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Joint Media Release
Greg Hunt MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Flinders
&
Warren Truss MP
Australian Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
&
John Thwaites MP
Victorian Minister for Environment and Water
&
Bob Cameron MP
Victorian Minister for Agriculture

16 December 2004

3.5 million Victorians to benefit from environmental strategy


The Australian and Victorian Governments today released a comprehensive plan which will protect Port Phillip Bay, Western Port and their catchments from the impacts of increasing population growth and land use change.

The Port Phillip and Western Port Regional Catchment Strategy contains specific actions to help achieve sustainability for the water, land, vegetation, wildlife and marine environments in and around Melbourne.

Australian Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister, Warren Truss, and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Greg Hunt, and Victorian Ministers for Environment and Water, John Thwaites and Agriculture, Bob Cameron said the plan is vital to protect water resources and other catchment assets in the region.

"Port Phillip and Western Port is a diverse region with many pressures being placed on its resources," Mr Hunt said

"The region supports 3.5 million people - 75 per cent of Victoria's population - so population growth is an important issue, as well as other pressures including habitat and species loss, weeds and feral animals, salinity and water pollution," he said.

"The Australian Government has allocated more than $6.6 million from the Natural Heritage Trust for the Port Phillip and Western Port region, including $2.5 million for the Coastal Catchments Initiative earlier this year. This Regional Catchment Strategy will provide the basis for further funding."

Mr Truss said the strategy identifies the top priorities for action in the region.

"The Port Phillip and Western Port region supports 8000 kilometres of waterways, 900 wetlands and over 2400 native plant and animal species. Land-use in the area is almost 90 per cent rural or forested, with agricultural production worth more than $1 billion per year," he said.

"The top priorities identified and addressed in the strategy include protecting biodiversity through native vegetation programs; reducing nitrogen loads entering Port Phillip Bay and sediments entering Western Port; managing the impacts of salinity across the region, including in urban areas; and combating major infestations of Serrated Tussock," he said.

Mr Thwaites said the strategy was breaking new ground in the area.

"This is the first time that a regional strategy has been prepared for our two valuable bays and all of the catchments that drain into them," Mr Thwaites said.

"It puts us all - as a government and a community - in a great position to plan and manage our activities for the next 30 years so we can hand on these natural assets to our children and future generations in better condition than they are in today."

"The Port Phillip and Western Port region contains many of Victoria's most loved and most valuable natural assets, including the Yarra and Maribyrnong Rivers, Phillip Island, Mornington Peninsula, the Yarra Valley, Macedon Ranges and Dandenong Ranges.

"These features are the reason that Melbourne is considered among the most liveable cities in the world, and why millions of visitors come to this region each year."

Mr Cameron said government and non-government agencies, industry and community groups all have a role to play in implementing the Regional Catchment Strategy.

"Identifying the relationships between all of our catchment assets and the activities that threaten them has been a substantial task completed by the Catchment Management Authority and its partners. Now we have 97 actions which collectively we can work towards over the next five years," he said.

"Each of the actions designates a lead agency and partners responsible for their planning and implementation. Melbourne Water, the Department of Sustainability and Environment, the Department of Primary Industries, the EPA and the region's 38 Councils will all be actively involved.

"The preparation of this strategy has involved extensive community consultation, including local government, indigenous and community groups. I congratulate all involved in its development and look forward to seeing the results of their hard work."

The Regional Catchment Strategy is available on the Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority web site - www.ppwcma.vic.gov.au or by calling Brad Roberts on 03 9785 0183.

Contacts:
Minister Truss: Tim Langmead (02) 6277 7520 or 0418 221 433
Hon Greg Hunt: Fiona Murphy (02) 6277 2276 or 0423 577 045
Minister Thwaites: Geoff Fraser (03) 9651 1253 or 0407 360 256
Minister Cameron: Campbel Giles (03) 9651 5799 or 0407 972 900

Commonwealth of Australia