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October 11, 2010

The environmental health of the Gippsland Lakes and its catchment is critical to the social, economic and cultural life of our region but governments at State and Federal levels are failing our community.

That’s why I’m helping to organise a Community Action Day on Sunday, November 7 to draw attention to the health of the lakes and the need for concerted action.

Over 12 months ago I met with Tim Bull who put forward a plan for a Gippsland Lakes clean-up day to encourage local residents to pick up rubbish and demonstrate their passion for the lakes and its catchment.

Tim’s a fourth-generation Gippsland Lakes resident and his family name is synonymous with Bulls Cruisers at Metung and we’re organising the clean-up day at Lakes Entrance, Paynesville, Eagle Point and Raymond Island to highlight community concerns about the future of the system.

We’re starting with these sites but planning to make the clean-up an annual event to cover a broader area throughout the catchment.

There’s no doubt that water quality issues and practical environmental projects throughout East Gippsland should be given a higher funding priority by both levels of government.

I don’t believe that local agencies are funded well enough to combat catchment issues such as erosion, pest plants and animals, revegetation projects and nutrient run-off.

Since 2002, the State Government has cut recurrent funding from the Gippsland Lakes Taskforce from $3.2 million per year to almost nothing.

At the same time, the Federal Government has developed a new model for funding catchment management activities that discriminates against projects and regions which are not seen as national priorities.

It means that areas like the Great Barrier Reef receive enormous amounts of funding while the Gippsland Lakes was allocated just $3 million over three years. The Rudd-Gillard Governments also cut planned budget funding for Landcare by more than $10 million nation-wide.

We should be doing everything we can to support individuals and groups who are out there getting their hands dirty and doing the practical environmental projects which benefit us all.

I believe that we have an obligation to future generations to do everything we can to protect and enhance our waterways and I will be continuing to push for extra funding for locally-based activities.

Details on the Community Action Day are available on my website or by contacting my office on 1300 131 785.