CARCOAR DAM WETLAND EXPERIMENT
Mr CRUICKSHANK: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Natural Resources. Has the Minister received advice about the progress of the experimental wetland at Carcoar which he launched a year ago? Is the project investigating the control of blue-green algae?
Mr CAUSLEY: I thank the honourable member for Murrumbidgee for his question. He is always interested in water quality, irrigation and river management matters. I am sure he is very interested in this initiative by the Fahey-Murray Government which is coming to grips with water quality in the Belubula River. I announced last year that a wetlands operation would be initiated at Carcoar Dam. I remind the House that Carcoar Dam has had a blue-green algae problem for many years. The dam was in such a state that the local community could not use it for recreation; in fact, the water quality was such that it could not even be used for domestic animals. This scheme is the first of its type in the world in that it is trying to purify the water of a whole river. This program has been initiated and helped by the local community. I pay tribute to that community. Unlike some members opposite who paraded and pointed the finger of blame at somebody else, the community set about doing something about the input to the river that is causing the blue-green algae problem.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is far too much audible conversation in the Chamber.
Mr CAUSLEY: The community banded together to see whether it can control the blue-green algae problem in the Carcoar Dam and the Belubula River. An amount of $200,000 was spent on the artificial wetland. The honourable member for Orange - the Minister for Conservation and Land Management and Minister for Energy - and I launched the program. The Blayney and Orange high schools were involved. The students of those schools planted many aquatic plants which are used in the wetlands. The University of Western Sydney will monitor the project over the next three years, at a cost of $150,000, to assess the nutrients that are being taken from the river and how those nutrients can be harvested and put to better use.
It is anticipated that about 60 per cent of the nutrients being put into the river can be harvested in this way to provide better water quality to residents downstream and to local people who use the amenities of this dam. I am pleased to say that the Government took that initiative further by adding $750,000 to blue-green algae programs across the State. The Minister for Sport, Recreation and Racing reminds me that he recently launched one such program in Wagga Wagga. There are about 17 other such programs throughout the State, six of them in artificial wetlands and others examining river-bank protection.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I draw the attention of honourable members to the level of audible conversation in the Chamber. If members consider that their own private conversations are more important than what happens in the House, they should go outside the House and conduct them there. That direction applies particularly to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Blacktown.
Mr CAUSLEY: That highlights the lack of interest on the benches opposite in regard to the availability of good quality water throughout New South Wales. Initiatives are being taken by the Government and by this side of the House but the Opposition does not want to hear about them and ignores them. The Opposition has no interest in them, and that fact should come home clearly to the people of New South Wales. The Government has taken the initiative, and will do more in the collection and controlled application of nutrients in the rivers, to ensure good quality water in New South Wales, which is of interest to all residents of this State.
The program is being conducted with the co-operation of local people, who are driving the issue. The program has the co-operation of the local business community, which is right behind it, and also of the Department of Water Resources, the Total Catchment Management Committee and the department of parks, which are all involved in ensuring that the program comes to grips with a problem that threatens the very livelihood of the township of Blayney. That project, which was launched last year, is coming to fruition with great help from the local community.