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Gippsland environment jobs in doubt.

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The Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP Shadow Minister for Environment, Heritage and the Arts Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs Federal Liberal Member for Murray

Friday, 13 June 2008

Media Enquiries: Robert Hardie 02 6277 4477 / 0418 432 909

Gippsland environment jobs in doubt

Shadow Minister for Environment, Heritage, the Arts and Indigenous Affairs, Dr Sharman Stone, visited the Maffra and District Landcare Association on Wednesday, in response to concerns from local environment groups about budget cuts. Liberal candidate for Gippsland, Rohan Fitzgerald, was also concerned to see funding for these volunteer groups slashed.

“Important on the ground works to improve the environment in the Gippsland Lakes and other significant catchments are now in jeopardy due to budget cuts by the Rudd Labor Government. What Labor gave with one hand, it took twice as much with the other.

“During last year’s election campaign, the Government pledged funds for the Gippsland Lakes. But in this year’s budget, it took money away. Forty per cent of funding for the East- and West Gippsland Catchment Management Authorities, and 20 per cent of Landcare funding was cut. It scrapped the EnviroFund and Environmental Stewardship Programme.

“Some 35 staff will lose their jobs as a result of the changes to funding for the East- and West Gippsland CMAs. These job losses will include Landcare coordination officers and the Indigenous engagement officer. This will have a devastating impact on the interaction of environmental service providers in the wider community.

“The Maffra and District Landcare group has been advised that their three full time and one half-time support staff are to be slashed to just three part time staff.

“When the new Caring for our Country package was announced, Labor pledged to cut the red-tape for organisations applying for funding. But groups like the Maffra and District Landcare Association will now have to spend more time applying for grants from charities and other funding bodies to make up the shortfall.

“The local region is still recovering from the serious effects of bushfires, floods and drought. We need people on the ground to manage the erosion and revegetation process, monitor and stop the spread of weeds and to work with farmers and landholders to sustain the environment and agriculture. Without Landcare workers and the CMA staff to assist, the work won’t be done and volunteers will continue to burn out.

Dr Stone said Liberal candidate for the Gippsland by-election, Rohan Fitzgerald, would work to secure on-going future funding for environmental services in the region.

“I know Rohan Fitzgerald is committed to the natural resource protection of the region. This means securing the magnificent landscape as well as the production capacity.

”I will be writing to Environment Minister, Peter Garrett regarding the serious concerns about the environmental budget cuts in Gippsland, requesting he urgently reverse his cutbacks.