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Budget 2009: Disgraceful and outrageous that taskforce has to beg.



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Wednesday, May 13, 2009 Printer Friendly Version

Source: Darren Chester MP

The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has slammed the State Government for its failure to announce funding to the Gippsland Lakes and Catchment Taskforce in last week’s State budget.

Mr Chester said the uncertainty over future environmental projects had led to the Taskforce Chairman Professor Barry Hart publicly expressing his concerns.

“It is disgraceful and outrageous that the well respected Taskforce Chair, Professor Barry Hart, has had to publicly beg for funding to allow the Taskforce to continue its important, practical environmental work,” Mr Chester said.

“I’m staggered that the State Budget did not include a specific guarantee of ongoing funding for the Gippsland Lakes - funding will run out on June 30 unless the Minister makes an announcement.

“The Gippsland Lakes are critical to the social and economic life of Gippslanders and improving the health of the rivers and lakes system is a responsibility for both the State and Federal Governments in partnership with the local community.

“Volunteers and private landholders are doing their share with millions of dollars invested in on-farm environmental works but there is a need for long-term investment to improve the health of the catchment.

“The State Minister should end the uncertainty and immediately announce at least $10 million over next three years.”

Mr Chester said he hoped that the Minister was not waiting for a photo opportunity to come to Gippsland to announce the funding.

“I’d be disappointed to think that the Minister is causing unnecessary stress for the volunteers and staff who work to protect the Gippsland Lakes - just so he can guarantee his photo in the local newspaper,” Mr Chester said.

Mr Chester has been an outspoken supporter of the Gippsland Lakes, raising the importance of the Lakes in Federal Parliament on several occasions.

He has been calling for funding from both levels of Government to protect the health of the Gippsland Lakes and enhance the long-term prosperity of the tourism industry for Gippsland.

“I will continue my efforts to secure additional funding in the future for practical environmental work and hold the government to account on its previous promises,” Mr Chester said.

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