River Murray wetlands project flows into next phase
18 August 2016
The Australian and South Australian Governments have given the tick of approval to the next phase of a project to ensure South Australia’s River Murray wetlands remain healthy into the future.
Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Anne Ruston, and SA Minister for Water and the River Murray, Ian Hunter, welcomed the next phase of the Riverine Recovery Project, which will involve the construction and modernisation of wetland management infrastructure and support scientific monitoring activities in 11 wetlands along the River.
Minister Ruston said the project, funded under the Murray–Darling Basin Plan, was an important element of the Coalition Government’s work to secure a healthy and productive future for one of Australia’s most important water resources.
“The Basin Plan is about making the most of every drop of water—not just by optimising the use of water in agriculture, but by ensuring that environmental water is used as efficiently and effectively as possible too,” Minister Ruston said.
“This phase of the Riverine Recovery Project aims to improve the efficiency of environmental water use while boosting the ecological health of wetlands through the re-introduction of more natural wetting and drying cycles, and improving flow and fish passage.
“It will also improve the efficiency of environmental water use by reducing loss by evaporation.
“Better managing these wetlands for positive ecological outcomes is also expected to result in water savings which can be reallocated by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder for the further benefit of wetlands and floodplains in the southern connected system of the Murray–Darling Basin.”
Minister Hunter said the works would contribute to the River’s health and the resilience of its wetlands, floodplains and backwaters, which are the ‘nurseries’ for the flora and fauna of the riverine environment, in a future of lower water availability.
“The project will also contribute to our scientific knowledge and understanding for the management of floodplains and wetlands into the future,” Minister Hunter said.
“The priority wetlands identified for further investment cover 458 hectares of wetlands and 50 kilometres of anabranches, with an associated 7362 hectares of floodplain that will benefit, spanning 440 kilometres of the river.
“We expect the project to foster the recovery of 16 endangered wetland plants across four river reaches and double the number of wetlands where native fish are dominant, as well as ensuring the full suite of local frogs and key waterbird species can be found.”
Other key outcomes will include partnered management arrangements with Traditional Owners for the management of the Sugar Shack Wetland Complex, returning this complex of permanent and intermittent wetlands and creeks to the way they were for the ancestors of today’s Traditional Owners.
Community engagement will also continue towards increasing awareness and knowledge, strengthening relationships with Traditional Owners, and building long-term river stewardship for communities along the River Murray.
The Riverine Recovery Project is due for completion in 2018 and is a joint Australian and South Australian government program. This phase of funding is $34 million from an overall Riverine Recovery budget of $98 million.