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

21 October 2005

Salinity battle boosted in the Northern Agricultural Region

Communities in Western Australia's Northern Agricultural Region will use over $8 million in funding to reclaim salt-affected areas, restore waterways and revitalise farming industries.

The region's Natural Resource Management (NRM) Strategy and Investment Plan were launched in Geraldton today by the Australian and Western Australian Governments.

The Northern Agricultural Region covers over seven million hectares, stretching north from Gingin to Kalbarri and eastwards to Morawa.

Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said the $8 million joint funding package for this year would go into a range of activities to safeguard the landscape.

"The Northern Agricultural Region has a vision for a coordinated approach to protect its renowned natural wonders and keep local industries viable," Senator Campbell said.

"The funding announced today will help make this vision a reality. It will go into a series of programmes that address the major local issues, from soil health to conserving places like the Houtman Abrolhos Islands.

"Tackling salinity is another key focus, as it continues to threaten both primary production and the environment. We've set aside over $3 million for work to reverse damage to salt-affected land," he said.

Australian Agriculture Minister, Peter McGauran, said on-ground work would support landholders already working hard to limit the spread of salinity.

"The region's Integrated Catchment Management programme will provide practical assistance to farmers, such as incentives to protect at-risk plants and revegetating saline land with saltbush and similar species," Mr McGauran said.

"A complementary programme will target rising groundwater through surface drainage construction, fencing, additional replanting and the development of a salinity risk assessment system," he said.

Western Australian Agriculture Minister, Kim Chance, said the region's strategy and plan recognised the importance of creating a balance between environmental protection and economic productivity.

"This district is a home to more than 2000 agricultural enterprises such as broadacre cropping, horticulture, aquaculture and farm forestry," Mr Chance said.

"These industries rely on healthy natural resources for their success, so it's vital we manage them in a sustainable way. One of the regional programmes will expand on the ‘Healthy Farms' initiative, stabilise soils in the Nangetty Valley and identify optimum grazing rotations for perennial pasture.

"The region will also promote coordinated farm forestry to produce commercially viable native crops and address salinity issues. So this particular program makes both economic and environmental sense."

Western Australian Environment Minister, Dr Judy Edwards, said biodiversity ‘hotspots', waterways and iconic areas such as the spectacular Murchison Gorges would be better protected under the plan and strategy.

"Over $1 million will be directed to river and wetland projects to reduce threats like nutrient discharge, pollution and erosion. On-ground work in the Greenough and Moore-Hill Drainage Basins will cover things like replanting, bank stabilisation and community water monitoring," Dr Edwards said.

"The region will also work to conserve places of high plant diversity, such as the world famous Mount Lesueur, which is also home to nationally threatened plants and animals."

The Ministers congratulated the Northern Agricultural Catchments Council and said they were looking forward to seeing the results of the community-driven activities.

The Northern Agricultural Region is one of 56 NRM regions across the country developing these strategies and plans to help communities manage our natural assets.

A list of funded programmes is attached.  

For more information about the Northern Agricultural Catchments Council (NACC) contact Chair, Elizabeth Eaton, on (08) 9973 1444.

Media Contacts:
Renae Stoikos (Senator Campbell's office) 02 6277 7640 or 0418 568 434
Russ Neal (Minister McGauran's office) (02) 6277 7520 or 0413 601 303
Alicia Miriklis (Mr Chance's office) (08) 9213 6700 or 0428 911 240
Nigel Higgs (Dr Edwards' office) (08) 9220 5056 or 0408 051 772

Northern Agricultural Regional Investment Plan (2005/06)

Programme Examples of funded projects Aust Govt
*NHT $
Aust Govt
WA Govt
Integrated Catchment Management: will tackle salinity and water quality issues on a catchment-wide basis. Projects include: providing incentives to landholders to protect waterways and replant saline land with salt-tolerant species; and the development of management plans for the Gingin Brook system & upper Chapman River.
Managing Salinity: aims to limit rising groundwater and the spread of dryland salinity in high-risk areas. Focus will be on-ground work such as surface drainage, fencing and replanting. Activities will be complemented by a salinity risk assessment system.
Building Healthy Waterscapes: this programme will reduce threats to priority rivers and wetlands. Nutrient discharge, pollution and erosion have a major impact on waterways. These issues will be addressed through replanting, bank stabilisation and water monitoring in the Greenough & Moore-Hill Drainage Basins.
Forestry: will promote and coordinate farm forestry across the region to help control rising groundwater and salinity issues. Projects include: the development of a commercially viable oil mallee industry; planting of 2,000 hectares of brushwood; and improving harvesting methods.
Sustaining Agricultural Production: aims to promote new farming systems to encourage sustainability. Funding builds on the ‘Healthy Farms' project, assisting farmers to increase profitability, improve environmental performance and demonstrate environmental credentials. Funding will also help stabilise soils in the Nangetty Valley.  
Using Water Wisely: will develop a long-term strategy to manage groundwater resources in the Northern Perth Basin. Communities, planners and experts will work together on a vision for groundwater management. Funding will support symposiums and technical workshops.
Resource Assessment: this programme will identify and document resource condition issues. Activities will include hydrological surveys and the development of a robust monitoring and evaluation system.
Conserving Terrestrial Diversity: aims to protect the region's renowned natural environment. Programme will implement recovery plans for at-risk plants and animals; assess high conservation value woodlands and begin large-scale replanting.
Sharing Indigenous Knowledge: will encourage Indigenous involvement in NRM. The region is home to a large number of culturally significant areas. Activities such as resource assessments and consultations will share environmental knowledge across communities.
Supporting Environmental Education: focuses on increasing awareness about natural resources. This regional education programme will target schools, local governments, industries and other groups to help them get involved in improving the local environment.
Caring for the Coasts, Seas and Islands: aims to address biodiversity threats & coordinate coastal/marine activities. Focus on the Houtman Abrolhos Islands. The programme will improve waste management; develop recreational fishing strategies; and monitor fish, turtle & marine mammal numbers.
Biosecurity: will integrate regional pest management. Projects will identify and reduce the main environmental weeds; prevent the spread of Pythophthora dieback; and build a modelling tool for fire management.
Total joint NAP and Aust Govt *NHT funding:  

*As part of the agreement between the Australian and Western Australian Governments, Natural Heritage Trust funds are matched by cash & in kind contributions from the state government.

Commonwealth of Australia