Tuesday 22 November 2005

Mr FINCH (Rosevears - Motion) - Mr President, I move -

That the annual report of the Northern Tasmanian Natural Resource Management Association 2004-05 be noted.

In moving that the annual report of the Northern Tasmanian Natural Resource Management Association be noted, I would like to highlight a very positive story. If NRM North did not exist we would have to invent it urgently. It has the vital role of providing expert leadership to ensure the management of the northern region's vital natural resources by continuing, as it does, to, and I quote -

'Develop programs that recognise the need to balance the environmental, economical and social needs of the people of the region.'

Of course NRM North is one of three such associations that have been set up in response to the Tasmanian Government's natural resource management framework which covers all regions and the constituencies of all members of this House. I do not want to enter into any parochial debate, Mr President, of course. It is not my way.

Members laughing.

Mr Aird - It's your only way.

Mr FINCH - But, as I said at the beginning, I would like to highlight the very positive story of NRM North. Like all effective organisations, NRM North is defined by its 81 members, its management committee and its staff. Five of the 11 present members of the management committee have wide experience at the sharp end of natural resource management - that is, they are experienced farmers, as my erstwhile colleague would say, like the member for Rowallan. Farmers take important decisions on natural resource management almost daily, and they are a vital ingredient of this management committee. In addition to farmers' land and resource management experience, we have on the committee a lecturer in physical geography at the University of Tasmania, a manager with the Aboriginal Land Council, the general manager of DPIWE's Water Resources Division, a Forestry Tasmania planning coordinator, the coordinator of Dorset Waterwatch in the member for Apsley's electorate -

Mrs Rattray-Wagner - Debbie Searle.

Mr FINCH - That is it - and a soils expert and group research leader of meat and grazing. There are 12 staff positions, two of them vacant when the annual report was printed. Those 12 positions translated to 9.8 full-time equivalent staff in 2004-05. NRM North's partnership with local government is demonstrated by the fact that seven are housed in council offices. Its management office is based at the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment Prospect offices.

That is some of the good news, Mr President, but of course there are ongoing concerns about the management of our natural resources in my electorate of Rosevears. Our natural resources are under great threat, and some of those threats are us. Some of our resource management issues centre on water quality and the health of the Tamar estuary. The northern Tasmanian NRM is so important to the future of some of our threatened natural resources that its funding could be questioned. It presently is funded by State and Federal governments to a total of $3 718 000, but perhaps we will leave that issue to another time because I am in a positive mood today, except when my speech has been changed around. Thank you, and I name him, the member for Huon.

Members laughing.

Mr FINCH - One of those recent positives is the accreditation of the northern Tasmanian Natural Resource Management Strategy by both the State and Federal governments. It is now time to institute that strategy, which is only the beginning really in addressing a host of natural resource problems. It is a long list in the northern region. Mr President, we are great polluters and despoilers.

There is one issue that I would like to focus on today, though. This is an important one for my area. Water quality in the Tamar River has been of concern to the community at all levels of government for some time, with effluent discharged and leaching from septic tanks into the river having been identified as one of a number of sources of pollution of the Tamar River in a report in 1997 called State of the Tamar Estuary. Septic tank effluent can have a significant detrimental impact on the environment. There are a number of small communities along the Tamar foreshore that do not have reticulated sewerage schemes. The West Tamar Council has found it difficult to finance new sewerage schemes due to the relatively high per property cost of schemes in areas that are currently not serviced. Access to finance, as a lot of you would know, is restricted by the borrowing limits placed on councils, and the limited capacity of the relatively small number of properties in each area to service the debt required if all the funds are borrowed. There is a need for government funding support to progress infrastructure improvements which will give the environmental benefits.

The West Tamar Council has investigated the provision of a sewerage scheme to service some 300 dwellings in the Gravelly Beach and Swan Point areas at an estimated cost of $4.7 million and it is currently investigating the latest technology in an effort to advance that scheme. This project was first investigated in detail in 1997 but was not progressed due partly to the unavailability of government infrastructure funds for such projects. This financial year the West Tamar Council is undertaking detailed investigations and design work for the first stage of a sewerage scheme in this area so that accurate costs estimates can be prepared.

I would highlight other settlements along the Tamar which do not have reticulated sewerage systems. They are Lanena, Rosevears, Greens Beach, Kelso, Clarence Point, Deviot and Kayena so you can see that the issue is quite widespread up and down the Tamar estuary. I must acknowledge the support of Ray Wright, the technical services manager from the West Tamar Council for that briefing on those issues.

But, Mr President, in closing on noting this report, I would like to stress the importance of NRM North - really a beginning in dealing with problems which go far beyond our region and will probably be decided globally. But it is an important beginning which, in the future, we may be looking back on as an environmental milestone.