- Auditor General finds salinity poses a major risk to Western Australia, highlighting the failings of the previous Liberal National Government
- McGowan Government accepts need to address issue, has already commenced work
The McGowan Government welcomes the Auditor General's report into the risk posed by dry land salinity in Western Australia.
The Auditor General's report into the management of salinity in WA has exposed the previous Liberal National Government's decimation of its agricultural capabilities.
Between 2003 and 2008, under the last WA Labor Government, more than $500 million of State and Federal funds were invested in salinity and water quality management in WA. This work was stopped with the change of government.
The report found that WA's management of salinity has not been effective, that there has been little monitoring and evaluation, that there is a lack of understanding of the current extent of the problem - and that agencies have not been meeting their legislative responsibilities.
The McGowan Government welcomes the recommendations of the report and will work on a whole-of-government response to salinity management, bringing together the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.
The McGowan Government is already taking steps to address salinity issues across the State.
Last year, Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan announced the State Government would resurrect the defunct Soil and Land Conservation Council, a statutory body which had not met since 2003.
The Auditor General's report noted that the lack of independent advice from the council has impacted on the State's ability to manage salinity effectively and efficiently.
A Soil and Land Conservation Advisory Committee, formed to guide the re-establishment of a modern Soil and Land Conservation Council, has met twice and will hold its next meeting in June 2018.
The McGowan Government has also successfully lobbied the Federal Government for funding for the Myalup-Wellington project, which - with co-funding from the State Government - will help to reduce salinity levels in the Wellington Dam.
Discussions have also begun with Geosciences Australia to use advances in the interpretation of satellite imagery to get an understanding of the extent of the problem.
Comments attributed to Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan:
"Salinity is a critical issue for our agricultural lands, affecting not just farming businesses, but water quality in rivers, wetlands, public drinking and irrigation water supply dams.
"The last government dropped the ball on salinity and failed to meet their responsibility to prevent and mitigate land degradation across the State.
"We have already taken concrete steps to fix this issue with our move to re-establish the Soil and Land Conservation Council, and welcome the Auditor General's recommendations."
Comments attributed to Environment Minister Stephen Dawson:
"It's appalling that the former government failed to meet its obligations to prevent and mitigate land degradation and protect the State's biodiversity.
"I support the development of a whole-of-government approach in response to the Auditor General's report on salinity.
"My departments will look to reinvigorate partnerships with Natural Resource Management groups and the community to address this critical issue."
Comments attributed to Water Minister Dave Kelly:
"Many of the rivers in the south-west have been affected by salinity, which has impacted flora and fauna and made many rivers unsuitable for drinking water or irrigation.
"The work undertaken by the Gallop Government to reverse the salinity of the Denmark River is an example of how targeted action can make a positive difference to priority assets.
"The Myalup-Wellington project is also an excellent example of how actions can be taken to reverse salinity and make full use of an important irrigation resource."
Agriculture and Food Minister's office - 6552 6200
Environment Minister's office - 6552 5800
Water Minister's office - 6552 6100