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Wednesday, 15 October 2003
Page: 21599

Mr Kelvin Thomson asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, upon notice, on 4 February 2003:

(1) Have the scientific methods used in development of the Salinity Hazard Maps by the Queensland Government been reviewed by leading scientists from his Department.

(2) If so, did these scientists find any fault or flaw in the scientific methods used in the development of the Queensland Salinity Hazard Maps.

(3) Do scientists from his Department regard the Queensland Salinity Hazard Maps as accurate.

(4) Is there any validity in the querying of the Salinity Hazard Maps engaged in by Queensland National Party politicians.

Mr Truss (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Yes.

(2) The methodology applied by Queensland is considered suitable for the mapping of salinity hazard at the broad scale of 1:250,000 given the limited information available. However, the maps do not indicate actual salinity levels or risk.

(3) The Queensland Salinity Hazard Maps draw on the available information and provide an indication of the relative vulnerability of a site to salinity (i.e. hazard) should it occur in an area or region. They reflect the very limited inform-ation on the risk of salinity actually occurring. The interpretation of the terms salinity hazard and salinity risk associated with the maps can be confusing. Salinity Hazard Maps show where the inherent characteristics of the landscape indicate a susceptibility to, or potential for, salinisation in an area or region. Salinity risk is the probability that land or water salinity may develop, dependent on the mobilisation of salt, if certain management practices or land-use changes occur or continue. A site may be considered to be of high hazard but of small risk. The Salinity Hazard Maps developed by Queensland can be helpful to guide and prioritise the essential process of gathering the information needed to identify and map the areas at high risk of being affected by salinity.

(4) It is valid to query the use of Salinity Hazard Maps when claims are made which create the impression of serious salinisation when it may not be the case. In particular, Salinity Hazard Maps should not be used as a basis for land use decisions without further investigation by, for example, aerial electro-magnetic salinity mapping.

Minister Kemp and I have initiated an independent review of salinity mapping methodologies Australia wide with a view to identifying clearly the strengths and limitations of each approach. An assessment is also being undertaken of where various methodologies could most usefully be applied and with what caveats on interpretations. We have raised our concerns with Queensland about the limitations of salinity hazard maps and will be seeking to establish a sensible approach to salinity mapping in conjunction with the States and Territories.