ACT News


Canberra lakes get $76 million election campaign clean-up

The federal government will spend $76 million in a bid to improve the water quality, odour and appearance of Canberra's lakes and waterways.

ACT senator Zed Seselja, who will announce the funding on Thursday, said Canberra's lakes desperately needed a clean-up with residents complaining of foul smells and algae.

The money will fund 25 priority projects across the six catchment areas that feed and drain Lake Burley Griffin, Lake Ginninderra and Lake Tuggeranong.

The ACT and federal governments signed a $85 million plan to save Lake Burley Griffin and other polluted waterways in 2014, with $9 million of federal money already spent on research and preliminary projects.

This $76 million is the remaining allocation and will be spent on infrastructure projects across the territory. 

The money was made available in 2012 when the Commonwealth signed the Murray-Darling Basin management plan, designating $85 million to clean up ACT waterways. 


But the money has been around since 2008 when the federal government allocated it for water projects, including a desalination plant on the Murrumbidgee River, which was later abandoned. 

ACT Environment Minister Simon Corbell will on Thursday announce an additional $8.5 million to fund water projects, taking the total federal and territory investment since 2014 to $93.5 million. 

"The ACT government did a lot of work to make sure we nominated projects that would make a real difference to water quality in our lakes and waterways," he said.  

"It is great to see that the federal government has approved our priority projects so that we can now start delivering projects that will improve water quality for all Canberrans."

Professor Ross Thompson, director of the University of Canberra's Institute of Applied Ecology, said the multimillion-dollar investment may seem large to some but was reasonable considering the scale of the problem.

"This is a very challenging area and the investment is significant on a global scale," he said. "You have to put this in perspective and compare it to other infrastructure projects like the Majura Parkway," he said.

"When you do that and realise you are talking about trying to reverse 100 years of damage to our water systems, it starts to look like a small amount of money."

Mr Seselja said the federal funding was responsible and based on two years of scientific consultation and research.

"This is a national priority as our catchments are part of the Murray Darling and feed into downstream communities and agricultural regions," he said.

In Yarralumla, $13.6 million will be spent on new stormwater systems to reduce the flow of water into Lake Burley Griffin. Money will also be spent improving the drainage of sporting fields and parks in Yarralumla and Curtin.

West Belconnen will receive $6.5 million for projects between Hall and the western edge of Lake Ginninderra. Sediment will also be removed from wetlands surrounding St Francis Xavier College and Ginninderra Dam.

More than $26 million will be spent on projects in Tuggeranong including efforts to increase vegetation and work on stormwater drains. 

"For Lake Tuggeranong, the biggest problem is stormwater drains that were built in the 1970s," Mr Seselja said. 

"While they are very good at moving water quickly and stop flooding, they allow the water to take all its nutrients into the lake and that doesn't help water quality."

Another $15.8 million will be spent on projects from Oaks Estate to the southern edge of Lake Burley Griffin and Kingston.

Canberra's newer suburbs Wright and Coombs will receive almost $10 million with the priority given to wetlands surrounding the Cotter Road.

A further $3.3 million will be spent on the Upper Molonglo catchment between Queanbeyan and Googong, which is outside the ACT but accounts for one-third of Lake Burley Griffin's catchment area.

Mr Corbell said the funding would also help raise awareness of how residents, businesses and visitors could help improve waterways.

"Canberra's lakes and waterways are under increasing pressure largely due to urban development, past land and water management regimes, climate change and a general lack of awareness about the kinds of activities that have an impact on water quality," he said. 

"We expect to begin the next phase of work immediately with detailed engineering design, further community consultation and development approvals, followed by construction which is scheduled to be complete by mid-2019."

ACT Labor senator Katy Gallagher said she was pleased to see the money was being used for specific projects. 

"I'm particularly pleased to see the nine projects for Tuggeranong and the five for Yarralumla Creek - both of these areas were ones that came up constantly from Canberrans who wanted to see improvements to our urban waterways," she said. 


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