Tuesday 31 August 2010
MANAGEMENT OF THE TAMAR AND ESK RIVERS
(Rosevears) - Madam President, during the hearings of Estimates
Committee B, Minister David O'Byrne suggested that the Legislative
Council Select Committee on the Management of the Tamar and
Esk Rivers had proposed a budget of $14 million for the statutory
authority it had recommended in its report. I would like to
quote the minister:
'We acknowledge that there are some pretty hot issues in Launceston
and we think instead of spending $14 million on a separate
authority …' -
et cetera. He later said and, again, I quote:
'I understand that $14 million. I have just been advised that
it actually comes from the select committee report on what
a separate statutory authority would cost.'
As I said to the minister at the time, 'That is a furphy'
and that he had been misled by his advisers. Nowhere in the
committee report does it say that a statutory authority to
manage the Tamar and Esk catchment would cost $14 million.
However I was so concerned by the minister's claim that I
went back and had another look at the report. My clear recollection
was that the report had never suggested such a budget and
my research on the recollections did prove to be correct.
The figure of $14 million does appear in the report but it
is part of verbal evidence given by Mr Graeme Dear, the CEO
of the East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority. Mr Dear
'Our budget now is about $14 million a year. Half of that
budget is spent particularly on river health initiatives and
half of the budget is spent on the broader catchment initiatives.'
However it has never been suggested that this is what it would
cost to set up an authority to look after the Tamar and Esk
river catchments. In fact the report also includes budget
figures for the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority
based in western Victoria. The organisation CEO Don Forsyth
'In the last four years our budget has averaged about $17
million to $18 million. Our projection for next year is about
$10.7 million, which is a 35 per cent reduction in budget
Earlier he had said:
'… next year we are anticipating that the State component
will be the base and statutory of about $5.3 million.'
It is interesting to note that the people who advised the
minister did not suggest that it would cost $5.3 million to
fund a Tamar-Esk statutory authority, although I suppose we
should be grateful that they did not pluck the $18 million
figure out of the air.
Another disturbing aspect of the minister's evidence to the
Estimates Committee was that the catchment management authority
would be just another bureaucracy and a waste of money. To
quote him again:
'… the principle of what I am saying is that if we are going
to spend money on dealing with the area, I would rather have
it in outputs as opposed to setting up what we think is an
unnecessary bureaucratic process.'
Once again the minister has been badly advised. As Mr Forsyth
from the Corangamite CMA told the select committee:
'Most CMAs in Victoria get about $900 000 as a base commitment
to the corporate governance, the management of the board,
the CEO and so on.'
Out of the total budget of around $17 million to $18 million
for Corangamite that was all that was being spent on anything
bureaucratic, according to someone who actually runs one of
these organisations - straight from the horse's mouth.
Mr Dean - In the Premier's Sundry Grants they can get that
Mr FINCH - Mr Forsyth and Mr Dear told us - and this evidence
is included in our report - that the overwhelming majority
of their funding does not go on bureaucracy but on measures
to manage and improve the health of the waterways in their
Another important point needs to be made here. Most of the
funding needed for a statutory authority to manage the Tamar-Esk
catchment is already available but it is not being spent to
the best effect by the numerous bodies that have a finger
in the pie. I think I have quoted at one stage that in some
situations you would need to go to 25 different authorities,
different management groups, different people who have concerns
to get something done. There are 25 people who have those
fingers in the pie.
Our report recommended that any new statutory authority incorporates
the roles and functions of the existing NRM North, the TEER
program and the Launceston Flood Authority. The funding that
already goes to these bodies together with funding that is
being spent by other government departments and agencies would
provide most of, if not all, the funding needed for a new
authority and quite clearly it would spend these funds in
a much more efficient and effective manner. But perhaps the
most disappointing aspect of the minister's evidence during
the Estimates hearing was his admission that he had not actually
read the select committee report. To quote him again:
'I have not at this stage read the full report. I have been
briefed broadly on the impacts on my portfolio area within
the NRM framework so we have worked through it but at this
stage I have not read the full report.'
What this submission shows is that the minister has been done
over in classic Yes, Minister style by his own bureaucracy.
As I have shown, he has been badly and incorrectly advised
about this issue. He has not been told the truth. As a result,
the Tamar itself continues to languish under a growing silt
burden and the entire Tamar Esk catchment faces a dismal environmental
Just to avoid being the Jim Hacker of this State Government,
I strongly advise Minister O'Byrne to read the full Tamar
committee report for himself and somehow take charge of fixing
this problem once and for all.
The Council adjourned at 6.16