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Action on salinity and water quality.

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The Federal Government will commit $700 million to the first comprehensive national strategy to address salinity and water quality problems, two of the most significant issues confronting Australia’s rural industries, regional communities and our environment.

The states and territories will be integral to the success of the strategy. This is an issue which requires not only national leadership from the Commonwealth but also collaboration between all governments in the nation.

Given the constitutional responsibilities of the states and territories for land management, the Commonwealth will seek a dollar for dollar matching commitment from them.

The significant funding allocation from the Commonwealth is over a seven year period and builds on the success of the $1.5 billion Natural Heritage Trust.

It will be applied to practical remedies including protecting and rehabilitating waterways, improvements to native vegetation, engineering works to address salt intrusion and land and water use changes where appropriate.

No government or community can do the job on its own. It will require all levels of government, affected communities and individuals working together to achieve the desired outcome.

The strategy outlined today by the Commonwealth involves :

· Detailed scientific assessment to decide the areas needing attention and the most effective action;

· Targets and standards for natural resource management;

· Developing integrated plans for catchments and regions so that solutions can be tailored to the differing problems; and

· Empowering communities to help themselves so they play a significant role in developing plans and carrying them out.

The problems are widespread, affecting all states and territories. Salinity and water quality problems have built up over many decades and will require a sustained campaign and significant resources over a number of years to repair the damage.

It is envisaged that action will be taken in 20 highly affected catchments and regions, spread right across Australia.

Details of the Commonwealth’s strategy are being forwarded to the states and territories today and I look forward to a constructive discussion on these important national issues when I meet with Premiers and Chief Ministers at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting next month.

10 October 2000

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