The state of the Richmond and Wilsons rivers are set to become an election issue as the Greens and Labor highlight their degraded condition.
The Greens are calling for a a River Health Commissioner who can lead a a whole of catchment approach to managing the Richmond and Wilsons Rivers. Their $200 million plan to revive the Richmond includes incentives for farmers and local jobs.
‘We have known since the 1980’s the health of the river was poor, but successive governments have ignored our river’s plight,’ said Lismore Greens candidate Sue Higginson.
‘In 2014 the UNE Ecohealth Report identified the Richmond and Wilsons River as one of the state’s worst and since then the National/Liberal government has taken no effective action to fix it. The River system is the sixth largest in NSW and is vital to the future of our region for farming, sustainable tourism, business, education, cultural rights, and recreation. We must invest now before the cost of action gets any higher.’
Greens Member for Ballina Tamara Smith, MLC Cate Faehrmann and candidate for Lismore Sue Higginson joined the community for the release, and took part in a community paddling event. Also joining the community paddle were author of the 2014 UNE Ecohealth Report who will address the community about the dire state of the river.
‘As the Member for Ballina I have met with many stakeholders and I’ve had countless members of our community visit my office to discuss the dire state of the River. I am pleased to announce the Greens have a Plan to restore the River back to health for all of us,’ said Ms Smith.
Labor call government to account
Labor is calling for action by the NSW state government ‘to immediately accelerate the promise of funding made in August this year and explain when and how the Richmond and Wilsons River sustainable management works would proceed.’
Janelle Saffin, Country Labor candidate for Lismore said, ‘There needs to be urgency about government action and also to tell us how much of the funding will go to the Richmond River as the announcement was to cover the entire NSW Marine Estate area.’
Ms Saffin was joined by Asren Pugh, Labor candidate for Ballina calling for ‘a long term ten year plan to drive the systemic change required to return our rivers to health.’
They claim the abolition of Catchment Management Authorities has left a vacuum in river health management.
‘There are many great local organisations and community groups that are working on the Richmond River catchment. However, the government has totally failed to show how it coordinate efforts across the catchment to address its long-term health,’ Mr Pugh said.
‘We need a single organisation or person to be made responsible for driving the change necessary to fix our rivers. They would be responsible for bringing together all stakeholders and working together to make our rivers healthy again.’