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

9 February 1999

SALINITY MANAGEMENT TAKES-OFF


Sharman Stone MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment, today welcomed a report indicating that the Willaura Catchment, east of the Grampians, had successfully taken part in a national trial using hi-tech airborne geophysics technology to assist in the battle against salinity, one of Australia's most threatening forms of land degradation.

The $1 million trial, run jointly with participating state governments, is part of the Federal Government's National Dryland Salinity program.

"Previously we could only guess at the extent of salinity below the ground. This new technology will provide better information to improve mapping, monitoring, predicting and managing dry-land salinity. It will give practical assistance to many agricultural and rural communities that suffer from the devastating effects of dry-land salinity."

According to the Australia State of the Environment Report 1996, Victoria has lost around 150,000 hectares to dry-land salinity.

Estimates have put the cost of lost agricultural productivity at around $234 million a year nationally.

The Willaura Catchment was selected to take part in the trial because of increasing salinity levels around lake-bed perimeters and other low lying areas, associated with clearing on Stavely Hills. The area is also a priority within the Glenelg salinity region and has active community support through a network of local landcare and salinity groups.

The trial, which commenced in March 1997, has concluded that airborne geophysics technology should now move into operational usage for salinity management.

The technology involves specially equipped survey aircraft that record radiometric, magnetic and electromagnetic signals. The signals are converted to images of the sub-surface structure and some chemical properties of the Earth's mantle. Combined with existing information about catchments, scientists can then construct accurate pictures of the way the landscape works, its salinity risk and the best means of salinity mitigation.

"The better we understand how a catchment was formed and how it now functions below the ground, the greater chance we have of identifying and implementing salinity control measures," Sharman Stone said.

"The results can then be used by local communities to more effectively manage natural resources. For example, information can be made available on a paddock-by-paddock level, giving farmers greater confidence in planning their on-ground investments to better control salinity."

Further discussions are underway with participating State Government's to ensure the technology is cost-efficient and to identify further priority areas.

More information about the National Airborne Salinity Project is available on the Internet at: http://www.nrsc.com.au/nagp/nagphome.htm

For Further information please contact:
Nicole Johnston, Assistant Adviser, 02 6277 2016 or 0419 219 415

Commonwealth of Australia