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Joint Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
&
Australian Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Peter McGauran MP
&
Premier of Western Australia
Western Australian Minister for Water
Geoff Gallop MP
&
Western Australian Minister for the Environment and Science
Dr Judy Edwards MP
&
Western Australian Minister for Agriculture and Forestry
Kim Chance MP

3 August 2005

$316 million heralds new era for WA salinity fight


Communities in Western Australia’s salt-affected regions will help create a better future for the State’s precious land and water resources thanks to $316 million in funding from the Australian and State governments.

The National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality funding package was announced today by Australian Minister for the Environment, Senator Ian Campbell, Western Australian Premier, Geoff Gallop, and Western Australian Ministers for Agriculture, Kim Chance, and the Environment, Judy Edwards.

The funding will go to areas affected by salt and deteriorating water quality, including communities and land managers in the South West, South Coast, Avon and Northern Agricultural regions.

Projects under the Plan include the restoration of the Collie catchment and improvements to water quality in the Wellington dam, funding to support the viability of establishing tree plantations in low mid rainfall areas to reduce water tables and funding to find and demonstrate better ways to implement engineering works to tackle salinity without damaging the environment.

Senator Campbell said salinity was one of the greatest environmental challenges facing Australia, affecting up to 4.5 million hectares across the country.

“Over time we’ve watched it turn productive farming country into a wasteland. Land damage costs the economy around $3.5 billion each year,” he said.

“In my home state of Western Australia the problem is particularly bad, so we’re taking a long-term, coordinated approach. A good example of this is the $30 million Collie River Salinity Recovery Project, which will use engineering and on-ground work to get the Wellington Dam healthy again.”

Australian Agriculture Minister, the Hon Peter McGauran said a major focus of the initiative was to create a balance between environmental protection and economic productivity.

“A cleaner river will restore wetlands and bushlands, improve native plant and animal numbers and be of enormous benefit to land managers and primary producers,” he said.

Joining Senator Campbell to launch the project in Collie today, Premier Gallop said the ultimate aim was to make the water suitable for drinking by 2015.

“This could be the first time such a complex and large-scale river recovery has ever been undertaken in Australia,” he said.

“This project is exciting in that it addresses the cause of salinity as well as the symptoms. Activities such as salt diversion, land-use change and a marron recovery strategy will benefit the entire catchment. Regional irrigators are also going to see a real difference in water quality.

“Our industry partners, Harvey Water and the Griffin Group, will play a key role in the success of the project and set significant benchmarks for other companies to follow.”

Mr Chance said the National Action Plan funding package would support other salinity reduction activities including a multi-million dollar tree-planting program.

“This program has great potential to bring in commercial returns for landholders,” he said.

“Farmers in a number of regions will be able to gain incentives for combining tree crops with farming systems in mid to low rainfall areas. This is an effective method to help reduce salinity, but incentives to plant are needed as growth rates are usually below what’s required for a fully commercial timber crop.

“We want to help landholders keep businesses strong while they help us manage natural resources.”

Dr Edwards said Western Australia’s diverse environments would reap the benefits of the big-ticket salinity and water quality projects.

“The Wellington Dam, for instance, is set in an area of striking natural beauty and yet the reservoir is clogged with salinity levels twice as high as the Murray River in South Australia,” she said.

“The new funding will give us more opportunities to restore and protect areas of such beauty across the state.”

For information about the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality visit www.napswq.gov.au.

Media contacts:
Tamatha Smith (Minister Campbell) (08) 9421 1755 or 0417 177 397
Amanda Keenan (Premier Gallop) (08) 9222 9475 or 0407 778 104
Nigel Higgs (Minister Edwards) (08) 9220 5056 or 0408 051 772
Alicia Miriklis (Minister Chance) (08) 9213 6700 or 0428 911 240

Photographs: related images are available from the photo gallery



Examples of WA National Action Plan funded projects

Project Description
Collie River Salinity Recovery Project $30 million to restore the Collie catchment and improve water quality in the Wellington dam
Strategic Tree Farming Initiative Up to $64 million to support the viability of establishing tree plantations in low-mid rainfall areas to reduce water tables
Engineering Evaluation Initiative $4 million to find and demonstrate better ways to implement engineering works to tackle salinity without damaging the environment
Catchment Demonstration Initiative $6 million to demonstrate a range of integrated salinity management practices such as combining different cropping varieties and engineering solutions
Wheatbelt Drainage Project $2.8 million to undertake a comprehensive scientific and engineering feasibility study of four regional drainage projects and develop an approach to governance issues
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