Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment

Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment

The Hon. Peter Walsh MP

State of Victoria Minister for Water

Helping the iconic Hattah Lakes

Media release
25 June 2014

One of Australia's internationally important wetlands will receive a boost with environmental water being made available to improve the health of the Hattah Lakes Ramsar site.

Parliamentary Secretary Simon Birmingham said the Commonwealth and Victorian environmental water holders are joining forces to create a watering event the likes of which has not been seen naturally for 20 years.

"This is a critical action designed to support the black box forest of Hattah Lakes, part of the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park in north-west Victoria between Robinvale and Mildura," said Senator Simon Birmingham, Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment.

"Research shows that black box forest should be inundated every three to seven years to maintain health. The Hattah Lakes, listed as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, have not had a significant natural event for 20 years, and the black box trees are showing signs of stress and decline.

"That's why we're making up to 116,000 megalitres of environmental water from the Commonwealth, Victoria and The Living Murray Initiative available over the next three to six months, to inundate around 5,670 hectares of floodplain.

"The Hattah Lakes are one of the sixteen internationally important wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin, with 12 of the 20 lakes listed for their environmental importance and home to more than 47 waterbird species.

"The regent parrot and Australian painted snipe are dependent on this area's floodplains. The eastern long-eared bat, common dunnart, carpet python and growing grass frog are all found here. The watering action is also expected to benefit native fish, including eel tailed catfish and fly specked hardy head.

"When there's water in the lakes, the area attracts more than 70,000 visitors annually, benefiting nearby towns such as Mildura and Ouyen. Popular activities at Hattah Lakes include camping, bushwalking, bird watching, swimming, kayaking and canoeing.

Victorian Minister for Water Peter Walsh said the environmental watering had been made possible through $32 million of works funded by the Commonwealth and Victorian governments, including the installation of a pump station and series of regulators.

"This infrastructure can achieve similar environmental benefits as a natural flood using significantly less water," Mr Walsh said.

"The Victorian Coalition Government is strongly committed to achieving environmental outcomes for the Murray-Darling Basin by using water more efficiency through infrastructure works, rather than simply taking water from productive use. This current watering event demonstrates how that can be achieved.

"We look forward to continuing to work with the Commonwealth on achieving these kinds of environmental outcomes for more communities along the Basin into the future."

The Hattah Lakes comprises of 20 freshwater lakes ranging in size from 10 hectares to 243 hectares, with a total area of 13,000 hectares.

The delivery of environmental water into Hattah Lakes will be managed by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority and Goulburn-Murray Water in cooperation with the Victorian Environmental Water Holder and the Murray Darling Basin Authority. The Hattah Lakes are part of the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, managed by Parks Victoria.

The Living Murray is a joint initiative funded by the New South Wales, Victorian, South Australian, Australian Capital Territory and Commonwealth governments, coordinated by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority.

Simon Birmingham