House debates

Thursday, 30 October 2014


Tamar River Recovery Plan

4:44 pm

Photo of Andrew NikolicAndrew Nikolic (Bass, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Can I say how pleased I am to be here today to update the House on the coalition's Tamar River Recovery Plan.

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

Hear hear!

Photo of Andrew NikolicAndrew Nikolic (Bass, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you. The member for Kooyong says 'Hear, hear' and so he should because this project will make a real difference to my home city of Launceston in the broader north-east Tasmania. In my view it is one of the most important promises we made at the 2013 election. So I was very pleased on 10 October to host the Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, in Launceston. It was exciting to show him what we had achieved in the first year of what is a three-year, $3 million recovery plan for a healthier Tamar River. And what a contrast that is after so many years of Labor inaction.

Sadly, my two Labor predecessors in Bass had ignored the needs of our river, which is a tidal estuary. Some form of removal of silt has been a feature of the river's management strategy for over 100 years. Just five days before the 2010 Tasmanian state election, the Bartlett Labor government promised $6.65 million for a dredging program, a promise that was, sadly, never delivered. Labor had 16 years at state level to strategically address this worsening problem, but they failed to do so. Sadly, again, it is one of many promises that were not delivered. Labor Premier David Bartlett said he would not do a deal with the Greens Party before the 2010 election because:

… a back room deal with the Greens is a deal with the devil, and I'm … not going to sell my soul for the sake of remaining in power.

As history records, however, he promptly formed government with the Greens, in fact with two Greens members in his cabinet. And it was a cabinet that continued to ignore the beautiful Tamar River.

On 10 October, I very proudly took Minister Hunt up and down the Tamar on the Karmin, a boat owned by Karl Krause, in my electorate. I was able to show him some of the real improvements that we had made. Greg Hunt has been a strong supporter of the Tamar. He came to see me in winter 2011, when I was still a full-time candidate, and I took him for a run early on a freezing cold morning in Launceston, at 5.30. We stopped at Cataract Gorge, and I knew he could not make his own way home from there, so I put a challenge to him to come up with $2½ million for the Tamar if we were to win the election! And, two years before that election, when he really did not need to be making such commitments, he made the commitment, and it is going to be wonderful for my home city.

During the 2013 election campaign, we added $500,000 to that promise, to have a look at the ageing sewerage infrastructure in the Launceston region. I was able to show the minister, on 10 October, what we had achieved. Much of the unsightly silt build-up in the Tamar basin, from two years earlier, had gone. We shifted 200,000 cubic metres of silt at the end of last year and another 100,000 cubic metres this year. What a difference that has made. The rowing course is once again cleared. We can run regattas on the Tamar River. The tourist boat operators can get into the gorge. They do not need to be giving money back to tourists because they cannot get the boats into the gorge. I was able to show the minister some of the riverbank stabilisation work we had done, work which means we do not need to redirect roads, at millions of dollars of extra cost—all from that promise he made back in that winter of 2011.

At the lowest tide this year, which was on 21 June, I was able to show the minister Seaport. Normally at low time what you see is a stinking mass of mud. Now, at the lowest of low tides, there is three metres of water above the mud. It is a beautiful area of our city that tourists can enjoy and operators can sell to tourists. I showed the minister the site of the two Green Army projects approved in Launceston—from King's Bridge to the Tailrace and from King's Bridge to Duck Reach. These projects will enable young people to gain much-needed skills and will make a real difference to the environmental values of these areas. So I say a sincere thankyou to Minister Greg Hunt for his interest in and commitment to the Tamar River. I also thank Karl Krause, the skipper of the Karmin. I am grateful for the leadership of Mr Alan Birchmore, the Chairman of the Launceston Flood Authority, who said this on 10 October:

I'm thrilled with how we are proceeding and the allocation from the Federal Government is exactly the right amount of money and it came at exactly the right moment … so we must thank the Federal Government through you, Minister, and also the Member for Bass, Andrew Nikolic, who gives me no rest.

We are making outstanding progress with the Tamar River that will restore not only its environmental values but its recreational, social and business amenity.