Jun 6, 2024 | Latest News

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Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester says an independent audit of the ecological health of the Gippsland Lakes would help to guide future management and practical environmental action throughout the catchment.

Speaking in Federal Parliament, Mr Chester accused the state and federal governments of under-funding the nation’s largest lakes system.

“I’ve often described the Gippsland Lakes as the Great Barrier Reef of the south, such is their importance to my region,” Mr Chester told Parliament.

“But the Victorian Government contributes less than $3 million per year for direct investment in protecting and enhancing the Gippsland Lakes and its catchment, while the Commonwealth provides ad hoc grants to land managers through various competitive grants streams.

“Contrast this with the estimated $150 million per year governments contribute to the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland.”

Mr Chester said he was concerned that the catchment’s lack of monitoring and active management would compromise the system’s future.

“The Gippsland Lakes are magnificent, and I’m not suggesting they are in crisis, but the time for action is now, and not when we have a major algal bloom or other problems,” Mr Chester said.

“It’s the environmental future of the lakes and rivers in my region that causes me the most concern and an ongoing failure to properly measure, manage and take practical action to improve water quality, reduce the impact of pests, and ensure the lakes are passed on to future generations.

“I have repeatedly raised concerns on behalf of constituents regarding the ecological condition of the lakes, the lack of comprehensive monitoring of water quality and other issues, the disjointed management structure, and the failure to undertake an independent audit since 1998.

“Rather than a crisis-driven approach, the time to spend money, properly measuring, evaluating and taking action is not when a blue-green algal bloom is devastating the local economy. It’s now.”

Mr Chester said the Gippsland Lakes system is internationally significant as a migratory bird habitat and has great cultural importance to the Gunaikurnai people.

“All of the evidence points to a system under stress, which is not being actively monitored or managed to the level it should be, given its social, economic, environmental and cultural importance,” Mr Chester said.

“We need an independent environmental audit of the Gippsland Lakes and catchment and a commitment to undertake the practical steps needed to secure a healthy future for this crucial system.

“The Gippsland Lakes and catchment areas are being starved of resources by a State Government that is disinterested in practical things like weed control, pest animal control, protecting eroding foreshores, investing in Landcare, helping farmers reduce nutrient run-off, and long-term measures to make sure we pass the lakes on in better condition.

“There should be jobs for young Gippslanders in estuarine management, forest management, supporting our world-class farmers through extension officers and practical application of research, but instead, we have Melbourne Labor Ministers destroying local industries, like the timber sector, and replacing those jobs with empty promises.

“I will continue to advocate for an environmental audit of the Gippsland Lakes and funding for practical natural resource management to ensure we protect and, wherever possible, enhance this world-class resource.”

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