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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
1 March 2001
The Commonwealth Government today confirmed its commitment to protect the outstanding natural and cultural values of the Lake Eyre Basin with legislation approving the Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement.
The Commonwealth Government introduced the Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement Bill 200 to Federal Parliament today.
Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill said the legislation was an important step towards the sustainable management of Lake Eyre Basin and recognised the commendable work of the Basin community to date in developing catchment plans.
"Lake Eyre Basin contains areas of national and international ecological and environmental significance, such as the Ramsar-listed Coongie Lakes, areas of high economic worth such as pastoralism and tourism, and areas of social, cultural and heritage value," Senator Hill said.
"The dramatic beauty and prolific wildlife of this unique region were on show just last year after the periodic flooding that is critical to the Basin's biodiversity.
"The sustainability of the Basin and its assets depends on the continued health of the Thomson/Barcoo/Cooper, Georgiana and Diamantina river systems, including various wetlands, flood plains and lakes.
"Many of these values depend on the naturally variable flows in the major cross-border river systems of the Basin, so it is important that we sustainably manage these systems."
Senator Hill called on the Queensland Government, a signatory to the Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement, to introduce State legislation to give effect to the Agreement.
"South Australia has already introduced legislation to give effect to the Agreement. It is now critical that Queensland also move to introduce legislation as soon as possible."
The Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement Bill 2001 gives approval to the Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement, signed by the Commonwealth, South Australia and Queensland in October last year.
The Agreement establishes the Lake Eyre Basin Ministerial Forum which will develop and adopt policies and strategies for the integrated catchment management of water and related natural resources associated with major cross-border river systems in the Basin.
Primary responsibility for managing the Basin rests with the South Australian and Queensland Governments, but the Agreement provides for New South Wales and the Northern Territory to become involved at a later stage should they wish to do so.
The Agreement also establishes a Community Advisory Committee.
"The Agreement will strengthen the existing partnership between governments and the community which has been vital to developing viable solutions to the Basin's problems," Senator Hill said.
"The Agreement builds on the existing community catchment planning processes in the Basin and will provide a means for the Basin community to communicate their views directly to the Ministerial Forum."
1 March 2001
Contact: Belinda Huppatz (Senator Hill's office) 02 6277 7640 or 0419 258 364