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Friday, May 14, 2021

ACT Budget measures for healthy waterways, environment

The ACT Government will spend $4.5 million under this week’s 2020-21 Budget to improve the health of the ACT’s waterways; to tackle weeds and invasive plant species; and to appoint permanent Ngunnawal rangers to better incorporate traditional knowledge into local land management practices.

“Caring for Country and investing in the health of our land, water and native species is an investment in our own wellbeing,” Rebecca Vassarotti, Minister for the Environment, said.

“As we experienced during the Black Summer bushfires, our health and wellbeing depends on a healthy environment and increasing our resilience to climate change. So many Canberrans care deeply about our environment, and this Budget will support local people and organisations including Parkcare (the ACT Parks and Conservation Service’s volunteer program) to continue their incredible work.”

Clean waterways

$1,538,000 will be spent on clean catchments and clean waterways, building wetlands and installing pollutant traps to clean and filter water as it flows through the city and into the ACT’s lakes.

Shane Rattenbury, Minister for Water, said the Territory’s lakes, rivers and wetlands were essential to biodiversity.

“These aquatic ecosystems are part of what makes Canberra a great place to live – for people and wildlife, and it’s important that we protect and restore them.”

This funding builds on the success of the ACT Healthy Waterways program, which spent $93.5 million on 25 new water quality infrastructure projects last term.

“Our work to create urban wetlands has already increased plant and animal life around Canberra, while improving water quality and providing great spaces for recreation,” Mr Rattenbury said.

Under the Labor/Greens Parliamentary and Governing Agreement, $30 million will be spent over the next four years on expanding the Healthy Waterways program.

Weed control

$626,000 will fund additional invasive species management on all public land in the ACT, not just parks and reserves.

The La Nina weather system has made it easier for weeds to thrive after years of extended dry conditions, Mick Gentleman, Minister for Planning and Land Management, said. The money will be used to manage incursions of exotic plants such as Coolatai grass, Patterson’s curse, serrated tussock, and African lovegrass that threaten conservation areas or agricultural production.

The Government will work closely with ACT rural landholders, catchment and park care groups and others managing weeds.

The community can learn about and report sightings of invasive plant species using two online citizen science tools: Canberra Nature Map and iNaturalist, or report sightings to Access Canberra.

Under the Labor/Greens Parliamentary and Governing Agreement, $7.5 million will be spent on weed control over the next four years.

Ngunnawal rangers

Six Ngunnawal rangers will be permanently employed to care for Country, tackle weeds, repair tracks and trails, and educate the community about conservation of nature and culture, Mr Gentleman said.

These rangers were casual employees last year as part of the Government’s COVID-19 economic recovery program. Mr Gentleman said the rangers have made a great contribution to the ACT Parks and Conservation Service.

“Their work has been essential to our recovery from the Orroral Valley bushfire in 2020, as well as working on projects that are helping our vital catchments.” Employing the rangers costs $292,000. Under the Labor/Greens Parliamentary and Governing Agreement, four more Ngunnawal rangers will be employed this term.

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