Environment Minister Bill Marmion has conceded the Liberal Party has no plans to ban water soluble fertilisers entering the Swan and Canning Rivers despite their role in causing algal blooms.
Instead, Mr Marmion said the Government would ask farmers and market gardeners in the iconic waterway’s catchment to reduce their fertiliser use if it won the upcoming State election.
The comments by Mr Marmion came today as he unveiled a $16.25 million package to “improve” the system by building more river walls, upgrading paths and encouraging the development of four new kiosks.
The package would also include a small amount of money to look at new ways of reducing the inflow of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous – key drivers of toxic algal blooms.
Despite most of those nutrients coming from water soluble fertilisers used by agriculture in the Swan’s catchment, Mr Marmion acknowledged there were no plans to forbid them.
He said a government trial in which farmers in Augusta had been urged to cut their fertiliser use had proven successful and similar moves were likely to be preferred.
“What we’re doing with the Department of Water is whole-of-catchment management and a good example is down in Augusta,” Mr Marmion said.
“It’s got river catchment where we have been working with the farmers and they are voluntarily reducing amount of fertiliser they’re using so that they’re using exactly the right amount... and we don’t get the run off of the fertiliser into the river.”
Shadow environment minister Sally Talbot attacked the remarks, saying the Liberals’ plan for the Swan failed to deal with the underlying problems plaguing the troubled system.
She said high nutrient levels caused by water soluble fertilisers were the main source of the river’s woes but stopped short of calling for a commitment from Mr Marmion to ban them.
“The Barnett Government’s four and-a-half years in office have been marked by mass fish kills, toxic algal blooms and dolphin deaths,” Dr Talbot said.
“The Liberals have an appalling record of neglecting the Swan River.
“One of the Barnett Government’s first actions was to ditch Labor’s Fertiliser Action Plan which would have seen the mandatory phase out of water soluble nutrients.
“Instead of implementing the Fertilizer Action Plan and phasing out water soluble nutrients as proposed by WA Labor, the Liberals have sat on their hands while the health of the Swan River has rapidly deteriorated.”