Cassy O'Connor MP | Greens Leader
The Tasmanian Greens welcome the Minister for Primary Industries and Water’s announcement of new funding for managing Tasmania’s waterways, but repeat our calls for a far greater increase in funding, a full cost recovery model for water fees, a significant focus on river health, and a move towards integrated catchment management.
The health of Tasmania’s rivers is one of the most crucial issues we face as a community, but it’s only after 18 months of pressure from independent scientists and the Greens that the Liberals seem to have recognised this fact.
It’s good to see some minor improvements now dripping out of government, but far more still needs to be done. The science tells us river health across the State is in decline. Urgent action is required to reverse this worrying decline.
Around $8 million of public funds will be spent on water management in 2021-22, but government will recover less than $1 million in water allocation fees. Meanwhile, huge companies like Van Dairy use tens of billions of litres of water every year, and pay just one cent for every 38,000 litres of their allocation.
If the Liberals are serious about caring for Tasmania’s rivers, they should commit to a model where every water user is subject to metering – as is the case in other states - and pays a fair amount for the water they use. Those fees should be set through a full cost recovery approach.
The Liberals’ decision to reverse some of the cuts they made to water quality monitoring is an improvement, but unless this is accompanied by a plan to address the drivers in river health decline, water quality will still be under threat.
We need to see a move towards the integrated management of Tasmania’s catchments so all the issues affecting waterways can be tackled through a strategic and unified approach.
It’s good to see the new Minister for Water is more aware of the importance of protecting waterways than her predecessor, but Minister Palmer needs to prioritise the steps laid out above before Tasmanians can be confident we aren’t still sleepwalking into a New Zealand-style environmental crisis.