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The Hon Peter Garrett MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

Graham Jacobs
Western Australian Minister for Water

Vasse Wonnerup Water Quality Improvement Plan

Joint media release
5 February 2009

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The long-term environmental sustainability of the Vasse-Wonnerup wetlands and Geographe Bay area in the South-West of Western Australia should be strengthened because of determined joint Australian and State Government endeavours to plan for its future.

Recognised under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands as a Wetland of International Importance, the regional waterways’ system now has a strategic plan to manage and reduce damaging nutrients within it.

A draft Water Quality Improvement Plan was released for public comment today as the culmination of three years’ cooperative government effort.

Western Australian Minister for Water, Dr Graham Jacobs said management of nutrients flowing into Geographe Bay was a high priority for government which aimed to protect the area’s outstanding ecological, social and cultural values.

Australian Government Environment Minister Peter Garrett said those values were reflected in the Ramsar listing, but unfortunately wetland systems in the area, as elsewhere around the nation, had experienced severe water quality problems for many years.

“Wetlands are the kidneys of the environment, filtering nutrients and pollutants from our waterways as well as providing really important habitat for native birds, fish and other animals,” Mr Garrett said.

“Last year, two migratory shorebirds – a red knot and a curlew sandpiper – tagged by bird enthusiasts in the Geographe area a year earlier – were spotted by Chinese ornithologists near Beijing, about 8,000 kilometres away.

“The importance of these South West wetlands to the two million birds that fly from Siberia, northern China and Alaska to Australia and New Zealand every year is just one example of why they are a natural asset that must be protected.”

The Australian Government has identified the Vasse Wonnerup as a priority coastal hotspot under the Caring for our Country initiative.

The Western Australian Government co-funded the project through the departments of Water, Agriculture and Food, Environment and Conservation, and Planning and Infrastructure. 

Dr Jacobs said large areas of seagrass had been lost in marine and estuarine environments in Western Australia as a result of nutrient enrichment.

“There is a strong recognition in the management plan that a balance is required between land use activities in the catchment and protection of the environmental systems,” Dr Jacobs said.

“For this to be achieved, changes to land use practices are required across all sectors from urbanisation through to broad acre dairying and beef farming.

“Implementation of the plan could include an upgrade of the Busselton Waste Water Treatment plant by the Water Corporation, to ensure no net increase in nutrients and further exploration of water recycling options.

“We are also working with the Shire of Busselton to introduce best practice into new urban developments.  The proposed strategies should reduce the impact of new urbanisation by up to 60 per cent.”

The draft plan is open for comment until 31 March 2009. The link to the plan on the West Australian Department of Water’s website is below:

Commonwealth of Australia