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Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

ABC Central Australia - NT Country Hour
Tuesday, 30 September 2003

Subject: Northern Territory Waterwatch Positions

But first the Territory Government, rather than their Federal counterparts, should be blamed for the winding back of one of our most valuable environmental programs.

The Federal Minister for the Environment, Dr David Kemp, has lashed out at claims he's responsible for the axing of four out of six Territory Waterwatch positions.

Waterwatch has trained thousands of people including children in a range of water issues including monitoring and quality. Dr Kemp says the Territory itself by its latest allocation of Natural Heritage Trust Funds shows a lack of commitment to Waterwatch.

Dr Kemp:
Expenditure now under the Natural Heritage Trust is moving on to a much more strategic basis and the decisions about the expenditure have been made by the regional management authorities. And of course in the Northern Territory, that is the Land Care Council. So the positions that are now being appointed as facilitators and co-ordinators are those which are designated by the Land Care Council of the Northern Territory as being important.

So does that mean then that, if they need those Waterwatch positions to survive, that they need to change their priorities on what they're doing at the moment?

Dr Kemp:
Well that's right. It's entirely a matter for the Northern Territory Land Care Council to set its own priorities. It's made some strategic judgments about the relative value of different positions.

They are saying that they actually - they are getting a lot less money than they used to under NHT and they simply don't have the money for Waterwatch. And whilst they'd like other specialists to be able to do this, they can't necessarily. And that really the Commonwealth needs to recommit itself to Waterwatch and take the lead as you have in many ways.

Dr Kemp:
Well the Commonwealth is committing itself to integrated natural resource management. Under the first phase of the Trust, there were specific groups designated as Waterwatch, Coast Care, Land Care. Now under the second phase which is a much more strategic phase, these facilitators are going to have more extensive roles but that doesn't exclude them from playing the sort of roles that Waterwatch played under the first phase of the Trust. So…

Maybe it needs to be more multi-skilled. They need to take it from a broader approach

Dr Kemp:
That's right. They need to be more multi-skilled and they will be more multi-skilled. But to the extent that specialisations are required by the natural resources management body, in this case the Land Care Council, they can make sure that they hire people with those specialisations.

So these are essentially decisions which are being made at the Northern Territory level in the light of the Northern Territory's needs.

Dr David Kemp, Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage.

Commonwealth of Australia