Private Member's Statement
An important initiative taking place in my electorate is the biobridges project, which aims to preserve our unique World Heritage listed natural environment. The Northern Rivers is an area of high conservation and biodiversity value, with rich varieties of plants and remnant Gondwanaland treasure spots as well as unique species of animals. Our natural heritage, which we must fight to protect from overdevelopment, is of vital importance not only because we need our waters and rivers, food-growing and agricultural areas that sustain us physically but also because they provide us with economic and employment opportunities, prosperity and a wonderful lifestyle.
However, only a few dinosaurs opposite would deny that the climate of the planet is changing and that we are experiencing a warming planet caused by carbon emissions. Across the globe extreme weather events are becoming commonplace, which are the exact signals of what scientists said a decade ago would happen with global temperature rise and sea level rise. Reports from the New South Wales Government's own Office of Environment and Heritage predict that in the future the weather of the Northern Rivers will be more unpredictable and much warmer. Our dry months will be dryer and our wet months will be wetter. The storms will be more severe and the bushfire risk will increase. The community recognises that the region's unique wildlife needs help to navigate those changes. From all walks of life, landowners and community groups from Brunswick together with people from the Tweed, Richmond and Upper Clarence are ready to work with their local Landcare group to build and restore a regional network of biobridges.
Biobridges are natural corridors of vegetation that provide pathways across the currently cleared and fragmented landscape. They provide the opportunity for wildlife to move to cooler areas, safer areas and areas of new food supplies to find new mates as well as new homes, and will conserve wildlife populations. The biobridges project has grown from innovative thinking and is community endorsed. Where appropriate, the Aboriginal community will be consulted regarding site selection and actions on the ground. The project is being progressed with not only the needs of wildlife in mind but also the regional economic drivers of sustainable agriculture and tourism. Landcare in the Northern Rivers is known for its commitment, professionalism, skills and knowledge. It has built local and regional partnerships, delivered significant on-ground projects and generated employment outcomes. Every week that I am in Ballina I speak to farmers and landowners who are working closely with Landcare.
Landcare has leadership, ideas and community support, but it now needs Government funding. While Landcare already gratefully receives funding for various programs, the scale of this biobridge project across the Northern Rivers region is much larger than most local projects. As a result, it needs a larger funding commitment. The project is a very out-of-the-box and holistic initiative worth $6 million. Although my Federal colleagues in the Senate were able to obtain a large sum of money for Landcare, sadly because the project is so large, holistic and out of the box the current funding regime does not match it. We need the Government to look differently at this unique and out-of-the-box project. The biobridges concept has been developed by the community and for the community, but it is also backed with the latest scientific thinking. It is a bottom-up approach to project development and has been developed directly based on the feedback of landowners in our area. This is what they have been telling the Brunswick Valley Landcare group and other Landcare groups that they want to do: Imagine a network of green spaces, corridors of native trees with birds, koalas and other wildlife that residents can go for walks in and that tourists can admire.
That is the biobridge concept—providing habitat for our wildlife while working with urban and agricultural landowners. Added benefits will be weed and pest control, revegetation, fencing, employment and carbon offset. The Northern Rivers is known for its progressive and creative community, who think big picture and who want to make a difference. Previous investments in building the capacity of the community have paid dividends. The communities are now ready to tackle difficult issues on a scale that is large enough to make a significant difference. By its very nature and scale, biobridges will be a flagship. It showcases community-initiated strategic action that is backed by scientific rigour and implementation across the landscape.
Because of this, it also needs a large-scale investment. It is too large for existing funding opportunities. As such, Landcare needs consideration for special government funding. I call on this Government to meet with Landcare representatives, talk to them about the concept and give them the funding needed to make this a reality.