Green Army projects crucial for Lower Lakes’ survival
Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie is seeking written confirmation that the Federal Government will honour its 2016 election promise to spend about $400,000 on two Green Army projects at the Lower Lakes and the Adelaide Hills.
The NXT MP has also asked Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg not to abandon future plans to rehabilitate the lakes and Murray Mouth.
“The experts we have spoken to tell us that the Murray River risks catastrophic failure next time the Murray-Darling Basin is hit with a drought like the one we had a decade ago,” Ms Sharkie said.
“In the absence of additional flows beyond what has already been promised in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, the work that the Green Army has been doing on the Lower Lakes is one of the remaining few measures we have to help future-proof my communities that rely so heavily upon the river and Lower Lakes for their livelihoods.
“With the river now in flood, some in Government seem to have forgotten how close the Lakes came to environmental disaster in the millennium drought.
“The sustainability of the river is too important to be sacrificed for easy budget cuts.
“Drought will come again. We need to keep doing the planting and other rehabilitation work that will buffer our river and Lower Lakes from the inevitable.
“I and the Nick Xenophon Team will also keep fighting to ensure the Murray-Darling Basin Plan agreement is met and minimal environmental flows come down the system.”
Ms Sharkie said she needed more surety about the promised projects than a verbal confirmation from the Minister’s office following the budget review announcement on Monday, December 19.
“I’ve sent a letter to Minister Frydenberg and NXT will be pursuing the Green Army funding and the basin plan roll-out when Parliament resumes in February next year,” she said.
A total of 16 Green Army projects have been rolled out in Mayo since June this year.
The two projects promised during the 2016 election campaign involved rejuvenating wetlands in the Lower Lakes region and improving crucial habitat areas for threatened species in the Adelaide Hills.
The Federal Government also promised $200,000 for the Lower Lakes under the 20 Million Trees Programme.
A Government budget review announcement to abolish the Green Army program is expected to save $360 million over forward estimates.
Ms Sharkie said axing the program failed to recognise the good work the Green Army did to give training and experience to young sob seekers.
“At more than 17%, youth unemployment in my electorate is much higher than the State and national averages,” Ms Sharkie said.
“ The Green Army has been one of the diminishing avenues through which young people in my electorate and across the nation can develop their skills, receive training, and build experience to improve their future career prospects, and, to quote the Green Army website, all whilst ‘…participating in projects that generate real and lasting benefits for the environment’.”