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The Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP
Federal Member for Murray
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister
for the Environment and Heritage


2 February 2000

WORLD WETLANDS DAY ACKNOWLEDGES BARMAH FOREST


Barmah Forest, part of Australia's largest Red Gum forest, is one of Australia's reasons for celebrating World Wetlands Day, Sharman Stone MP, Federal Member for Murray, said today.

"Australia currently has 53 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance under the Convention, covering a total area of over five million hectares. Three of these - Barmah Forest, Gunbower Forest and Kerang Wetlands - are part of the Federal Electorate of Murray's unique landscape," Sharman Stone said.

Barmah Forest, listed as a RAMSAR site in 1982, covers 28,515 hectares and is recognised as an important breeding ground for Ibis and other nesting birds such as Cormorants and Egrets.

The Forest is a popular tourist destination, with numerous Aboriginal sites of cultural significance and an interpretive visitor's centre.

"Ironically the neighbouring Millewa Forest Wetlands on the New South Wales side of the border is not designated as a Wetland of International Significance. I believe it should be," Sharman Stone said.

World Wetlands Day is celebrated on 2 February each year and marks the date of the signing of the International Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar.

Dr Stone said the Federal Government had boosted Wetlands protection with passage of the new Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999.

"For the first time, matters of national environmental significance, including RAMSAR wetlands, will be subject to Commonwealth overview," Sharman Stone said.

The Federal Government also provides funding through the $1.5 billion Natural Heritage Trust to promote the conservation, repair and wise use of wetlands across Australia.

"Projects like the $25,000 Moira Shire Council's Improving Urban Stormwater Quality, Utilising Wetlands, Best Practice Management and Community Education, have important household and environmental benefits for Barmah Forest," Sharman Stone said.

"The projects focus is to improve water quality by reducing the level of nutrient discharge, sedimentation, heavy metals and litter filtering into local waterways and ultimately into the Barmah Wetlands."

"This year's round of NHT applications (2000-2001) are now open. I encourage CMA's, councils and community groups in the area to nominate projects to help Barmah Forest Wetlands maintain their unique character," Sharman Stone said.

To obtain a Guide to New Applicants telephone freecall 1800 065 823 or on-line at www.nht.gov.au. Applications close on 25 February 2000.

Media Inquiries:
Nicole Johnston, Assistant Adviser, 02 6277 2016 or 0419 219 415

Commonwealth of Australia