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

World Environment Day delivers $86 million for Murray River

Joint media release
5 June 2011

The Gillard Government has signed off on $78 million for a major new project to improve the health of the Murray River, with major works to begin this winter.

Federal Water and Environment Minister Tony Burke and South Australia’s Water and Environment Minister Paul Caica today outlined $86.7 million for a new project to improve the river’s health and resilience of its wetlands and floodplains from the Victorian border to Wellington.

The Riverine Recovery Project will improve efficiency of environmental water use by reducing evaporative losses and boost the ecological health for floodplains and wetlands.

The announcement, which paves the way for major works to go ahead, coincides with World Environment Day which is aims to be the largest day globally dedicated to action to protect the environment.

“Restoring the health of the River Murray is one of the biggest environmental challenges of our generation,” Mr Burke said.

“World Environment Day is about taking action to protect the stunning areas we love and depend on -  communities here in South Australia understand all too well why we need to act now to change how we use the river’s water in the future.

“While recent rain means there is water in the system now, the reform must continue.

“That’s why projects like the Riverine Recovery Project are so important – it is one of the first aimed at improving the efficiency of environmental water use and reallocating these water savings for the benefit of the environment.

“It will deliver direct environmental benefits for wetlands and floodplains in the South Australian Murray and also return water savings of 15 gigalitres of entitlements.” 

Mr Burke and Mr Caica inspected the Paiwalla wetlands today, which is typical of the wetlands which will benefit from the project.

The Gillard Government has signed off on $78 million towards the Riverine Recovery Project.

Mr Caica said the Rann Government would commit an additional $8.7 million to the project that will enhance local ecological outcomes.

“The riverine environment is a significant element of the river system but has been degraded by river regulation, the over-allocation and extraction of water and reduced flows during drought,’’ Mr Caica said.

“This project will allow some areas to undergo a more natural wetting and drying cycle which will promote regeneration of native wetland species.

“It is also expected to improve both the health of the river and water security by providing for more efficient and flexible management of the system.”

Areas to benefit under the Riverine Recovery Project include:

  • Floodplains: Major works to restore the health of the Pike and Catfish Reach floodplains. This will enhance environmental flows, encourage fish passage and habitat and enable connectivity of the floodplain and the river channel; 
  • Wetlands: New infrastructure and investigation into ways to improve wetland health by re-introducing more natural wetting and drying cycles to improve ecosystem health;
  • Enhanced River Operations: Investigating better river management through adjusting the height of weirs to make the most of available water resources; and
  • Information Management to Support Decision Making: Monitoring various indicators of wetlands and floodplains including wildlife, vegetation and water quality as a result of project activities to better inform the management of environmental water, to maximise positive ecological and biological outcomes.

This funding is in addition to $9.2 million announced by the Gillard and Rann governments in March for the Riverine Recovery Project early works activities.