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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

27 March 2001

FUTURE SECURED FOR LAKE EYRE BASIN


Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill says the outstanding natural and cultural values of the Lake Eyre Basin will be secured for future generations following the passing in the Senate of the Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement Bill last night.

Senator Hill welcomed the Senate's decision, saying the Bill recognises and approves the Lake Eyre Basin Agreement between the Commonwealth, Queensland and South Australian governments.

"The Lake Eyre Basin includes areas of outstanding natural and cultural value while also making a vital contribution to the economies of South Australia, Queensland and the nation as a whole," Senator Hill said.

"In passing this legislation, the Commonwealth has confirmed its commitment to the future sustainable management of the Lake Eyre Basin and to the protection of dependent environmental and heritage values.

"The Basin covers approximately one seventh of the Australian continent, making it comparable in size to the Murray-Darling Basin, yet it retains many of the natural values lost in other regulated systems.

"When the Lake Eyre Basin is in full flood the area under water is larger than England and Wales combined.

"In recognition of the need to better manage these cross border river systems to protect downstream aquatic and other ecosystems, I joined my Queensland and South Australian counterparts in signing the Lake Eyre Basin Heads of Agreement in May 1997. There followed an extended process of community consultation and cross-government negotiations which culminated in the Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement being signed by all three governments in October last year."

The Agreement provides the formal basis for respective governments to develop and implement policies focussed on the management of water and related natural resources of the two major catchments within the Basin - the Cooper Creek and Georgina-Diamantina catchments.

"Of particular concern are the cross-border flows in these river systems which support sensitive downstream ecosystems such as the Ramsar-listed Coongie Lakes in South Australia and other water dependent environment and heritage values in the Basin," Senator Hill said.

"A Ministerial Forum established under the Agreement will comprise Ministers from the Commonwealth, Queensland and South Australia and will meet at least once each year to make relevant decisions on the Basin. The Agreement also provides for New South Wales and the Northern Territory to become involved at a later stage should they wish to do so.

"Ensuring that the Basin's important natural values are protected for present and future generations requires an ongoing partnership involving governments, industry and the community."

27 March 2001

Contacts:
Belinda Huppatz (Senator Hill) (02) 6274 7640 or 0419 258 364
Peter Komidar (Environment Australia) (02) 6274 2223 or 0409 286 147

Commonwealth of Australia