MEMBER for Eden-Monaro Mike Kelly visited Bega on Wednesday to announce the Labor Government will commit $500,000 to the Bega Valley Fireweed Association (BVFA) to help its battle against the noxious weed.
Dr Kelly said the funding – under the Government’s new $20million Community Weed Management Fund announced in the BDN last month (16/8) - would provide the association with around $170,000 a year over the next three years should Labor be re-elected this weekend.
This will allow the BVFA to continue its pioneering research into biological controls for fireweed, which has already yielded promising results.
Liberal Party candidate Peter Hendy said if elected a Coalition Government would honour this commitment, however he claimed the money was from existing rural weed mitigation funds and not new.
Dr Kelly made the announcement at BVFA president Noel Watson’s Bega property on Wednesday morning, and discussed the importance of the funding stream with delighted members of the association.
“In 2010, I delivered $300,000 for the Bega Valley Fireweed Association’s two-year research project involving the CSIRO, University of New England and University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa,” Dr Kelly said.
“The association’s outstanding work helped to produce a guidebook which is now widely used by Australian landholders.
“There is, however, much more to be done.
“That’s why I brought Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon out to meet the BFVA a couple of weeks ago and made the case for this recurrent funding under our new weeds fund.
“That lobbying and the outstanding work of the BVFA has enabled today’s $500,000 announcement – funding which is precisely what the association told us they needed.”
Dr Kelly said the BVFA and local community’s passion in tackling fireweed would ensure the government’s money was well spent.
“The Bega Valley Fireweed Association, led by Noel Watson, is absolutely passionate about this issue. Our announcement today means they will continue to have a front-seat role in moving the science forward.”
Dr Kelly said Labor’s $20million Community Weed Management Fund had been fully costed and approved by the Parliamentary Budget Office, and he called on Liberal candidate Mr Hendy to make the commitment to the BVFA bipartisan.
When contacted by the BDN, Mr Hendy said the money pledged to the BVFA would be granted in a show of bi-partisanship, but only because the funds were already in existence.
"Today is just a re-announcement from when Dr Kelly visited the Bega Valley with Mr Fitzgibbon two weeks ago," he said.
"The story hasn't changed.
"I've checked with the shadow agriculture minister [John Cobb] and this is not new money.
"It comes from existing weed mitigation funds and as such has bi-partisan support."
BVFA president Mr Watson said he welcomed bi-partisan support of the issue, calling Mr Hendy’s support “promising”.
“Funding for fireweed management and study started during the John Howard government and continued through Labor, so you can’t just stop a job when it’s half done,” he said.
“This isn’t for old farmers not me, this funding benefits the next generation and it’s also for areas beyond the Bega Valley.
“It won’t just be our problem soon, it’s spreading as far north as the Atherton Tableland in Queensland, so Federal Government funding is essential.”