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Monday, 19 September 1994
Page: 934

(Question No. 1487)

Senator Coulter asked the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories, upon notice, on 23 June 1994:

  (1) Will the Commonwealth Government make a one-off $9 million grant to the Albury City Council, to be allocated over 3 years, for the construction of off-river sewerage treatment disposal facilities, being the preferred treatment option of the Council and the people of Albury.

  (2) Would the construction of such a facility provide much needed regional employment and significantly improve the water quality of the Murray River downstream of Albury.

  (3) Is Albury City Council eligible to apply for funding for such a proposal through any of the Government's programs.

Senator Faulkner —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

  (1) No. The Council has approached the Commonwealth on a number of occasions for funding towards sewage treatment disposal facilities. Generally, I believe that responsibility for appropriate sewage and wastewater management rests with State Governments and local communities. The Commonwealth, through the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, Senator Collins, provides assistance to rural centres of less than 5 000 persons which, because of their limited financial resources, are unable to adequately address their water service needs. Albury, on the other hand, is a large inland city with substantial financial capacity to take responsibility for its affairs. The Commonwealth, however, under the National Landcare Program has provided Council with $50 000 for an urban nutrient management study.

  (2) I expect the construction of a sewage treatment plant would provide employment opportunities for the Albury-Wodonga region.

  An environmental impact assessment report is being prepared for Albury City Council which will address what impacts the proposed off-river sewerage facility will have on water quality. I am aware that the wastewater levels from the facility are proposed to meet World Health Organisation standards for drinking water and the Commonwealth supports in principle that improvements to sewage treatment are likely to contribute to improved water quality.

  (3) A project of this type may be eligible for assistance under the National Landcare Program (NLP) in accordance with the proposed Commonwealth-State Partnership Agreement with NSW, being developed by the Department of Primary Industries and Energy, as long as it meets NLP guidelines and is in line with the priorities established in the Agreement.