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WA's $158 million to tackle salinity and water quality welcomed: if it is real.

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DAFF04/087WTJ - 7 April 2004

Australian Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Warren Truss Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp

WA's $158 million to tackle salinity and water quality welcomed - if it is real

The Australian Government has welcomed WA Premier Geoff Gallop's $158 million commitment to the National Action Plan on Salinity and Water Quality but wants to see the fine print.

By matching the Australian Government commitment, $316 million will be available to combat the spread of salinity in Western Australia.

"It is pleasing to finally have a long-term funding commitment from the WA Government to tackle salinity and water quality in the State," Australian Ministers for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, and Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Warren Truss, said.

"However, it is a pity that it has taken so long for WA to give its support - as the Australian Government's $158 million has been on the table since the COAG agreement on the National Action Plan in November 2000," the Ministers said.

The Ministers said there were question marks over whether the proposed $15 million Collie/Wellington dam project, and a $32 million contribution to plantation forestry, were included in WA's $158 million and, if they were, whether they would qualify as new money, or as high priorities in their respective regions.

"Our understanding is that these projects will not involve new money, so, if they do form a part of the undertaking that Premier Gallop has given, then the Australian Government will need to be convinced on that point," the Ministers said.

"Equally, independently, we would need an assurance that both projects are regarded as high priorities by the relevant regional community based NAP bodies."

Salinity and water quality are two of Australia's most serious environmental threats.

With secure funding on-ground action can commence to protect the State's precious native plants and animals and the natural resources that sustain our agricultural industries.

The $1.4 billion National Action Plan is the first program of its kind, and is implemented as a partnership between the Australian and State and Territory governments and regional bodies.

Further media inquiries:

Minister Truss' office: Tim Langmead (02) 6277 7520 or 0418 221 433 Minister Kemp's office: Mitch Catlin (02) 6277 7640 or 0401 005 693