River system health still declining

The report, which looked into the health of the Swan Canning River System, found that despite 20 years of monitoring and intervention, the health of the system was still worsening.

Key findings of the report released by the Office of the Auditor General included moderate to poor water quality, unsuccessful action to combat sources of nutrients and pollutants, gaps in planning and reporting, and the lack of an approved river protection strategy.

Auditor General Colin Murphy said symptoms of poor water quality included low oxygen levels, high nutrient levels and fish deaths that exceeded the Swan River Trust’s target in four of the past 10 years.

The report lists key recommendations for the Trust to work closer with Parliament, take action to have its river protection strategy approved and clarify responsibility for the river.

Environment Minister Albert Jacob said he acknowledged that more work needed to be done to ensure good management of the rivers but highlighted that improvements had started to be made.

‘Nutrient intervention technologies continue to be a major focus with the construction of end-of-catchment wetlands in Ellen Brook and Bayswater catchments, together with the construction of a new oxygenation plan on the Canning River,’ he said.

Mr Jacob said a 2013 Fish Community Report by Murdoch University found the health of the river was improving, with the ecological condition of the rivers getting better since the mid 2000s.

He said a river protection strategy would be finalised after the merger and transfer of day-to-day management functions of the Swan River Trust to the Department of Parks and Wildlife ( DPaW).

South East Regional Centre for Urban Landcare chief executive Julie Robert said the report reflected an unfair finding on the Trust, which she believes is doing everything it could with the resources it has to extend the response to preventing river health decline.

‘The findings also reflect how important it is for politicians to understand what the consequences are for our river if they hold up approval of a strategic river management plan that is essential for enacting the protection and improvement of the health of the river,’ she said.

She added that the Trust needed to be allowed to continue its work.

‘Merging them with DPaW does not make sense as DPaW already could not manage the amount of land they had with the amount of resources provided,’ she said. ‘The Trust should remain an independent body that should not be held to the mercy of each government.’

Greens MLC Lynn MacLaren said it was clear that more research was necessary to effectively implement the best practice for the river system.