WA’s Auditor General has launched a scathing attack on the overall management of the Swan and Canning rivers, saying it was failing the beleaguered waterway.
Colin Murphy has this afternoon released the results of an inquiry into the river’s oversight, finding that it was uncoordinated and the river’s health was going backwards on its watch.
According to Mr Murphy, water quality in upstream parts of the river system was “poor” and “declining” while downstream parts were reasonable but “still under threat”.
Key to the river’s woes was the relatively uncontrolled flow of nutrients from farms and pollution from the city, both of which the State Government had failed to stem.
What’s more, Mr Murphy argued that most people were oblivious to the river’s true state, claiming that the Swan River Trust did not adequate reports on its health.
Problems with the Swan are well documented and have included toxic algal blooms and mass fish kills over the past 10 years amid falling oxygen and rising nutrient levels.
Despite the criticism, Mr Murphy refused to be drawn on whether moves by the Government to scrap the trust and roll it into the Department of Parks and Wildlife were a good idea.
Instead, he said the Government must develop a comprehensive strategy for fixing the river’s problems.
“There has never been comprehensive and easily understood reporting to Parliament and the public on the overall health status of the river system, and without this understanding we may not be giving priority to what needs to be done,” Mr Murphy said.
“Improving the health of the Swan (and) Canning river system is achievable, but as experiences elsewhere show, rapid solutions are unlikely.”
Mr Murphy noted localised efforts by the Swan River Trust to cut the amounts of phosphorous and nitrogen entering the river had been successful to a limited extent.
But he claimed those efforts were merely treating the symptoms of the Swan’s problems, rather than its causes.
Those causes, he said, largely stemmed from nutrients and organics flowing into the Swan from farms east of Perth and they could not be fixed without a broader Government strategy.