Basin-wide approach is needed

By Country News

NSW State Member for Murray Helen Dalton has called for a holistic approach to water management, calling for a 10-year commitment to a new native fish strategy.

It follows fears of a fish species’ extinction in the Lower Lakes of South Australia, which Mrs Dalton said she was concerned would be blamed on upstream users.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority recently reported that none of this particular species had been found in the Murray River for three years.

‘‘There are a few things we need to take into account before jumping to false conclusions about fish at the end of the system being at risk from upstream communities,’’ Mrs Dalton said.

‘‘The lower end of the system has received significant amounts of water since 2010, but the species has not recovered. We need to ask why this is the case.

‘‘We are pouring water through the system and creating ideal breeding conditions for carp.

‘‘The lower end of the system has received significant amounts of water consistently since 2010, so it’s no wonder South Australian scientists have reported 30000 juvenile carp in one net, but very little recovery of native species.’’

Mrs Dalton said after talking to scientists she believed much of this was due to the lack of a holistic approach to threatened species recovery, where water was only one important component, and there was a lack of focus at a basin level on fish.

‘‘We have this fixation on the Lower Lakes and Coorong in South Australia, but what about the rest of the basin?

‘‘We need flow regimes that protect all of the system, not just the end of the system.

‘‘We need a multiple measures approach to the recovery of threatened species within the basin plan, the reintroduction of the native fish strategy with 10 years’ committed funding, rather than pouring water down the system with the just-add-water approach that we continue to see.

‘‘We need active recovery plans focused on breeding and restocking, habitat restoration, fish passage and invasive species control, all in combination.

‘‘We have $13billion of taxpayers’ money spent on a plan to protect the environment, but it is obviously not working.’’

Mrs Dalton said the failure to adopt a broader approach to problems with the basin plan was not just threatening some fish species.

‘‘The loss of irrigation water for rice will impact the threatened Australian bittern, which uses rice crops as breeding and feeding grounds. Southern bell frogs do the same — the list goes on.

‘‘Because a growing crop is not just helping to feed people, but along the way is providing a vital ecological system.

‘‘In building the basin plan this has all been forgotten. I would encourage the MDBA and other water managers to adopt a more flexible approach that benefits everyone in the basin, not a select few.’’