Ms FORREST question to LEADER of the GOVERNMENT in the LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL, Mrs HISCUTT
With regard to concerns raised related to reports of substantial effluent discharge into waterways from North-West dairy farms, including media coverage:
1. What monitoring has been done in the Welcome River for dairy effluent;
2. Who undertakes this monitoring;
a. how and where is the monitoring recorded and reported; and
b. how is the monitoring resourced;
3. Have there been any concerns regarding water quality and impacts of dairy farm effluent raised as a result of the testing, and;
a. If so,
i what are the concerns; and
ii what actions were taken to address the concerns; and
iii what follow-up monitoring has been undertaken.
Q1 Given recent reporting of effluent issues in the North-West DPIPWE, with the support of the Environment Protection Authority, will be undertaking specific water quality monitoring of the Welcome River relating to effluent discharges.
While there has been no dedicated environmental monitoring program in the past solely for the Welcome River, DPIPWE has done a range of water monitoring over the past two decades across Tasmania.
Rivers are a vital part of the Tasmanian landscape and sustaining their health (or condition) allows the benefits they provide to the community to be maintained. ‘River health’ is a broad concept that relates to the condition of riverine ecosystems, and includes water quality, the quality of habitats within rivers, and the composition of communities of aquatic plants and animals.
Since 1994, the Tasmanian Government has conducted monitoring of river conditions across Tasmania under the River Health Monitoring Program (RHMP).
The RHMP employs rapid sampling methods to assess river health, including Australian River Assessment System (AusRivAS) protocols, which focus on waterbug (macroinvertebrate) communities and habitat quality.
Monitoring occurs every second year in Spring and Autumn, and a recent review of the program is available on the DPIPWE web site:
DPIPWE also has stream gauging stations on the Duck, Welcome and Montagu Rivers, as well as Edith Creek. This data is publicly available via the DPIPWE Water Information Tasmania Web Portal.
Q2 Refer to the answer to question 1.
Q3 Historic water quality testing in the far north-west has not indicated that there are significant nutrient loading of river systems (refer to the water quality section of the EPA website).
The Tasmanian Government is keen to ensure that the growth of its vital dairy industry does not come at the expense of our environment, and particularly our precious water resources. We recently took another step towards that goal, by announcing a new $100 000 round of the highly successful ‘Cows out of Creeks’ program. It will provide $5 000 grants to 20 dairy farmers across Tasmania to construct infrastructure and install off-stream watering systems aiming to prevent cows accessing waterways. This funding commitment follows the success of the past seven rounds of the Clean Rivers and Cows out of Creeks Programs.
Dairy farmers are also under strict legislative requirements to effectively manage effluent from their operation, and to report any failures of those systems to their local Council and the Tasmanian Dairy Industry Authority (TDIA).