By Stephanie Peatling
Sydney Morning Herald
June 5, 2002
Copyright © 2002. The Sydney Morning Herald.
Last year it was elephants that were the big winners in the state's
environment budget; this year it is an Indian rhinoceros.
Listed as a capital works project is $4.5 million for the master
development plan at the Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo which includes
the building of new African safari and Asian (Indian rhinoceros)
The spending on zoos is part of the $399 million spent on programs
for the environment detailed in the state budget.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service received most of the money
with a "record allocation" of $228 million, said the Environment
Minister, Bob Debus.
From that sum $15.4 million will be spent on projects in Kosciuszko
National Park, including $1.8 million to improve roads and bridges
and $8.3 million on water and sewerage infrastructure at Perisher.
Almost $10 million has been allocated for land acquisition by national
parks, and a further $2.8 million will be spent on the transfer
of lands for the Blue Mountains World Heritage area from the Sydney
Catchment Authority to national parks.
The budgets of Taronga and Western Plains zoos will receive a further
5 per cent increase on last year's funding, bringing their total
budgets to $23 million.
One Indian rhinoceros is awaiting transfer from Taronga to a new
exhibit at Western Plains early next year. He will be joined by
another three for the start of a breeding program of the endangered
animal. The safari exhibit will also feature Asian otters.
In other environment spending, NSW Fisheries has allocated $3 million
for a buyout of commercial fishing licences from the Jervis Bay
Marine Park as well $1.6 million for an indigenous fishing strategy.
Environmental groups criticised the Budget, saying it was full
of handouts to big business. Kathy Ridge, executive officer of the
Nature Conservation Council, said "the NSW Treasurer should
come clean on the over $1 billion of corporate welfare going to
big business and the agriculture business each year".
"This includes $400 million in assistance to irrigation to
extract yet more water from our rivers, $100 million in low-cost
energy to smelters which produce greenhouse gas emissions and loyalty
rebates for forestry and mining."
The Opposition's environment spokesman, Andrew Humpherson, said
the Government had underspent on upgrading ocean sewerage treatment
plants in favour of "finishing a $52 million customer information