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Joint Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
Australian Minister for Agriculture,Fisheries and Forestry
Peter McGauran MP

13 September 2005

Federal package to rescue dying River Red Gums

The Australian Government has demonstrated its commitment to the health of the River Murray by committing $487,000 for emergency watering of highly stressed River Red Gums in Victoria.

Australian Ministers for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, and Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister, Peter McGauran, said the funding would be used for pumping and on-ground works to water priority areas of River Red Gums.

Approximately 2000 hectares will be watered, including parts of the Gunbower Forest, Hattah Lakes and Wallpolla Island.

The Australian Government is providing $487,000. Victoria has agreed to match this funding and provide about 14 gigalitres of water required for the initiative – that’s nearly 8000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Recent rain in the upper catchment of the Murray has resulted in increased flows down the river and provided a window of opportunity to pump water to these highly stressed trees.

A recent survey by the Murray-Darling Basin Commission indicates up to 75 per cent of River Red Gums along large stretches of the Murray River floodplain are severely stressed or dead. Directing water to these stressed trees, by pumping or other means, can improve the health of these trees significantly.

“River Red Gums are fundamental to the ecology of the Murray River and its floodplains,” Senator Campbell said.

“The Howard Government is determined to address the declining health of the Murray, and we are currently working on a greater rescue package with the states - I hope the release of this will be agreed within the month.

“In light of the alarming decline in the health of these trees, it is critical that we take action. This further demonstrates the Australian Government’s commitment to the Murray.”

Senator Campbell said water for this action would come from surplus flows in the system and an existing Victorian environmental allocation.

Mr McGauran, who is also chairman of the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council, said in a matter of days the Australian and Victorian governments had worked together to commit these funds and get the pumping underway.

“This prompt action shows we are strongly committed to the health of the River Murray and to taking practical, on-ground action to save these highly stressed trees,” Mr McGauran said.

“I can assure irrigators that the use of this water for River Red Gums will not result in any reduction to their allocations.

“This announcement by the Australian and Victorian Governments is a practical demonstration of our progress in implementing the Living Murray and achieving a healthy working River Murray,” he said.

This action is part of the larger Living Murray initiative, which is aiming to achieve environmental outcomes at significant ecological assets along the Murray, including the Hattah Lakes, Barmah- Millewa Forest, Gunbower and Koondrook-Perricoota Forests and the Chowilla Floodplain, including Lindsay-Wallpolla.

Mr McGauran said the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council would consider progress with the Living Murray initiative at its meeting on 30 September.

Media contact:
Renae Stoikos (Senator Campbell’s office)   02 6277 7640  or  0418 568 434
Russ Neal (Minister McGauran’s office)   02 6277 7520  or  0413 601 303

Photographs: related images are available from the photo gallery

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