Ballina MP Tamara Smith (Greens) has launched an attack on what she claims is an ‘empty funding pledge’ by North Coast National Party MLC Ben Franklin to sink millions of dollars into improving the health of the Richmond River.
Ms Smith said that at budget estimates on Thursday (August 30) primary industries Niall Blair indicated ‘there has been no additional funding allocated to improving the health of the Richmond River under the government’s marine estate strategy’.
She added that ‘no specific initiatives have been identified’.
‘The Richmond River is the sixth largest in all of NSW and is under pressure from intensive agriculture and urban development,’ she said.
‘The Greens and local community are concerned that if we don’t act urgently, pollution will be pushed even higher, marine life will suffer and we may lose this important river, forever.
‘There is no comprehensive, effective plan for the Richmond River from the Liberal/National government.
‘On the one hand, it has will spend $70,000 of funding on existing programs, but then it will place this investment at risk with a new 20-year forestry agreement that opens up 22,000ha of stream buffers for logging in headwaters north from the Hunter River.
‘This is despite a recent government report specifically identifying impacts on the Richmond River from clearing riparian and adjacent habitat and that it “leads to sedimentation, nitrification, acid runoff and blackwater events after floods”,’ Ms Smith said.
But Mr Franklin said the Ballina MP’s claims were wrong and that ‘in the first year alone, $1.4 million 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 $2.5 million in the North Coast,’ he said.
Mr Fanklin added the Richmond River would also receive ‘a share of $1 million statewide’ from the ‘Clean Coastal Catchments’ program.
‘Additionally $250,000 is being spent to develop risk-based frameworks for Richmond River, so we can target on-ground works for coastal floodplain management and rehabilitation,’ Mr Franklin said.
But he failed to clarify how the government’s policy of reducing the riparian buffer zones on streams from 10 metres to five metres, to enable more intensive upstream logging, could do anything but worsen the problem.