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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
Warren Truss MP
&
Western Australian Minister for Agriculture and Forestry
Kim Chance MP
&
Western Australian Minister for the Environment and Science
Dr Judy Edwards MP

28 April 2005

Over $2.8 million for wheatbelt drainage evaluation works


Salinity drainage in Western Australia's Wheatbelt region is a step closer thanks to $2.84 million in funding for evaluation works.

The vital funds, from the $1.4 billion National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality, were announced today by Australian Ministers for Agriculture, Warren Truss, and the Environment, Senator Ian Campbell, along with Western Australian Ministers for Agriculture, Kim Chance, and the Environment, Dr Judy Edwards.

Mr Truss said a robust assessment would help communities find the best ways to address salinity and waterlogging in the region. The Australian and State Governments recognise these issues are having a major impact on agricultural productivity and the general health of the landscape.

"We must make sure we fully understand the benefits, potential environmental and social impacts and cost of any new drainage systems. The $2.8 million project announced today will help find answers to these questions, and will guide future investment in on-ground drainage work," he said.

Senator Campbell said the works would help regions develop a consistent approach to catchment and regional drainage.

"Other assessment and demonstration work is telling us that coordinated drainage should be part of the solution to salinity because of the nature of groundwater systems in the Wheatbelt," he said.

"What we don't want is to create other environmental problems while we're tackling the salinity issue. Communities in the Avon, Northern Agricultural, South West and South Coast regions need to have confidence that drainage work won't adversely impact the land they're trying to protect."

Mr Chance said results from other National Action Plan projects, such as the $4 million Engineering Evaluation Initiative (EEI), would feed into this comprehensive approach. "We're already seeing great progress with activities developed under the EEI , including an evaluation of regional drainage for the Avon River and groundwater pumping at Dumbleyung," he said.

"These results will be really important for regional communities who are developing strategies to secure further government investment."

Dr Edwards said the analysis will also help protect biodiversity in the resource-rich Wheatbelt.

"Along with multi-billion dollar agricultural, tourism and mining industries, the region is also part of an internationally recognised biodiversity hotspot and home to nationally significant wetlands. Local native species such as the red-tailed phascogale and numbat rely on the Wheatbelt landscape for food and shelter," she said.

"So a major part of the $2.8 million will be to increase our understanding of how drainage work might benefit, rather than damage, these complex and diverse ecosystems."

The Ministers said the analysis will be undertaken by professionals and be subject to an extensive community consultation process.

For more information about the National Action Plan visit www.nrm.gov.au.

Media contacts:
Renae Stoikos (Minister Campbell's office) 0418 568 434
Tim Langmead (Minister Truss's office)   (02) 6277 7520 or 0418 221 433
Bev East (Minister Chance's office)   (08) 9213 6700 or 0428 911 240
Nigel Higgs (Minister Edwards' office)   (08) 9220 5056 or 0408 926 026

Commonwealth of Australia