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7 August 2008 - Straws drawn on the fate of Murray Darling wetlands       

STRAWS DRAWN ON THE FATE OF MURRAY DARLING WETLANDS

Sydney, 7 August 2008                                        
                                                                                                                                

Humane Society International (HSI) is pleased that the NSW and Federal Governments have combined their resources to purchase an additional 2,436 hectares of land adjacent to the Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve. This purchase includes an additional 8,658 megalitres of water entitlements that will be returned to the Macquarie Marshes.

“There is no doubt that the state of the Macquarie Marshes is dire,” said Danielle Annese, HSI Program Manager. “With large areas in severe distress, they are in desperate need of water and this initiative will go some way to ensuring that water flow into the Marshes is maintained.”

However, while the Federal Government has provided the funding for this land and water acquisition, they are at the same time condemning one of the Murray Darling’s most important and iconic wetland systems to permanent ecological disrepair. The South Australian Government is progressing a proposal to construct a weir on the lower Murray River that will cut off the already critically endangered and water-starved Coorong and Lower Lakes from upriver water flows, while the Federal Government is refusing to intervene and ensure their survival.

“When it comes to saving the Coorong and Lower Lakes, the government has signalled that it has effectively thrown in the towel,” said Ms Annese. “There is an impending ecological disaster in the Lower Lakes, and if water is not returned there with urgency, it is unlikely that they will ever be able to recover. It is simply not the case that there is not enough water. The Federal Government must step in and divert upstream water flows if we are to avert this ecological catastrophe.”

Recognising the fragility of the Macquarie Marshes, and the Coorong and Lower Lakes ecosystems, HSI nominated these areas for listing as threatened ecological communities under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act earlier this year. While the usual listing process can take years to run its course, it is clear that both of these areas do not have the luxury of time.

“These are areas that, along with being endangered themselves, support an abundance of nationally listed threatened species,” said Ms Annese. “This is an urgent situation and it is essential that Environment Minister Peter Garrett prioritises and fast-tracks the listing of these ecological communities.”





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