House debates

Monday, 22 February 2010

Private Members’ Business

World Wetlands Day 2010

6:55 pm

Photo of Janelle SaffinJanelle Saffin (Page, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I was fortunate on World Wetlands Day in 2010—the theme of which was ‘Wetlands, biodiversity and climate change’—to attend the opening of the exhibition and awards ceremony of the WetlandCare Australia National Art and Photography Competition, held here in Canberra on Monday, 8 February at CSIRO’s Discovery Centre.

WetlandCare Australia is a wonderful national organisation based in Ballina, which is in my electorate. This is a very beautiful coastal city and one that is impacted on by climate change and by extreme weather events. The competition received over 650 entries from all over Australia. As I have said in this place before, some of my local residents won an award in that competition of 650 entries.

The General Manager of WetlandCare Australia, Nicci Carter, in a letter to me, said, among other things:

This competition plays a crucial role, through the touring exhibition and media coverage, in raising awareness across Australia, highlighting the important role wetlands play in our lives and how we are so intrinsically connected to the environment around us.

So true. I have seen the joy, as we all have, of the farmers when the rains come and the inland wetland areas come to life. I have seen that directly. Wetlands are not just coastal areas, as we often think.

I would like to give a few examples of what WetlandCare Australia are doing in my seat of Page. WetlandCare are currently working to protect threatened Bush Stone curlews in the Glenugie-Pillar valley region and are also conducting a fox-baiting program to protect the birds by working closely with local landowners. They are also working to protect the barking owl habitat in the upper and lower Clarence through cat’s claw creeper removal and biocontrol. Cat’s claw is a big problem in my area. In Bungawalbin they are undertaking salvinia biocontrol, through salvinia weevil release and also cat’s claw biocontrol. Wetland Care Australia are fencing off waterways and wetlands from lantana and groundsel for biodiversity conservation.

In conjunction with the local area, the Jali Land Council and Cabbage Tree Island Public School WetlandCare have coordinated bush regeneration, interpretive signage and a wetland walkway. There is really important work in my area on acid sulfate soil remediation works. The acid scald in the Tuckean Swamp has been significantly reduced due to the work of WetlandCare Australia. This helps all the fishermen in our area enormously.

I also note that the primary legislative and policy responsibility for managing wetlands is with state and territory governments. Farmers and landowners manage the wetlands on their land and manage it very well. The Australian government, through the department, is the administrative authority for the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. The Australian government, on this matter, works with state and territory governments through the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council in implementing the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. There are 65 Ramsar wetlands and there are 900 nationally important wetlands.

The other part of the private member’s motion that I want to give some attention to is the treatment of sewage through sewage treatment plants—people often confuse ‘sewage’ and ‘sewerage’—and by creating wetlands. In my seat there are two councils, Richmond Valley Council and Lismore City Council, which have sewage treatment plants that use wetlands. Wetlands are remarkable filters; they reduce the carbon footprint and they do not use a lot of energy because they are not using a lot of electricity. I have seen them in action, and they are a very efficient and friendly way to treat the sewage. Lismore City Council has said:

The current sewage treatment plant at South Lismore is an old trickling filter plant with a 12 hectare wetland system for final polishing of the effluent.

It goes on to say:

The results we achieve at this plant are as good, if not better, than the modern designed plants that utilise high energy consumption. Outlet pollutant concentrations at the South Lismore Treatment Plant are meeting or exceeding the performance of the modern—

‘modern’ means fully mechanised—

East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant.

(Time expired)


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