Following the Murray
Back from leave. I’m keen to share with you just a little of what I learned travelling with my husband Peter from Mildura down to the Murray mouth. The Murray Darling Basin Plan will have such a great impact on our community and many of the places and issues in South Australia are what the plan is grappling with.
First stop was Mildura to meet a local grape grower, a connection I made through Russell Pell who is on the MDBA Community Advisory Committee with the grower. He explained how the Darling River feeds into a series of lakes above and below Menindee Lakes, and how Broken Hill takes its water by pipe from one of the upper lakes in that system. Apparently the control of the lakes this year has meant that they are now empty and this is creating a lot of controversy.
Next to Morgan to look at the water off takes that go to northern parts of SA such as Ceduna, Port Pirie, Woomera and Port Augusta, then on to Murray Bridge to view the river flats where about 30 dairy farmers are farming about 3500 ha. In 2006 approximately the same area was home to some 140 farmers over about 5000 ha. While some of the land is currently being farmed productively, other areas especially very close to the town, are owned but not being farmed or looked after.
The interesting aspect of these low land areas is that they are watered by gravity syphons from the River Murray; drains with the run-off are often highly saline and even acidic but are running back into the river. This is a real issue in terms of effecting water quality.
Next it was off to Milang where we set up camp on the banks of Lake Alexandrina. We observed that this is a vast fresh water lake and noted from local fisherman that like much of the system there are many carp and local native fish species have been affected. I was told that two million tonnes of salt per year comes down the Murray River and is dumped at its mouth. The salt has to be washed out and to do this it relies on the flow of the Murray.
The history of all these River towns is interesting and I learnt that in days gone by, a paddle steamer travelled from Wentworth down to Goolwa and then out to sea as a main route to Melbourne — keeping the mouth of the Murray open has always been an issue. It was a very worthwhile trip to understand the South Australian length of the Murray and the Lower Lakes and Coorong area. The people I had arranged to meet along the way extremely generous in providing their time and information about their section of the river.
International Dairy Week
My report this week seems to have an agricultural bent! On Wednesday I enjoyed the RASV breakfast at Dairy Week at Tatura where I was lucky enough to sit with Hawthorn legend David Parkin who was a guest speaker. While of course the table was keen to talk footy, David later made an impassioned plea for men to take regular health checks and in particular for prostate cancer.
Then it was outside to meet competitors, who were making full use of the new covered arena beside the existing Blackmore & Leslie complex at Tatura Park. It will certainly add to the diversity of events the complex can offer.
GMID Water Leadership Forum
We have assembled a group of water and environment experts, civic administrators along with fruit and dairy farmers who share a common aim: to get the best possible outcome for their communities and stakeholders from the Murray Darling Basin Plan. Implementation of the plan in its present – legislated – form threatens the viability of many irrigation communities.
At the forum’s first meeting this week we agreed to commission our own socio-economic impact study to drill down and detail what a world with less water really means for this region.
We propose to take a reasoned and evidence-based approach to lobbying Federal and State Government Ministers and advisors.