The State Government’s Budget is modest on environment spending and leaves a lot of work to do on key green issues in the lead up to November’s election, the state’s peak environment group said today.
Environment Victoria Acting CEO Mark Wakeham said that while there were some positive initiatives in the budget, overall it missed an opportunity to scale up Victoria’s response to climate change, water insecurity and the loss of biodiversity.
“The budget contains some welcome environmental initiatives,’’ Mr Wakeham said. “The Green Jobs Package is a positive investment in environmental industries and was warmly welcomed by Environment Victoria. Similarly the budget delivers the promised funding for the Land and Biodiversity White Paper announced last year, which is a welcome first step towards addressing the state’s biodiversity crisis.”
“Public transport was a winner in this budget which will help us slow the rapid growth in greenhouse emissions from transport. The 50 new trams, the regional rail link and investment in improving facilities and services at train stations represent a very substantial commitment to public transport. We’re also pleased with today’s announcement of $20 million to purchase and protect about 15,000 hectares of high environmental value native grasslands on the Melbourne urban fringe.”
However, Mr Wakeham said he was disappointed that the budget didn’t address some of the major environmental challenges facing Victoria.
“There is little in the budget to reduce the state’s over-reliance on polluting coal-fired electricity generation and nothing to fast-track the replacement of polluting power stations like Hazelwood. It will be very difficult to make major inroads into the state’s greenhouse pollution without taking steps of this scale.’’
“Similarly there was no substantial new funding to get water back into our rivers or to overhaul the water and energy efficiency of homes across the state. There was no funding to buy back water for our rivers, or to secure water for the newly created Red Gum National Parks.
“There was just $10 million of investment in household water efficiency programs, which pales into insignificance against the billions spent on the desalination plant. With rising electricity and water bills we need substantial government funding to overhaul the state’s housing stock for energy and water efficiency.
“It’s critical that these environmental ‘gaps’ in the State Budget are addressed in upcoming Government policy statements, including the Climate Change White Paper, Future Energy Statement, Regional Blueprint and the ALP’s election platform.”
For interview contact
Mark Wakeham, Acting CEO, on 0439 700 501
Media contact: Daniel Clarke on 9341 8113 or 0407 771 072