Victorian governments of all political stripes know the benefits of getting cows off river banks, but so far have failed to take decisive action. Investment has been inadequate and progress glacially slow – the way things are right now, it will take 1000 years to fence off all our river banks! We need to speed things up.
Fortunately, the 2014 state election brought an exciting commitment from the Andrews Government to “work with Environment Victoria, Catchment Management Authorities and Landcare groups to develop a strategy to improve our riparian land and riverways”.
This strategy is now being developed. Water Minister Lisa Neville has said she wants a ‘succinct plan’ to accelerate the improvement in the condition of riparian land (meaning river banks) across Victoria. An advisory committee has been appointed and progress to date has been good. We are now getting to the crunch point, where the Minister has to decide what ‘acceleration’ really means and how much money to invest to achieve it.
The Catchment Management Authorities have identified priorities for action across Victoria through the development of Waterway Management Strategies. They already know where fencing and revegetation is most needed and have estimated the costs involved. Achieving all their priorities over the next five years would cost about $40 million per year and result in nearly 6000 kilometres of river bank fenced off and almost one million hectares of habitat protected. That would be real progress and show leadership from the Andrews Government.
Now we need to persuade the Minister to make the necessary investment. The good news is that there is money available through environmental levies that have already been collected. We all pay an environmental contribution though our water bills that collects about $100 million per year, and the Sustainability Fund has stockpiled more than $300 million in unspent cash from landfill levies.
Our petition calls on Water Minister Lisa Neville to show leadership and commit $40 million per year from 2016 to improving the condition of our river banks. It’s an investment that will repay itself many times over in better water quality, reduced erosion, improved habitat for wildlife and reconnecting the landscape, not to mention the benefit to farmers and their livestock.
We also want the plan to include a phase-out of grazing licences on the 17,000 kilometres of public land that is a unique feature of Victorian rivers. We want to see the primary purpose of the licence changed from grazing to riparian management and conservation.
Please sign our petition calling on Water Minister Lisa Neville to spend the cash to cut the crap entering our waterways.