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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
The Hon Peter McGauran MP
&
Western Australian Minister for the Environment
The Hon Mark McGowan MLA
&
Western Australian Minister for Agriculture and Food; Forestry
The Hon Kim Chance MLC
&
Western Australian Minister for Water Resources
The Hon John Kobelke MLA

24 March 2006

Better management of wheatbelt drainage schemes a step closer


Key players on salinity drainage are meeting in Midland today with the shared aim of developing a robust governance system to support future drainage schemes in Western Australia’s Wheatbelt.

The workshop brings together the Australian and Western Australian Governments, the Wheatbelt Catchment Alliance, the WA Channel Management Group, research institutions, regional bodies and a host of other experts.

It will look at developing a framework for roles and responsibilities; management of rights and risks; cost-sharing arrangements; and drainage asset management.

Details were outlined by Australian Ministers for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, and Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Peter McGauran, along with Western Australian Ministers for Agriculture, Kim Chance, Environment, Mark McGowan and Water Resources, John Kobelke.

“Salinity may be the single biggest environmental and economic challenge faced by farming communities across the nation,” Senator Campbell said.

“It’s one of the reasons why the Australian and State Governments set up the jointly-funded $1.4 billion National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality in 2000.

“It’s also an issue close to my heart on a personal and a professional level. I saw first-hand the devastation salinity can cause when I was growing up on a farm in the Wheatbelt, and again during visits to the area last year.

“I’m acutely aware of the desire to move forward with on-ground, practical activities including drainage. But we’ve got to get it right at the planning stage if we want real, long-term results for the environment and for farm businesses.

“During the meeting today we’ll be covering topics like governance and legislative arrangements, maintenance and the economic, environmental and social considerations,” he said.

Mr Chance said Wheatbelt valleys were at risk of salinity, and that effective governance was a vital part of guiding future drainage investment by land managers.

“It’s really important to get sensible regulations in place to guide landholders, local governments and regional bodies when they’re developing drainage proposals,” Mr Chance said.

“The aim of this workshop is to look at what governance issues we need to address for people to implement larger-scale drainage projects.

“This is an issue being examined not only in today’s workshop, but also as part of another two-year salinity project announced last year. Together these activities will ensure we’ve got a solid framework and a good scientific basis for decision-making.”

Mr Kobelke said drainage in WA’s Wheatbelt was covered by a variety of State Acts, which could be complex and involved State agencies, local government and other stakeholders.

“Already Wheatbelt landowners have constructed more than 20,000 kilometres of drains and banks and established a significant number of groundwater pumping and siphon bore schemes to counter salinity,” Mr Kobelke said.

“But what farmers and catchment managers urgently need is a clear-cut regulatory framework to guide the planning, approvals and implementation of a large-scale, regional drainage system.”

Mr McGowan said while governance was the main topic of the workshop, drainage needed to be undertaken in a way that improved the environment rather than risk having more problems in the future.

“We need to think about how future activities might affect places like wetlands, saline lakes and nature reserves, which provide habitat for birds and animals,” Mr McGowan said.

Today’s workshop is part of the joint Australian-State $2.8 million ‘Wheatbelt Drainage Evaluation – Framework for Implementation’ project announced in April 2005.

The Wheatbelt Drainage Governance Workshop is proudly supported by the Australian and Western Australian Governments. For more information about jointly-funded salinity activities visit www.nrm.gov.au

Media Contact:
Renae Stoikos (Senator Campbell's office) 02 6277 7640 or 0418 568 434
Russ Neal (Minister McGauran) 0413 6013
Alicia Miriklis (Mr Chance’s office) (08) 9213 6700 or 0428 911 240
Kym Coolhaas (Mr McGowan’s office) (08) 9222 9111
Steve Manchee (Mr Kobelke’s office) (08) 9222 9211

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