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Wednesday, 24 August 1994
Page: 215

Senator WEST —I address my question to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, in his capacity as the minister responsible for the government's landcare effort. I am aware that the Prime Minister is in rural New South Wales today to announce the allocation of grants for 1994 to community groups under the national landcare program. Can the minister inform the Senate of progress in combating soil and water degradation across the nation, and how these grants will assist in overcoming these problems?

Senator COLLINS —I am pleased to inform the Senate that the Prime Minister travelled to Dubbo today and took the opportunity to announce this government's ongoing commitment to landcare. Despite the derisory comments of the opposition, I add that the rural community appreciates this, even if Senator Panizza does not. I believe the announcement demonstrates the importance we place on this vital program. An all-out effort to halt and reverse the degradation of our land and water resources remains one of the key tenets of Labor's rural and environmental policy strategy.

  The government's overall landcare funding from my portfolio and Senator Faulkner's is in excess of $110 million for 1994-95. Grants totalling almost $75 million have been announced today. These moneys include funding of $72.95 million for new and continuing projects under the land and water elements of the national landcare program. Funding to meet the growth in community landcare groups remains a priority. Allocations to the community component of the program total $15.3 million. The number of community-based landcare groups in both rural and urban areas has grown from 75 in 1985 to more than 2,200 today. This represents a clear commitment from the community to tackle natural resource degradation.

  I am please to inform the Senate that all eligible community group applications have been funded again this year—all of them. Full details of community group projects have been provided in a statement issued today by my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories. Recommendations on NLP projects have been provided by state and territory assessment panels with invaluable community input. One of the great values of this program is the strong grassroots community support that it enjoys.

  A continuing focus of the NLP is on land management and sustainable agriculture. Grants will support the development of a range of sustainable practices including the promotion of improved property management planning. The key priority for the NLP in 1994-95 is to bring together resource management programs on a regional basis and contribute to sustainable development in rural regions. The NLP will also play a strong role in facilitating the water reform measures recently announced by the Council of Australian Governments.

  The Commonwealth will work jointly with the states to undertake activities relating to micro-economic reform, providing water for the environment and maintaining and improving stream water quality. Monitoring and evaluating outcomes from the NLP is also vital. Additional funds have been provided for these activities, and all governments will be evaluating the implementation of their decade of landcare plans over the next year.

  Communities, industry and government will work together through the NLP to achieve improved management of land and water resources in Australia. The Commonwealth, states and territories are currently finalising partnership agreements through which priority land, water and vegetation issues can be better addressed and monitored. All of that has been supplemented by the very significant investment of Commonwealth moneys in this program that has been announced today in Dubbo by the Prime Minister.