11 February 2020

Budget boost for grasslands, waterways and wildlife

| Ian Bushnell
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A Grassland Earless Dragon

Extra funding will help protect the habitat of the Grassland Earless Dragon. Photos: File.

More rangers, a boost for waterways and extra support to protect grassland habitats are part of a $6.6 million environment package from the Mid Year Budget Review announced by Environment and Heritage Minister Mick Gentleman on Monday (10 February).

Mr Gentleman says the funding will help conserve the ACT’s natural environment and native animals, build community engagement, provide more rangers on the ground and improve Lake Tuggeranong.

“These new investments are more important than ever due to the devastating ecological impacts of bushfires in the ACT,” he said.

More than $2.3 million has been allocated to the RangerAssist Program and ACT Waterwatch. RangerAssist supports volunteers to work directly on important environmental conservation in our region, including bushfire recovery.

Mr Gentleman said the extra funding for ACT Waterwatch will allow it to continue working with the community to monitor and care for the Territory’s sensitive catchment areas.

He also announced $1.1 million for infrastructure at Lake Tuggeranong, including a major pollutant trap that will help clean inflows.

Mr Gentleman said this followed the construction of 20 ponds, rain gardens and other water infrastructure in the ACT as part of the joint Australian and ACT governments’ Healthy Waterways project.

Another grant will provide just over $1.0 million for additional urban wildlife rangers to support and respond to urban wildlife call-outs.

“These rangers will assist with a range of tasks in urban areas, including trapped and injured wildlife,” Mr Gentleman said.

A further $2.1 million will help expand the protection of the ecosystem of the ACT’s critically endangered Grassland Earless Dragon population, which will also benefit other native species that share important grassland habitats.

Lake Tuggeranong

Lake Tuggeranong will benefit from a pollutant trap that will help clean inflows.

The Conservation Council ACT Region welcomed the extra funding, particularly for ACT Waterwatch activities that are undertaken by local catchment groups.

Executive Director of the Conservation Council ACT Region Helen Oakey said the funding was an important acknowledgement of how much work is undertaken by on-ground volunteers in the ACT to protect nature.

“While three-year Waterwatch funding is welcome, it would also be great to offer the same certainty to Landcare activities that currently only have one year of funding,” she said.

Ms Oakey said that while the funding to protect the habitat of the Earless Dragon was a step towards being able to meet the many actions identified in the grassland strategic plan, the government must also consider resourcing the many other management plans, such as those for woodlands and riparian areas to ensure environmental objectives are met.

“More funding for our environment is always welcome, and particularly after this summer’s bushfires it’s good to see the government’s acknowledgement of the importance of local wildlife and habitats,” she said.

“Biodiversity can easily be forgotten amongst competing budget needs, but recent fires have served as a reminder to all of us about how important it is to invest in natural areas for their own value, as well as the value that they provide to us as a community.

“Our nature parks and waterways provide environmental services to the community, as well as benefits to mental and physical wellbeing, but are also home to endangered species and habitats that we need to protect.”

Ms Oakey said the Conservation Council looked forward to finding out more about how the funding will be allocated across programs to deliver the best environmental outcomes for the Territory.

“In the longer term, we need adequate funding that will enable the ACT Government and community to not only maintain our natural environment, but also protect and improve outcomes for our local flora and fauna,” she said.

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