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Natural Heritage Trust

Media Release


8 July 1998

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill has announced that the Howard government has funded a major $1 million package to improve water quality in Wallis Lake and Port Stephens on the New South Wales central coast.

The comprehensive package is aimed at improving the quality of the environment in these estuaries and preventing any future public health concerns about seafood sourced from the area.

Senator Hill says the clean up campaign will also help rebuild the area's fishing and tourism industries, following the outbreak of Hepatitis A last year.

The package will be funded through the Coasts and Clean Seas initiative of the Natural Heritage Trust.

"The Federal Government is committed to tackling major pollution problems and protecting the environment in Australia's coastal areas.

"The outbreak of Hepatitis A at Wallis Lake in February 1997 has been attributed to sewage contamination.

"This package comprises six measures which represent one of the most thorough clean up campaigns of a coastal area undertaken in New South Wales.

"This package goes beyond band-aid solutions and will help ensure the `clean' image of NSW's aquaculture industries," Senator Hill says.

"The Natural Heritage Trust will fund new toilet pump-out facilities for boats, a major study of the sources of stormwater pollution, new stormwater controls, toilet facilities on islands within the Great Lakes and the inclusion of important information about the region's estuaries in the Australian Coastal Atlas.

"Ultimately the clean up campaign will lead to improved water quality in Wallis Lake, Port Stephens and the rest of the catchment for the well-being of local communities, tourists and the area's environment."

The clean-up package directly targets the most significant sources of pollution in these important estuaries and includes:

The Commonwealth government will also provide $83,000 to NSW Fisheries to compile information about estuary pollution sources from agriculture, stormwater pipes, sewerage pumping stations and sewer overflow points. This, along with information from the NSW Shellfish Quality Assurance Program, will provide map data for the NSW node of the Australian Coastal Atlas and the related Internet site. The Internet site will assist the oyster industry, local councils, regional planners and others with up-to-date information about 40 estuaries along the NSW coast.

Senator Hill acknowledged the role that Bob Baldwin, Member for Patterson, and Mark Vaile, Member for Lyne, have played in raising the need to ensure improvements to the water quality of the two estuaries.

"Last year I was able to visit the region with Mr Baldwin and Mr Vaile and both are to be congratulated for their efforts to assist the local aquaculture and tourism industries," Senator Hill says.

Coasts and Clean Seas is the Natural Heritage Trust's $125 million marine and coastal component. Information on how to apply for the funding is available from Environment Australia's Community Information Unit on phone 1800 803 772.

Matt Brown (Senator Hill) 02 6277 7640 or 0419 693 515
Margaret Tailby (Environment Australia) 02 6274 1430
8th July, 1998

Commonwealth of Australia