On Wednesday the Greens MLC and environment spokesperson Cate Faehrmann moved a motion calling for the government to take action on protecting and improving the health of the Richmond River.
Ms Faehrmann moved a motion highlighting that a ‘recent environmental assessment of River and Estuarine Condition conducted by the University of New England graded the Richmond River in northern New South Wales as D minus, the second lowest grade possible and found that: (a) despite the upper reaches of the system having better water quality, there is no improvement in riparian or catchment conditions, and (b) the lack of a formal organisation in coordinating the health of the Richmond River has caused inaction and is exacerbating the concerns for both agriculture and the environment.’
Ms Faehrmann called for the NSW government to invest in infrastructure and regulate to improve the water quality and flow of the Richmond River as well as support community action groups to effect the change needed to improve the rivers health.
‘If the Nationals were serious about their commitment to supporting regional areas, they would be using their positions of power to protect vital systems like the Richmond River,’ said Ms Faehrmann.
‘The farmers and primary industries of the future need us to fight for their water rights today. Tomorrow is too late when this river has been in decline for years.
The Richmond River is heavily used for irrigation of pastures and supplying dams with a reliable source of water in dry times.
Ms Faehrmann also said, ‘The Richmond River once supported a healthy ecosystem including a robust oyster population. These animals once provided income and sustenance to European settlements as well as the Nyangbal people of the Bundjalung Nation.
‘The Richmond River oyster industry is now dead, despite expensive attempts at reviving it, because the oysters cannot survive the polluted waters that government mismanagement have created.
‘What’s particularly disappointing is that the Nationals candidate for Ballina, Ben Franklin, who talks big about the Richmond River did not support a motion calling on the government to act.
‘Our catchment areas deserve proper governance and our regional communities deserve to be listened to. Today the Nationals have shown their incapacity to do this, once again,’ said Ms. Faehrmann.
However, Mr Franklin has told Echonetdaily that he didn’t vote against the motion and has defended his governments of handling of the a seriously degraded river system.
‘The Greens suggested the “NSW Government blocks support for the Richmond River”. They also implied that I voted against a motion to support the Richmond River. Both of these suggestions are wrong,’ said Mr Franklin.
‘The Greens moved a motion in the Upper House two days ago. Yesterday they tried to have it adopted by the House without debate. Under the rules of the House, if one person votes against such a motion it is not passed and remains on the business paper for debate on another day.
‘I did not vote against the motion and any suggestion to the contrary is incorrect. However, the government whip did vote against the motion because it called on the government to act. It was unnecessary because the government is already acting.
‘I believe that moving a motion is easy and achieves nothing. Action in government is what will actually start to address the issues surrounding the Richmond River. And the government has enacted a comprehensive plan on the Richmond River.
‘Recently the government released its Marine Estate Strategy. Improvement of riparian zones is a major priority of the Marine Estate Strategy, especially in the Northern region, which includes the Richmond River catchment.
‘There is funding allocated to improving the health of the Richmond River under the government’s marine estate strategy: In the first year alone, $1.4m has been allocated to the North Coast region – in which the Richmond River is a priority catchment. This funding is for riparian management, bank stabilisation and activities to address gravel road runoff. In year two, this will grow to $2.5m in the North Coast.
‘The Richmond River will also benefit from a share of $1m statewide from the ‘Clean Coastal Catchments’ program – which is separate to the funding above. $250,000 is being spent to develop risk-based frameworks for Richmond River, so we can to target on-ground works for coastal floodplain management and rehabilitation.’