Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
9 January 2001
Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill today announced funding for two important wetland projects helping to repair the Murray-Darling Basin.
Senator Hill, who announced the funding at an Earthwatch project at The Coorong wetlands, said it was important to revive the River Murray's struggling wetland system.
"Part of the solution to problems affecting the Murray-Darling Basin is restoring its wetlands - the kidneys of the River Murray system. Wetlands are vital for storing water, buffering us from floods, providing fish nurseries and rich centres of plant and animal diversity," Senator Hill said.
"It is of great concern that some of the wetland 'jewels in the crown' of the Basin are seriously threatened. The good news is that we have now started to reverse that trend through community-based projects funded under the Federal Government's $1.5 billion Natural Heritage Trust."
The Federal Government will provide $256,000 from the Natural Heritage Trust during the next three years for the Living Wetlands Fund, a project of the community-based Wetland Care Australia.
This will support a range of projects in the Murray-Darling Basin through a devolved grants scheme approach. In the first instance the Living Wetlands Fund will support projects within the Murray-Darling Basin including along the Lower River Murray at Wellington North and Swanport. The Fund will support the development of action plans, regional and site-based training workshops.
The Federal Government will also provide an extra $40,000 to the Loveday Cobdogla Wetlands Rehabilitation Project in the Riverland of South Australia. The Loveday Swamp, adjacent to the Cobdogla Irrigation Area, was once a dumping ground for saline groundwater. The South Australian Field and Game Association has been progressively rehabilitating these severely degraded wetlands over the last decade.
Since 1997 the Natural Heritage Trust has supported nearly 100 wetland rehabilitation projects in the Murray-Darling Basin, representing $12 million worth of Federal Government investment in this area.
Tuesday, January 9
Contacts: Belinda Huppatz 08 82377920 or 0419 258364
Environment Australia - Alison Russell-French 02 62741090 or 0419 264702
Wetlands rehabilitation in the Murray-Darling Basin
Murray Darling Basin Wetlands Status and Condition
- The Murray Darling Basin is characterised by meandering rivers and vast floodplains supporting a large number of wetlands. It is estimated there are more than 30,000 floodplain wetlands.
- The floodplain wetlands of the Basin are sites of high biodiversity value that depend on river flows. They are represented on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance, the Register of Australia's National Estate and within the Directory of Nationally Important Wetlands. Many of the Basin's wetlands are also recognised as internationally important habitats and breeding grounds for migratory waterbird species.
- Wetlands are now broadly recognised for the important functions, services and benefits they provide, including:
water storage and flood protection
cleansing functions such as the retention of nutrients, sediments and pollutants
local climatic effects
focal points of economic activity/development
- Despite these values, wetlands in the Murray Darling Basin have suffered severe degradation due in most cases to changes in river flow and flooding patterns but also competing land uses, draining, clearing for agricultural activities and grazing. In the Lower River Murray Valley 43% of temporary wetlands permanently flooded by impoundments.
WETLANDS PROJECTS ANNOUNCED
- The Living Wetlands Fund - is a national wetland rehabilitation project launched by Wetland Care Australia on World Environment Day 5 June 2000. The Commonwealth Government is providing funding totalling $256,000 to the project, under the Natural Heritage Trust.
- The Living Wetlands Fund is a new partnership between Wetland Care Australia and the Commonwealth Government which will complement corporate sponsorship for wetland rehabilitation projects across Australia.
- Wetland Care Australia has clearly demonstrated its credentials in this field after almost a decade of leadership working with local communities and government to restore the degraded wetlands of the Murray Darling Basin.
- The Fund will operate as a devolved grant scheme with priority for rehabilitation projects at wetland sites with existing management or action plans. Details of the first projects to be supported are given below. In the future it is proposed that the Fund will, among other activities seek to support the development of 26 wetland action plans for sites along the Lower River Murray, with these intended for completion April 2001.
- The Fund will also support development of action plans for wetland sites, regional and site-based training workshops and communications activities, using the information transfer services of WetlandLink also managed by Wetland Care, Australia.
LIVING WETLANDS FUND REHABILITATION PROJECTS
|Wellington North (Murrundi Reserve), Lower River Murray, SA.
||Contribution to opening inlet channel
||Wellington Progress Association & Rural City of Murray Bridge
|Swanport, Lower River Murray, SA
||Develop outdoor classroom for education, recreation and eco- tourism
||Mannum-Wellington Local Action Planning Committee & Rural City of Murray Bridge
|Collets Swamp, Clarence Valley, NSW
||Install floodgates to allow wetland filling and extend wet period by four months each year. Monitoring.
||Three private landholders & Clarence River County Council
|Belongil Swamp, Byron Bay, NSW
||Assessment of hydrology and vegetation. Installation of drop board in drains to reinstate natural water regime. Environmental weed control and monitoring of water quality and regeneration. Information area development and signage
||Byron Shire Council, Belongil Estuary Management Committee
- The Loveday Cobdogla Wetlands Rehabilitation Project - in the Riverland, SA. This project provides an excellent example of what can be achieved by dedicated community groups with technical support from Wetland Care Australia and Government funding.
- The Loveday Swamp, adjacent to the Cobdogla Irrigation Area, was once a dumping ground for saline groundwater. The South Australian Field and Game Association has progressively rehabilitated these severely degraded wetlands over the last decade guided by a wetland Management Plan developed by Wetland Care Australia. The aim is to increase the flooding frequency of the wetlands through managing the hydrology of the wetlands. More frequent flooding will stimulate germination and establishment of native species in restored wetlands.
- The Commonwealth Government is providing additional funding of $40,000 under the Natural Heritage Trust to allow rehabilitation works to be completed. On-ground works involve installing a box culvert to increase water flows into the wetland, removing debris and obstructions from creeks and causeway and installing carp screens. Monitoring points are to be installed to map changes from wetting, drying and grazing and communication and education activities to document project history including translation of video footage taken over the life of the project.
These projects demonstrate that the future health of the wetlands of the Murray-Darling Basin lies in the hands of local communities who are putting in a massive effort across the Basin with funding support from the Natural Heritage Trust. This repair effort will benefit from new and innovative ways of delivering this support and resources. The Living Wetlands Fund Partnership will increase the community's capacity to get on with the job.
OTHER WETLAND PROJECTS IN THE MURRAY DARLING BASIN
Gurra Gurra Lakes and Salt Creek Management Plans - Lower Murray
- The Gurra Gurra Wetland system has experienced significant decline over last 20 years with loss of black box and native fish. The Gurra Wetland Care Group has received funding of $700,000 over three years under the NHT.
- On ground works involve restoration of wetland ecology through major flow installations and structures over 17 work sites. New culverts installed at the crossings to control inflows to lagoons include significant pipe openings and spillways (from 4 openings to 221 openings or 1150 concrete pipes). A Salt and Water balance is being undertaken using test wells and backhoe pits to assemble local data. A community monitoring program is in place and an interpretative information bay installed.
- Early results from rehabilitation works include a reduction in salinity from input of freshwater into a demonstration lagoon and significant regeneration of native species including couch, slender knot and red gums is occurring at a further demonstration lagoon where drying has been reintroduced into a drowned wetland.
- The Toolunka wetlands are severely degraded with significant loss of red gums in flooded areas, from salt intrusion on the floodplain and on the cliff edge of the highlands.
- The Toolunka Wetland Rehabilitation Group has received seed funding from the Living Wetlands Fund managed by Wetland Care Australia.
- On-ground works involve rebuilding an existing structure to exclude the River, new bigger pipes with flow control gates and fish screens designed to flush the salts and reduce seepage and introduce a drying cycle and remove carp.
Migratory Waterbird Rehabilitation - Tolderol
- The Tolderol wetland within the Coorong Lake Alexandrina Ramsar site was once an estuarine system and an innovative habitat restoration project has been implemented by the Tolderol Habitat Committee.
- The project has received $54,000 funding over two years under the NHT.
- On-ground works involve restoration of 13 bays of salt marsh habitat, 6 bays have been constructed, external and internal banks and flow structures installed. Water quality and invertebrate monitoring has commenced. The restored habitat is being utilised by a range of migratory waterbirds.
- A bird hide and interpretative signage has been erected and the site is attracting bird watchers from around Australia and has been visited by 22 wetland managers from US.
Wonga Wetland Regeneration
- This project managed by the Wonga Wetlands Community Advisory Committee in cooperation with Albury City Council is designed to regenerate native flora in the flood plain environment of the Murray River which includes opportunities for research and ongoing education.
- It involves revegetation and monitoring of natural regeneration as well as exclusion of stock from billabongs and the surrounding river frontage and buffer zone.
- Funding of $25000 was approved under the NHT.
Dowdle Swamp Catchment Revegetation
- This project managed by the Peechelba - Boomahnoomoonah - Wilby Landcare Group Inc provides for the employment of a part time coordinator to encourage landholders in the catchment of the Dowdle Swamp to implement on ground works in the form of tree growing.
- All gully lines are being revegetated by either direct seeding, tube stock planting or natural regeneration. Other works include hillside revegetation and corridor enhancement. This project will enhance habitat for the grey crowned babbler and stone curlew.
- Funding of $25000 was approved under the NHT.
Revegetation and Protection of Avoca Wetlands
- This project managed by the Victorian Department of Natural Resources provides incentives for "on-ground works" that will fence off and protect thirty hectares wetlands from grazing.
- It has received $19960 under the NHT.
- To date 30ha of wetland area have been fenced and more than 1000 plants have been established in degraded wetlands. A total of 15km of protective fencing has been established.