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Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

27 October 2005

Environment Minister has wheatbelt salinity in his sights

Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, will visit the Yenyening Lakes in the Western Australian Wheatbelt today to inspect the site of a new programme to tackle salinity.

The area is a focus of the Australian Government's $2.8 million Wheatbelt Drainage programme, a feasibility study into a regional-scale drain proposal to drain saline water from agricultural land in wheatbelt, including into the Yenyening salt-lake system.

The Wheatbelt Drainage programme will also look at a proposed deep drain at Yarra Yarra, with a focus on issues such as water quality and possible impacts on the natural salt lake system.

The programme is being funded through the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality, which is providing $150 million to WA in one of the biggest environmental rescue efforts ever mounted in the State. Matched funding is being provided by the WA Government.

The feasibility study is in addition to the Engineering Evaluation Initiative, a $4 million Australian Government programme developed with Wheatbelt farmers and catchment groups to pilot deep drainage in different areas and assess its results.

Senator Campbell said the Yenyening study would provide the first scientific and engineering assessment of the impact of the drain proposal on water quantities and flows into the Yenyening Lakes system and the possible effect on water quality in the lakes and the Avon River.

"The solution to salinity in Western Australia is not going to be easy it is a problem that has been decades in the making and there is no quick fix and no single solution," he said.

"We know a range of approaches will be required and they will vary according to a region's geology and hydrology, the size of the problem and the impact of any actions.

"We also must guard against creating a new environmental problem while we're trying to fix another, so it is vital that we carefully consider all options and do our homework which is what the feasibility study for the Yenening proposal is all about."

Senator Campbell will visit Beverley, Qualandary Road Crossing, Quairading and Cunderdin to view the salinity problems first hand and discuss the issues with local councillors, the WA Channel Management Group, local farmers and Cunderdin Agricultural College representatives.

Media contact:
Tamatha Smith 08 9325 4227 or 0417 177 397

Commonwealth of Australia