River sys­tem health still de­clin­ing


Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Swan River - Anne Gart­ner

THE health of the Swan River is de­clin­ing, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased by the Au­di­tor Gen­eral re­cently.

The re­port, which looked into the health of the Swan Can­ning River Sys­tem, found that de­spite 20 years of mon­i­tor­ing and in­ter­ven­tion, the health of the sys­tem was still wors­en­ing.

Key find­ings of the re­port re­leased by the Of­fice of the Au­di­tor Gen­eral in­cluded mod­er­ate to poor wa­ter qual­ity, un­suc­cess­ful ac­tion to com­bat sources of nu­tri­ents and pol­lu­tants, gaps in plan­ning and re­port­ing, and the lack of an ap­proved river pro­tec­tion strat­egy.

Au­di­tor Gen­eral Colin Murphy said symp­toms of poor wa­ter qual­ity in­cluded low oxy­gen lev­els, high nu­tri­ent lev­els and fish deaths that ex­ceeded the Swan River Trust’s tar­get in four of the past 10 years.

The re­port lists key rec­om­men­da­tions for the Trust to work closer with Par­lia­ment, take ac­tion to have its river pro­tec­tion strat­egy ap­proved and clar­ify re­spon­si­bil­ity for the river.

En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Al­bert Ja­cob said he ac­knowl­edged that more work needed to be done to en­sure good man­age­ment of the rivers but high­lighted that im­prove­ments had started to be made.

“Nu­tri­ent in­ter­ven­tion tech­nolo­gies con­tinue to be a ma­jor fo­cus with the con­struc­tion of end-of-catch­ment wet­lands in Ellen Brook and Bayswa­ter catch­ments, to­gether with the con­struc­tion of a new oxy­gena­tion plan on the Can­ning River,” he said.

Mr Ja­cob said a 2013 Fish Com­mu­nity Re­port by Mur­doch Univer­sity found the health of the river was im­prov­ing, with the eco­log­i­cal con­di­tion of the rivers get­ting bet­ter since the mid 2000s.

He said a river pro­tec­tion strat­egy would be fi­nalised after the merger and trans­fer of day-to-day man­age­ment func­tions of the Swan River Trust to the Depart­ment of Parks and Wildlife ( DPaW).

South East Re­gional Cen­tre for Ur­ban Land­care chief ex­ec­u­tive Julie Robert said the re­port re­flected an un­fair find­ing on the Trust, which she be­lieves is do­ing ev­ery­thing it could with the re­sources it has to ex­tend the re­sponse to pre­vent­ing river health de­cline.

“The find­ings also re­flect how im­por­tant it is for politi­cians to un­der­stand what the con­se­quences are for our river if they hold up ap­proval of a strate­gic river man­age­ment plan that is es­sen­tial for en­act­ing the pro­tec­tion and im­prove­ment of the health of the river,” she said.

She added that the Trust needed to be al­lowed to con­tinue its work.

“Merg­ing them with DPaW does not make sense as DPaW al­ready could not man­age the amount of land they had with the amount of re­sources pro­vided,” she said. “The Trust should re­main an in­de­pen­dent body that should not be held to the mercy of each gov­ern­ment.”

Greens MLC Lynn MacLaren said it was clear that more re­search was nec­es­sary to ef­fec­tively im­ple­ment the best prac­tice for the river sys­tem.

Pic­ture: David Baylis

Julie Robert in an area of the river where rub­bish is col­lect­ing.

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