Rescue mission for River Murray private wetlands begins

Joint media release
15 February 2013

Nature Foundation SA has begun pumping Commonwealth environmental water on to the floodplains and wetlands that support vulnerable plant and animal life near the Murray River National Park and downstream of Chowilla floodplain in South Australia's Riverland.

The start of watering on Clark's Floodplain – adjacent Lock 4 near Berri, was celebrated at a formal event today. It is part of a national River Murray rescue plan through Water for Nature, an initiative of Nature Foundation SA.

Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder David Papps, a guest speaker at the event said the five year agreement between the Australian Government and Nature Foundation for the delivery of ten gigalitres per year of Commonwealth environmental water was a true partnership with conservation organisations, landholders, irrigators, community and private sectors in the Riverland.

"Together we are working towards healthy river wetland and floodplain environments that provide good quality water and support the variety of plant and animal life native to the region. Smart use of environmental water is the cornerstone of the Australian Government's commitment to restoring our rivers to health through Murray-Darling Basin reforms", David Papps said.

Ian Atkinson, Nature Foundation SA Chief Executive said his agency was proud to be the first non-government organisation entrusted with management of Commonwealth environmental water.

"Wetlands and floodplains on private property all along the Murray are suffering because of a hundred years of altered flooding patterns," Mr Atkinson said. "But environmental watering is a way to address the health of these important parts of the River Murray. The watering will help redress the loss of habitat and re-establish stands of black box trees and understory. Localised environmental gains will help to provide refuge for endangered and threatened species but the broader context is the health of the Murray-Darling river system as a whole and the positive economic, social and cultural impacts of a healthy river system."

"It takes a lateral approach, collaboration from key stakeholders and buy in and support from the local community," said Mr Atkinson. "In addition to Mr Steve Clark and family who own the land we have had fantastic support from SA Water, Loxton to Bookpurnong Local Action Planning Group (LBLAP), Bookpurnong Lock 4 Environmental Association (B4LEA), the State Emergency Service Berri Branch who provided the sandbagging and the Australian Conservation Foundation and Observant who have provided the time-lapse cameras for monitoring of the site.

Nature Foundation South Australia has a 30 year history of conservation initiatives in South Australia. Their Water for Nature initiative establishes partnerships to achieve local environmental watering benefits for the river and the land surrounding it.