Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Hon Paul Caica

Minister for Environment & Conservation
Minister for the River Murray
Minister for Water

$118 million for Coorong and Lower Lakes recovery

Joint media release
18 May 2011

The Gillard Government will provide an additional $118 million to ensure a healthy and sustainable future for South Australia's Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth region.

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities Tony Burke and Environment and Conservation Minister Paul Caica today announced funding to support the projects and actions outlined in the State Government's Long-Term Plan for the region.

Launching an autumn vegetation program in Clayton Bay which is funded by the Gillard Government, Mr Burke said South Australia's long-term Plan had been developed to preserve the region's unique ecological character and to boost its resilience to future drought and floods.

"The Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth region is one of Australia's most significant wetlands, and is internationally recognised," Mr Burke said.

"The region is recognised under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, particularly as a waterbird habitat.

"The effects of drought, including record low inflows in which the water level of the lakes fell below sea level have taken their toll on this unique wetlands system.

"Now is the right time for action to protect this precious area for future generations by maximising the benefits the site is currently receiving from higher inflows."

Mr Caica said the Long-Term Plan was developed in consultation with the community, including the Ngarrindjeri and scientists to ensure the region remains healthy and sustainable.

"The Plan envisages that the Lower Lakes remain freshwater and operate at variable water levels, the Murray Mouth remains open, salinity in the Coorong is reduced, the region's ecology is protected and there is enough water to sustain local communities,'' Mr Caica said.

"The Gillard Government's funding of $118 million, along with South Australia's contribution under a 90 -10 per cent funding agreement, will enable the projects and actions aimed at supporting these goals to be implemented.

"While water has returned to the region in recent months, future droughts are inevitable, so there's much work to be done to build resilience into the region."

The Gillard Government's contribution to CLLMM recovery projects is now more than $168 million, including $39 million previously allocated to early works, including the removal of the Narrung Bund.

Up to $9 million has been earmarked for the removal of the Goolwa Channel regulators which is the subject of a due diligence assessment.

Combined with the State Government's contribution, the total program commitment to the region is now more than $186 million.

The $118 million package includes:

  • Up to $39 million for a Vegetation and Fish Program to stabilise the ecology of the region and to deliver a healthy and resilient wetland through planting to restore habitat, pest management and protection of revegetated areas.
  • Up to $46 million, following an initial investigation phase, to reduce salinity levels in the Coorong South Lagoon and reintroducing the aquatic plant Ruppia to the Coorong to boost the region's ecology.
  • Up to $6.3 million to build capacity in the region by supporting Ngarrindjeri Partnerships to use their long-term knowledge and traditions for restoring health of the region, the continuation of the Lakes Hubs at Milang and Meningie, and the establishment of a regional Community Advisory Panel to provide for community representation to inform planning and on-ground works.

Mr Burke said community groups and volunteers would also plant more than 200,000 native plants in the CLLMM region as part of the Gillard Government funded autumn vegetation program.

The vegetation work also includes an additional 540,000 plants to be commercially grown and planted at a range of sites throughout the region.

"The revegetation work is vital to the region's recovery from the devastating impacts of drought and low inflows,'' Mr Burke said.

"Vegetation is important to the region's recovery, because it stabilises the soil, adds carbon to the soil to combat acidification and increases habitat for the region's native species."

Mr Caica said the revegetation work planned by the State Government and Rural Solutions gives local communities and the Ngarrindjeri an opportunity to be involved in helping their region to recover and thrive.

"More than 300 volunteers will tackle 24 carefully selected sites covering close to 150 hectares of land around Lake Alexandrina, Lake Albert, the Finniss River and Currency Creek,'' he said.

"The community planting program is an excellent example of communities and governments working together to ensure the CLLMM region has a healthy and sustainable future.

"Nine community nurseries have been propagating the plants required for the planting projects. The Goolwa to Wellington Local Action Planning group and the Milang and District Community Association deserve credit for co-ordinating the volunteer planting and community nurseries activities."