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Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester says he will fight for an independent environmental audit of the Gippsland Lakes and its catchment if he’s successful at the May 18 election.

A long-time supporter of Gippsland Lakes and river management issues, Mr Chester said he was disappointed both State and Federal Government environment ministers had rejected his written requests for an assessment of the lakes.

Mr Chester was directly involved as a consultant working for Gippsland Coastal Board when the last audit was undertaken by the CSIRO in 1998.

“The Gippsland Lakes are the jewels in our tourism crown and we need the best available science to guide decisions made for the catchment and the shores of the lakes system,” Mr Chester said.

“The CSIRO is well-respected as an independent organisation and it should be contracted to undertake an environmental audit of the lakes, rivers and world-class wetlands.

“It would cost less than $2 million and provide a valuable source of information to guide future catchment management decisions and practical environmental projects undertaken by governments and volunteer organisations throughout the region.”

Mr Chester said he had written to both state and federal government ministers over the past two years in support of an independent environmental assessment of the lakes systems, but received negative responses.

“This issue is important and I’m not inclined to take ‘no’ for an answer. If I’m successful at the Federal election I plan to escalate my campaign to secure funding for this work on behalf of many local residents who are passionate about the Gippsland Lakes and its catchment,” Mr Chester said.

“We have a lot of different government organisations and hard-working volunteers who are doing some excellent work to improve the environment in the catchment but it’s been more than 20 years since there was an independent audit.

“I’ve said many times that the Gippsland Lakes are ‘the Great Barrier Reef of the south’ in terms of their environmental, economic, social and cultural importance to our region.

“But funding for projects around the lakes system is traditionally given on an ad hoc basis and there’s no commitment to long-term funding for research and projects to enhance the experience for locals and visitors.

“We need to do better and it starts with a comprehensive audit on the health of the lakes and rivers to inform long-term decisions and funding commitments to look after our magnificent waterways for future generations.”

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