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Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Page: 1027

Mr BALDWIN (9:49 AM) —I rise to talk about the most environmentally pristine and valuable lake system in Australia. The lakes all reside within my electorate. They are the Great Lakes, Smiths Lake and Myall Lake, which are connected to Port Stephens, starting at Tamboy, through the Myall River.

At the approach to it, in Port Stephens, there is an island called Corrie Island. Corrie Island is a Ramsar listed site and, as such, deserves and requires certain protections. The Ramsar convention, according to its website, is:

An intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

The issue at hand here is siltation. There have been environmental problems through Myall Lake and down through the Myall River. There have been massive sand shifts from areas like Winda Woppa through to the eastern channel between Winda Woppa and Corrie Island. In discussions with me, Gordon Grainger, who heads the Myall River Action Group, has pointed out that there is clear evidence that dingoes, feral dogs and feral cats are now able to cross from the mainland to Corrie Island and they are destroying the birds and habitat.

Corrie Island is managed by the New South Wales government through the Department of Environment and Climate Change. They have provided funding for dredging of the western channel—and they are to be congratulated on that—but the eastern channel is the channel that separates the mainland from Corrie Island. The eastern channel is now silted up to the extent that people are able to walk across it at low tide, and if people are able to walk across it then so are predatory animals. It is having a dire effect on species such as the eastern curlew. There are five threatened shorebird species on Corrie Island and one endangered ecological community, coastal salt marsh.

I call on the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Tony Burke, to have real discussions with the state government and to look at what sort of funding package can be provided to make sure that the eastern channel is dredged. This will improve the water flow out of the Myall Lake system and down through the Myall River. It will help prevent the diseases that are spreading through the fish stocks in this area because of the lack of water flow and the natural salinity washed back up through tidal movement. The timing is now critical, and I call for urgent dialogue and discussion on this issue.