THE Peel-Harvey Estuary is one of six regional estuaries in the South-West and Great Southern targeted under a new $20 million Royalties for Regions program launched by Water Minister Mia Davies and Regional Development Minister Terry Redman at the State Government’s regional Cabinet meeting in Mandurah on Monday.
The estuary would receive $6million funding, and Ms Davies said the initiative was the biggest single investment made by the State Government in managing the health of regional estuaries.
She said the initiative would fund a range of on-ground works such as soil and water testing, farm effluent management upgrades, fencing, revegetation and drainage site works, as well as new science and modelling, building regional capacity, local employment and training.
“Despite efforts by Government and the community, the combined pressures of reduced rainfall and flows, increasing population, urban development and the intensification of agriculture will continue to reduce water quality if left unchecked,” she said.
“The science previously gathered by state agencies, catchment partners and community members had made the case for investment.”
Regional Development Minister Terry Redman said the initiative supported sustainable development and growth in regional areas and was complementary to the South-West and Great Southern regional blueprints.
“The aim of the program is to build regional waterways management capacity and put in place the technical and environmental solutions needed to ensure our estuaries can continue to support a wide range of businesses and recreational activities,” he said.
“Regional estuaries are assets that promote recreational activities and encourage tourism and it is significant that Royalties for Regions undertakes this investment to deliver tangible long-term benefits to regional communities.”
But the funding is too little, years too late, according to Shadow Environment and Water spokesmen Chris Tallentire and Dave Kelly.
They described it as a cynical attempt to make up for years of neglect on the same day Murray-Wellington MLA Murray Cowper launched an attack on colleagues highlighting massive inequality in Royalties for Regions spending in the Peel region.
Mr Kelly said the government had been in office for seven years and one year out from an election had decided the future of the estuaries was important.
Mr Tallentire said the announcement did not address the crucial issue of high nutrient levels in the estuaries.
“The Ministers’ desire to spend money on drainage projects must be backed up with some kind of solution to address the chemical cocktail flowing into our estuaries,’’ he said.