A Victorian Liberal Nationals Coalition Government will end Labor’s neglect of the Gippsland Lakes by allocating $10 million to improve the health of the iconic water system, Shadow Minister for Regional and Rural Development and Leader of The Nationals Peter Ryan said today.
Mr Ryan made the announcement at Lakes Entrance today with Liberal Party candidate for Gippsland East Sonia Buckley and The Nationals candidate for Gippsland East Tim Bull.
“The Gippsland Lakes and its catchment areas are of critical importance to the environmental, economic and social wellbeing of Gippsland but John Brumby has turned his back on the world-renowned wetlands,” Mr Ryan said.
“The Labor Government first allocated $3.2 million annually to the Gippsland Lakes Taskforce in 2002 but scaled back its support to $2 million in 2006, before cutting recurrent funding all together in 2009.
“While John Brumby has cut funding for the Gippsland Lakes Taskforce, a Coalition Government will spend $10 million over four years on practical environmental projects to protect the Lakes for future generations to enjoy.
“Given the Commonwealth’s responsibility for RAMSAR-listed wetlands, we will also work to secure an additional $5 million from the Federal Government, bringing the total investment to $15 million.”
“The Coalition will ensure the environmental significance of the Gippsland Lakes is maintained as well as providing for the tourism, recreational and business needs in the Lakes region and the surrounding catchment area.”
Mr Ryan said a Coalition Government would scrap Labor’s plan to incorporate Gippsland’s catchment management authorities, the Gippsland Coastal Board and the Gippsland Lakes Taskforce.
“The Coalition will not create or extend any of the state’s marine parks. Instead we will end Labor’s neglect of the Gippsland Lakes,” Mr Ryan said.
“The West Gippsland and East Gippsland catchment management authorities will be retained under the Coalition’s plan.
“We will transform the Gippsland Lakes Taskforce into a new, higher level co-ordinating organisation, comprising of representatives of state and regional decision-making authorities, which reports directly to the Minister for the Environment.
“The taskforce will operate with a dual charter giving it responsibility for the environmental welfare of the Gippsland Lakes and funding for environmental programs as well as facilitating improved decision-making on development within the Lakes region.
“We will support targeted, locally-based activities and initiatives to deliver the best programs to ensure the quality of water in the Gippsland Lakes and protect their environment.
“This funding will help maintain the health of the Lakes, increase the capacity for the active involvement of the community, recreational groups, business and government agencies in the environmental care of the Lakes into the future.
“We will also provide greater transparency and understanding of research and monitoring to ensure the Lakes thrive,” Mr Ryan said.
Liberals candidate for Gippsland East Sonia Buckley applauded the announcement.
“The Gippsland Lakes are a unique natural feature and are the single most outstanding attraction for Gippsland’s tourism industry,” Ms Buckley said.
“The Coalition’s plan will deliver the long overdue framework to define appropriate development around the Lakes.”
The Nationals candidate for Gippsland East Tim Bull said the Coalition’s commitment to fund an environmental strategy for the Lakes would secure the future of recreational fishing in the Lakes.
“The Coalition is committed to maintaining a navigable entrance to Lakes Entrance commercial fishing fleet,” Mr Bull said.
“The Coalition’s commitment to put in place a funded environmental strategy for the Gippsland Lakes will enhance opportunities for the state’s recreational fishers and guarantee the long-term future of the commercial fishing industry.”
“This announcement is a major advance for one of Australia’s most significant natural landmarks.”