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The Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP
Federal Member for Murray
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister
for the Environment and Heritage


4 February 2000

ASSAULT ON SALT


Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment and Heritage, Dr Sharman Stone MP, today kick-started New South Wales' 'assault on salt' at the Wagga Wagga Community Salinity Summit.

Dr Stone said that salinisation was a result of land clearing dating back to pioneering days, but in recent years there had been greater recognition by the community and Governments of the need to implement sustainable development and management practices that matched the fragility of Australia's land and water resources.

"Dryland salinity is one of Australia's most serious environmental issues. More than 2.5 million hectares of land is currently affected, with estimates suggesting this could rise to more than 15 million hectares," Sharman Stone said.

"More than $270 million per year is lost in agricultural production, damage to infrastructure, such as roads and buildings, loss of biodiversity and degradation of natural resources."

Dr Stone said addressing the causes of dry-land salinity would mean implementing fundamental changes to the way communities managed large tracts of Australia's landscape.

"Extensive revegetation work was needed but it had to be at the right places in the catchment to target recharge as well as discharge areas," Sharman Stone said.

"With $1.5 billion in funding from the Natural Heritage Trust, the Federal Government is committed to working with farmers and communities at the front line to restore, protect and enhance the productive capacity of our landscape and natural assets."

This year $48 million will be invested in 830 Natural Heritage Trust projects in New South Wales.

"Projects like the $55,000 Strontian Road Salinity and Environmental Management Project and $62,000 Greening the Grainbelt in the Murrumbidgee catchment are re-establishing native vegetation and deep rooted perennials to intercept ground water and reduce salinity, and linking up patches of remnant vegetation to form wildlife corridors," Sharman Stone said.

"Wagga City, one of Australia's most significantly affected urban areas, is working hard to lower ground water levels with vegetation works funded through the NHT, for example linking Pomingalarna Park and the Murrumbidgee River."

Sharman Stone said it was also important to acknowledge that living with salinity was a reality for many rural and regional communities.

"In addition to practical on-ground works like planting deep rooted vegetation we need look at opportunities to adapt or develop productive alternate industries in salt affected areas," Sharman Stone.

"Examples of innovative solutions for managing dryland salinity include the Pyramid Hill Salt Works in Northern Victoria, where they are harvesting salt and generating energy for agricultural needs."

The Commonwealth is one of the major sponsors of the NSW Salinity Conference, contributing $15,000 from the Natural Heritage Trust to the two-day conference of community representatives, farmers, landcarers, NGO's and government organisations.

Sharman Stone also reminded Summit delegates that applications for the 2000-2001 round of NHT grants were now open. For further information telephone freecall 1800 065 823 or on-line www.nht.com.au.

Media Inquiries:
Nicole Johnston, Assistant Adviser, 02 6277 2016 or 0419 219 415.

Commonwealth of Australia