May 31, 2011
The importance of maintaining the unique environment of Gippsland’s wetlands has been highlighted ahead of World Environment Day on June 8, 2011.
The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester moved a motion this week to ensure Federal Parliament recognised the social, economic, environmental and cultural importance of conserving wetlands through the Ramsar convention.
Mr Chester, who recently attended the Yarram Yarram Landcare awards, said there needed to be a balanced approach towards maintaining Gippsland’s wetlands with a focus on listening to and undertaking work with local communities.
“I want to highlight the critical importance of wetlands in Australia but particularly in the Gippsland electorate, where we have two Ramsar listed wetland sites—Corner Inlet and the Gippsland Lakes,” Mr Chester told Parliament.
“Our wetlands are a treasure trove of biodiversity, but they are not museum pieces. They certainly need active management and we need to get amongst them to fully appreciate what is available to us.
“I believe we need to have a balanced approach with a focus on working with our local communities and listening to those communities, not inflicting policies from the cities.”
Mr Chester said a key part of the management of wetlands was the development of infrastructure and facilities that would allow a close-up appreciation of the unique environment.
“For people to value our wetlands they need to be able to visit them,” Mr Chester said.
“This is not to suggest there should be open slather on development; it is to make the point that local communities, which are often called on to be the custodians of such assets and provide a great deal of the practical environmental work in regional areas, should be able to benefit commercially from our wetland areas.
“There are economic opportunities to be found in our world-class wetlands but the lack of facilities on public land is a major issue for the Gippsland tourism industry.
“Wise use of our wetlands should involve the development of facilities such as boardwalks, viewing platforms, environmentally appropriate accommodation and other infrastructure which allows locals to benefit from the jobs which exist in ecotourism.
“It is an opportunity that we have failed to capitalise on in Gippsland, and the federal government should be working in partnership with the state government to support such activities in the future.”
Mr Chester said many public land reserves in Gippsland were overrun with feral animals and introduced weeds.
“When we are talking about wetlands, the impact of foxes and cats in particular has had a devastating impact on a wide variety of bird species,” Mr Chester said.
“The underinvestment in programs to reduce the impact of noxious species is a fault of both State and Federal governments. I do not lay the blame before one side of politics over another.
“I believe there is a critical need for ongoing Commonwealth funding to State agencies and volunteer organisations, which play a critical role in practical environmental management.
Mr Chester commended the work of local Landcare volunteers for undertaking practical work to maintain public land.
“There are many individuals, community groups and landholder organisations that are passionate about our lakes and rivers and are ready to do their share of the practical work that is required,” Mr Chester said.
“I recently attended the Yarram Yarram Landcare awards and spoke to people who are making a difference every day through their stewardship of their own land and the work they do as volunteers on public land.
“Their work in the catchment areas is undoubtedly providing benefits to the Ramsar listed wetlands of Corner Inlet, and I thank them on behalf of all Gippslanders for their willingness to make such an important contribution.”