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Media Release
Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP
Federal Member for Murray

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister
for the Environment and Heritage


Talking salt in Echuca


The fight against salinity continued into a second day when Commonwealth and Local Government representatives came together in Echuca-Moama to discuss the role of Local Government in natural resource management.

Representatives of the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality attended the National Local Government Salinity Summit organised by the Murray Darling Association over two days, 17-19 July, at the Moama Bowling Club.

The Federal Member for Murray and Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and Heritage, Dr Sharman Stone, gave an address acknowledging the commitment of local government in tackling the salinity problem. As well, she outlined the process for delivering National Salinity Action Plan funding to local projects.

"The seven-year $1.4 billion National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality, announced by the Prime Minister last October, tackles salinity and water quality problems in 21 of Australia's worst affected areas. Local targeted areas include the Goulburn-Broken, Campaspe and Loddon-Avoca catchments," Dr Stone said.

"Before the funds begin to flow however, each state is required to sign an Inter-government agreement. All states, except for Western Australia, have now signed with Victoria signing as recently as last week. The next stage is a bilateral agreement between the states and the Commonwealth, with South Australia the only state to have signed off so far.

The $1.4 billion National Action Plan is in addition to the $1 billion extension of the Federal Government's Natural Heritage Trust environmental program for an additional five years from 2002.

"The National Action Plan is the first national strategy to tackle the salinity issues confronting Australia's rural industries, infrastructure and the environment. It is well known the Murray River communities have been addressing salinity problems regionally for decades and have provided models for community involvement," Sharman Stone said.

"This region is leading the nation in terms of strategic planning and direct action in response to the environmental problems of the area. The Murray Electorate alone has been able to attract over $30 million in the Federal Government's Natural Heritage Trust funding

Dr Stone said the Summit's focus on the role of local government in natural resource management is very timely.

"Local government has been overlooked in the past. In fact, the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that local governments spent over $3.5 billion on environment related activities in 1998-1999, and these funds overwhelmingly came from local rates," Dr Stone said.

"Local governments need to ensure they have a seat at the table when it comes to talking regional management plans to combat salinity. The good news is that everyone agrees that local council have an important role to play.

For example, local councils;

"In short, local councils have a very significant role to play in helping to manage the environment, but in particular, they can provide community leadership and build local confidence in finding solutions to huge problems like regional salinity." Dr Stone said.

**End

Wednesday 18 July 2001
Media Enquiries: Michael Christo 0409 040276

Commonwealth of Australia