darren.chester.mp@aph.gov.au 1300 131 785
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November 25, 2008

The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester says the Rudd Government has cut back on practical environmental work in the region and failed to spend any of the $3 million promised for water quality improvements in the Gippsland Lakes.

Speaking in Federal Parliament, Mr Chester said there was a great deal of concern among Gippslanders about the level of government support for environmental projects.

“The concerns relate to the government’s decision to cut the level of guaranteed funding to Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) and its failure to deliver on a promise of $3 million for water quality improvements in the Gippsland Lakes catchment,” Mr Chester told Parliament.

“In my electorate, the decision to cut CMA funding has directly contributed to the number of Landcare staff within the West Gippsland CMA being slashed from nine to three.

“It makes no sense to cut funding to the very people who are coordinating volunteers – they are out there getting their hands dirty. They are doing the revegetation work, pest animal control, weed reduction and erosion management.”

Mr Chester said he was also concerned about the future of private nurseries in the region which had been previously contracted to grow native seedlings for large-scale environmental rehabilitation projects.

“The cuts to practical environmental programs are also having a very significant impact on small businesses such as the wholesale nursery industry,” Mr Chester said in Parliament.

“Nursery owners in my electorate, such as the Glengarry Plant Farm are reporting a massive reduction in orders from groups such as Landcare, Greening Australia and the CMAs.

“These groups simply are not pre-ordering the same number of native trees for revegetation programs and streamside rehabilitation because they have no idea whether they will have the funding to pay for the trees in the future.”

Mr Chester has written to the Minister for Environment Peter Garrett to seek his support for a funding guarantee for practical environmental projects. He is also continuing his campaign for the government to move quickly to honor its commitment to provide $3 million for nutrient reduction works in the Gippsland Lakes catchment.

“It’s been 12 months since the Rudd Government was elected and it hasn’t spent any of the promised $3 million to help reduce the level of nutrients entering the Gippsland Lakes,” Mr Chester said.

“It is one thing to make an election commitment – it is an entirely different matter to get on with the job of practical environmental work on the ground.”

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