Yarra River, other Natural Heritage Trust funding for the electorate includes:

The Howard Government is also working to address the wider issues of salinity and water quality in the electorate through its commitment of more than $1.1 million from the National Action Plan on Salinity and Water Quality. This funding has supported projects in the upper Goulburn Broken catchment, which is another major contributor to salt loads to the Goulburn and the Murray River.

Commonwealth of Australia