The McGowan Government is working towards a new direction for salinity management for Western Australia, releasing a consultative review today for stakeholder input.
The review forms part of the government’s response to a 2018 report by the Auditor General into salinity management in the south-west agricultural zone.
The Auditor General found the State did not have all of the information needed to manage dryland salinity, which affects more than one million hectares of land in the South West Land Division, and there was not enough co-ordination between government agencies, landholders and stakeholders.
The State Government has brought together the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development; the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation; and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions as part of its response.
The newly released independent review, ‘A New Direction in Salinity Management’, incorporates key stakeholder input and recommends improvements through four key ‘pillars’ – information, governance, innovation and investment.
The State Government is already taking steps to improve the current knowledge of the extent and impact of salinity in WA, allocating $400,000 through the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development towards the development of new salinity maps. Updated maps have not been produced since 2000.
The review and further stakeholder and public input will be considered by the Government as part of its broader approach to future salinity management. Public comment closes on May 27, 2019.
The report is available online at https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/salinityreview
As noted by Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan:
“Governments have dropped the ball on broadscale salinity management over the past 10 years, but we are absolutely committed to reinvigorating the salinity fight to help protect agriculture, our natural resources and community assets.
“We’ve brought stakeholders together across agriculture, natural resource management, community, aquaculture, carbon farming and science to address this challenge.
“Work is progressing to re-establish the defunct Soil and Land Conservation Council, a statutory body which had not met since 2003. The council will provide expert advice on the implementation of the report’s recommendations.”
As noted by Environment Minister Stephen Dawson:
“Salinity, particularly in the Wheatbelt agricultural region, has severely impacted reserves, private remnant vegetation and their associated biodiversity values.
“Significant progress has been made over the past 20 years in managing salinity impacts in important catchments associated with rare species and communities such as Toolibin Lake, Lake Bryde and other catchments and reserves.
“A new direction for the management of salinity is timely and will help establish priority actions, as well as mechanisms to protect important conservation values through a collaborative approach between all stakeholders.”
As noted by Water Minister Dave Kelly:
“Recent stakeholder engagement has emphasised community concern about salinity and I look forward to further public input on the review for a whole-of-government response to the Auditor General’s report.
“Many of our rivers have been affected by salinity, which has impacted flora and fauna and made many rivers unsuitable for drinking water or irrigation.
“Work in managing salinity in key water resource areas has continued throughout the past decade, and we are supportive of maintaining the current Government’s commitment to work with industry and the community in building on improvements to the State’s water assets.
“The independent review into salinity management highlights the effectiveness of targeted investment in protecting priority surface water assets, such as the Denmark and Collie rivers.”