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Thursday, 16 October 2003
Page: 21678

Mr TICEHURST (4:39 PM) —I rise today to thank the federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, David Kemp, for the commitment he made yesterday to the Wyong Shire Council, to our local environment and to the people of the Central Coast. Yesterday, I held a meeting in Canberra with Minister Kemp and Wyong council representatives to discuss controversial plans by the council and the New South Wales government to dredge around 15,000 cubic metres of sludge from the polluted Tumbi Creek and dump it into Tuggerah Lakes. Minister Kemp expressed concern and agreed to come to the Central Coast in two weeks to inspect the site. This is the first time in more than a decade that any federal environment minister has taken the time to examine the health of the lakes system first-hand.

Until Minister Kemp has inspected this important environmental site, the future of the jewel of the Central Coast—Tuggerah Lakes—remains in limbo. Despite an outpouring of anger by members of the local community, Wyong Shire Council and the New South Wales Carr Labor government remain committed to dredging truck loads of sludge from the Tumbi Creek and dumping it into what is already a shallow estuarine lake. Tuggerah Lake is also a key prawn breeding area and a significant New South Wales tourist attraction. I and the people of the Central Coast want other options to be explored and commonsense to prevail. All levels of government need to work together to protect this vital ecosystem. This is not about the federal government coming in as a heavyweight and taking over. I want to help. I want to fight for federal funds to get the job done properly, and I need a commitment from all three levels of government. As federal member for Dobell, I have a responsibility to run a ruler over projects in my electorate that affect residents of the Central Coast, our tourism industry and future generations.

While the management of the lake and its environs is a matter for the constitutional land manager—in this case, the New South Wales government—an environmentally unsound and cheapjack option for this lake is just not on. What is most disappointing is the New South Wales government's lack of support on the issue. The New South Wales government is not only the land manager but also the title holder and the largest absorber of revenue from the lake. Sadly, only a small proportion of this money is coming back into the community. The Howard government strongly supports local initiatives to protect the environment and sustain regional communities like the Central Coast. Recently, the Howard government announced over $1 million in Natural Heritage Trust funding over the next three years for Central Coast environmental projects.

In conclusion, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people of Dobell for taking the time to make their concerns known to me. Concerns of local residents have skyrocketed in recent weeks amid speculation that Wyong council will soon commence the dredging works. Wyong council and the state government must reassess their decision. Half-measures are not what are needed to address the pollution of Tumbi Creek. What I and the people of Dobell want for the jewel of the Central Coast is a viable, longterm solution that will improve Tumbi Creek without creating problems elsewhere in the lakes system. It will be most disappointing if Wyong Shire Council and the New South Wales government proceed with the dredging and the dumping of silt into the lake before all alternative options and funding opportunities have been explored. I urge Wyong council to hold off on the proposed dredging until Minister Kemp has assessed the site himself. It is vital for the future of the Central Coast to do a proper job of this.