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Joint Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp
Warren Truss
Federal Minister for Agriculture
Bob Cameron Victorian Minister for Agriculture
John Thwaites Victorian Minister for Environment

9 July 2003

$7.25 Million for Salinity and Water Action Across Victoria

The Commonwealth and Victorian Governments will invest $7.25 million from the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality in innovative projects that address salinity and water quality in Victoria.

The Federal Environment Minister Dr David Kemp, Federal Agriculture Minister Warren Truss, Victorian Environment Minister, John Thwaites, and Victorian Agriculture Minister, Bob Cameron, today announced funding for 19 multi-regional natural resource management projects throughout the State.

The funding is allocated under the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality bilateral agreement between the Commonwealth and State Governments signed in October 2001. It delivers funding to tackle salinity and water quality in six priority Catchment Management Authority regions; Glenelg-Hopkins, Corangamite, North Central, Goulburn-Broken, Mallee and Wimmera.

Activities funded include projects which:

"Most projects are aimed at giving local communities innovative tools to help them tackle salinity and water quality from a proper scientific basis," Dr Kemp said.

"The projects will collect useable data about the impacts of rising salinity on biodiversity and tools to help predict the outcomes of decisions on land use and land and resource management.

"They will boost the regions' ability to deliver on their regional plans to improve water quality and address the impacts of salinity."

Mr Thwaites said the projects announced today would build on the environmental work already underway in regional communities.

"The benefits of these activities span many regions, supporting and adding value to what communities are achieving on the ground," he said.\

"This latest funding feeds into natural resource strategies being developed by Victoria's catchment regions to tackle a range of environmental challenges such as increasing salinity, declining water quality and biodiversity decline."

Mr Truss said the projects had been supported by Catchment Management Authorities across Victoria and a community based Independent Advisory Panel, who recognised their potential to increase salinity and water quality outcomes.

"It's important that we combine the best available science with innovative ideas to develop a range of tools that will help us tackle salinity and water quality issues," Mr Truss said.

"At the same time, these activities recognise priority issues across Victoria and will enhance the local catchment authorities' ability to deliver sound natural resource strategies by building capacity, improving monitoring and evaluation methodologies and broadening the knowledge base."

Mr Cameron said it was encouraging to see such a range of ground-breaking proposals being brought forward to improve regional environments.

"The projects funded range from a framework to determine the effects of increasing salinity on local plants and animals at risk, to precision contour mapping and helping local government to better manage salinity," Mr Cameron said.

"The precision mapping project will deliver multiple outcomes for salinity and water quality.

"A range of other stakeholders including local government, industry groups, farmers and landcare groups are excited about the ways this information can assist them in their planning and decision making."

The projects will complement catchment strategies developed for each Catchment Management Authority (CMA) region that establish priorities for the investment of Commonwealth and State funding under the National Action Plan.

Today's funding is in addition to $51.95 million approved in Victoria to date from the jointly funded National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality bilateral agreement.

The bilateral agreement will see more than $304 million in Commonwealth and State funds invested in six Catchment Management Authority regions considered priority areas for salinity and water quality.

The $1.4 billion National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality is Australia's first comprehensive national strategy to tackle salinity and deteriorating water quality. It is one of the most critical issues facing regional Australia.

Multi-Regional Projects

$292,500 for the development of a framework to indicate the relationship of biodiversity health to rising levels of salinity. This aims to assist regions to assess the risk of increasing salinity on plants and animals that live above shallow water tables and help in planning of management intervention activities at the catchment scale. Project contact: Merryn Kelly ph: (03) 9412 4955

$1.37m for Digital Elevation modelling to produce accurate, high-resolution orthophotography data for the Victorian NAP regions. This will contribute significantly to regional planning activities, particularly in modelling and the identification of aspects of the landscape such as land use, wetlands, discharge sites, salinity-affected land, soil erosion and farm dams. Project contact: Richard Ebbs ph: (03) 9248 3376

$300,000 for catchment scale land use mapping to complete mapping of the NAP regions. This will help identify effective activities to address salinity and water quality and assist in determining the likely benefits and costs of proposed activities. Project contact: Stephen Williams ph: (03) 5430 4309

$136,500 to investigate the potential of innovative salinity and nutrient management technologies to address salinity and water quality issues. The project will look at how areas generating salinity, excess nutrients or sediment can be managed by innovative, hybrid engineering/agronomic technologies to improve catchment health. Project contact: Mike Morris ph: (03) 5833 5283

$389,000 for a project to trial magnesium hydroxide production from a brine "hot spot" at Pyramid Hill. A pilot plant will produce magnesium salts, particularly magnesium hydroxide, magnesium sulphate and magnesium chloride from waste magnesium salt solutions that are left over from the production of common salt. The project aims to remove up to 100,000 tonnes of common salt a year, with an annual byproduct of 10,000 tonnes of mixed magnesium salts. The resulting product will be available for magnesium production or agricultural fertilizer production. Town: Pyramid Hill. Project contact: Gavin Privett ph: (03) 5455 1299

$313,250 for implementation of a Native Vegetation Permit Tracking system that will assist local government to register and manage permit applications for the clearing of native vegetation. Project contact: Peter Lyon ph: (03) 9667 5544

$136,000 to develop indicators for biodiversity at a landscape scale. This project will develop and trial a model of vegetation condition at the catchment scale to assist Catchment Management Authorities to better assess the value of stands of native vegetation, help with decision making on biodiversity-related activities, and measure the effectiveness of vegetation management activities. Project contact: Graeme Newell ph: (03) 9450 8686

$213,500 to develop indicators for biodiversity in wetland ecosystems. This project will develop a framework for assessing and monitoring wetlands to assist regions to assess the condition of wetlands, identify high priority wetlands at risk and evaluate the effectiveness of wetland management activities. Project contact: Merryn Kelly ph: (03) 9412 4955

$88,966 to develop, test and refine a prototype framework to determine the status and trends of Victorian threatened species and communities threatened by salinity and water quality and their response to management intervention actions. Project contact: Adrian Morees ph(03) 9412 4232

$292,500 to develop and apply "future scenario" testing systems and techniques enabling Lower Murray regional communities in the Mallee and Wimmera areas as well as SA and NSW, to explore and test alternatives. The project will focus on possible landscapes that meet long term natural resource management targets and the natural, economic and social environment that might result. Major centres: Mildura, Ouyen, Horsham. Project contact: Paul Dalby ph: (08) 8303 9332

$230,000 to develop flow stress ranking of streams. This project will establishing a consistent State wide ranking of catchments,improving management of streams and water trading between streams in the State. Project contact: Bernie O'Kane ph (03) 9412 4929

$606,000 to develop an integrated framework to support the storage, access, management and investment requirements for key land, soil, water, social and other key data which underpin the understanding of catchments and catchment communities. Project contact: Stephen Williams ph (03) 5430 4309

$251,200 for developing an approach to determining water table levels, groundwater trends and salinity hazards for irrigation and dryland areas, that can be applied across Victoria and meets national requirements. Project contact: Craig Clifton ph: (03) 5444 1861

$100,100 to identify and develop policy options and solutions to barriers in groundwater trading. Improved market mechanisms for rural communities to trade in groundwater will improve irrigation efficiency and sustainability and contribute to the success of groundwater management plans. Project contact: Dr Richard Evans ph: (03) 9248 3369

$305,000 to develop a consistent basis across Victoria for the application of an assets framework to underpin Victoria's evidence based natural resource management decision making process. This project will draw on the existing frame work and priority setting tool for water based assets contained in the Victorian River Health Strategy. Project contact: Peter Vollebergh ph: (03) 9412 4338

$670,430 to research the critical functional relationships between salinity and biodiversity in order to provide the technical basis needed to conserve high value wetlands and their biodiversity and enable informed knowledge based decision making at strategic and regional levels. Project contact: Dr Tim Clancy ph: (03) 9450 8600

$110,000 to assist and enable Victorian regions to set resource condition targets by identifying and overcoming impediments to setting resource condition targets and build evaluation capacity at the regional and non regional level. Project contact: Dr Dugal Wallace ph: (03) 5430 4466

$1,087,638 to establish additional water quality and flow measurement monitoring sites at key locations in the regions in order to monitor regional targets especially end of valley salt loads. Undertake macro-invertebrate monitoring as a key measure of river health and to improve the current index of stream condition riparian vegetation assessment methodology. Project contact: Dr Stuart Minchin ph: (03) 9412 4051

$355,000 for research to address a range of existing gaps and impediments to effective water management. The project will develop an agreed set of scientifically sound best management practices for nutrient management that can be incorporated into farming systems. Project contact: Peter Vollebergh ph: (03) 9412 4338

Commonwealth of Australia