FUNDING to the tune of $4.7 million to protect the environment on the South Coast was announced when Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Joel Fitzgibbon visited Nowra on Wednesday.
Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority, Small Farms Network and South Coast Shorebird Recovery were among more than 100 organisations nationally to receive funds for projects to protect and manage the environment.
Four South Coast projects will share the funds which include $3.05 million for Southern Rivers CMA and its partners for a project to restore 32 South Coast wetlands.
Southern Rivers CMA also received $1.62 million to help eradicate coastal weeds of national significance and strengthen the national bitou bush and lantana southern containment line.
South Coast Shorebird Recovery received $40,000 to strengthen its volunteer network by providing training and community education events.
In Kiama the Small Farms Network received $48,000 to restore 1.5km of riparian corridor along Jerrara Creek. That project includes planting 2000 trees.
Mr Fitzgibbon was clearly impressed with the beauty of the Shoalhaven River when he arrived on Wednesday morning.
To the small crowd that gathered, he explained that the grants were offered to “quality and busy organisations putting forward meritorious projects, and CMA certainly did that in this case”.
“CMA has been quite ambitious in its program and based on past performance I’ve no doubt they will achieve their ambition,” he said.
Labor candidate for Gilmore Neil Reilly told the gathering and the minister how hard this community worked to protect the local environment.
“We know just how special the South Coast is,” Mr Reilly said.
“Providing funding for local groups to maintain and restore local ecosystems will help protect the South Coast’s unique biodiversity for future generations,” he said.
Earlier in the morning, Mr Fitzgibbon visited local oyster growers who rely on good management of the river upstream to protect their investment downstream.
“Their big challenge is water quality and what the CMA and its partners are doing upstream should be of enormous assistance to them.”
He saw the local oyster farming industry as an important part of national food security.
“We all know by 2050 global food consumption will be 75 per cent higher,” he said.
“Australia has a remarkable opportunity to tap into what I call the dining boom and feed large parts of Asia.”
He said the dining boom could be everything the mining boom was and is.
“We need to make sure we’re ready for it,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
“We know we have limited land, water and people resources. We need to be able to grow a lot more with those same resources.
“That will require productivity, innovation, research and development, and that’s what we are preparing for.”
Liberal candidate Ann Sudmalis challenged Mr Fitzgibbon to return to the South Coast and meet with dairy farmers.
“One of our most important local industries is struggling and it is a tragedy that this is the first time this year that farmers in Gilmore have seen or heard their Agriculture Minister,” she said.
“Since my preselection last year, I have twice brought shadow minister for agriculture John Cobb to the region to meet with our local dairy farmers and speak with them about how to make milk production cheaper and more sustainable.
“I challenge Mr Fitzgibbon to meet with any one of our local dairy farmers, as they will gladly tell him how they have fared under the last six years of Labor,” Mrs Sudmalis said.