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Tuesday, 24 February 2015
Page: 1196


Mr IRONS (Swan) (21:25): Those members who are from or have visited Western Australia would recognise the beauty of our natural rivers. I am fortunate to have my electorate bounded by two of Perth's most iconic rivers: the Swan River in the north and west and the Canning River in the south. My wife, who has been in Perth for three years now, was amazed at the breadth and the beauty of the Swan River and now—I see the member for Higgins here—refers to the Yarra River as a creek!

Although these are iconic river systems for my electorate and for Perth as a whole, they are also environmentally sensitive and present major challenges to governments of all levels in developing mechanisms to maintain their future biodiversity. This is a challenge which I recognised prior to being elected as the member for Swan, and I have worked hard to gain funding to assist it with since being elected, including making it one of my key election commitments at both the 2010 and 2013 elections.

Unfortunately, neither the Labor Party nor the Greens recognised the level of degradation that was taking place in the Swan and Canning rivers during their six years in government despite my best efforts to alert them. As a result, each of these wetland areas is now in need of a great amount of work to stop this degradation in its tracks and to develop maintenance measures that will prevent further contamination of the river system's biodiversity and riverbanks in the future.

As I have highlighted previously in this place, we have seen such a high level of degradation because of the rivers' unfortunate use as a rubbish tip, the dumping of toxic waste at Castledare in Wilson, the dumping of asbestos and the introduction of non-native species and weeds, including Hydrocotyle, into the river systems. For those members who do not know, Hydrocotyle is an imported pest weed which has an extraordinarily high growth rate and requires significant resources to combat it. I am pleased to inform the House that shadow environment minister Greg Hunt took a keen interest in this environmental hazard and visited Swan on numerous occasions to see how it was affecting the river systems firsthand. We also had the Leader of the Opposition, who is now the Prime Minister, visit and had him pulling weeds on the banks of the Canning River. The Minister for the Environment took the first opportunity to deliver the funding by committing $1 million under the Swan-Canning River Recovery Program in the 2014-15 budget papers, and I must say it was great to seek this actually in black ink.

Just last month I had the great pleasure of welcoming Minister Hunt back to Swan to formally launch the program and to introduce him to many members of the local steering group and representatives from Perth Region Natural Resource Management Inc, who will manage the project. I am pleased to inform members that this steering group consists of many people with expertise in delivering local environmental projects and who have already done much work to contribute to the rivers' long-term health in the geographic area this program is targeting. This includes representatives from Perth's well-respected independent natural resource management body, Sercul; a number of action or catchment groups who have previously conducted environmental works in the Swan and Canning regions, such as the Wilson Wetlands Action Group; a representative from the Department of the Environment and a representative from my office. Under this important two-year environmental initiative, $500,000 will be dedicated to weed eradication, $400,000 for practical community action and $100,000 to local education to improve the water quality and habitats of these river systems.

The steering group has already discussed a number of environmental education initiatives being undertaken in schools by various providers across Western Australia with a view of utilising this funding to expand one of these school-based initiatives in my electorate of Swan. An example of one program which has been discussed during the steering group's meetings is the Phosphorous Awareness Project being run by Sercul. This project is linked to the National Curriculum Framework and uses a range of school incursions and excursions to help students learn how we can keep our rivers healthy and how our river systems work, including its catchments, nutrients and natural species.

I look forward to works progressing as soon as practical and witnessing the river systems biodiversity improve through this $1 million Swan-Canning River Recovery Program, which I once again highlight would not have been possible without this government's commitment to environmental programs such as the Coastal River Recovery Initiative or our Green Army projects.

The SPEAKER: It being 9:30 pm, the debate is interrupted.

House adjourned at 21:30