Water for Parks

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Victoria’s River Red Gum parks are a magnificent conservation asset and a great legacy in terms of social and indigenous justice because these are the first Victorian national parks to be co-managed with the Traditional Owners.

Created by the Brumby government, they stretch from the lower reaches of the Goulburn and Ovens Rivers, along the Murray to the border with South Australia.

But there remains unfinished business – these floodplain ecosystems are in crisis and need a secure allocation of environmental water.

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  • Victoria’s River Red Gum parks are a magnificent conservation asset and a great legacy in terms of social and indigenous justice because these are the first Victorian national parks to be co-managed with the Traditional Owners. Created by the Brumby government, they stretch from the lower reaches of the Goulburn and Ovens Rivers, along the Murray to the border with South Australia. But there remains unfinished business – these floodplain ecosystems are in crisis and need a secure allocation of environmental water.
  • The parks provide multiple cultural, economic, social and environmental benefits. Many Victorians holiday along the rivers, the parks are home to an array of amazing wildlife, and they are a conservation asset that will provide prosperous employment opportunities in the years to come. But only if these parks have an adequate and legally entitled allocation of environmental water delivered to them from 2012.
  • The new parks protect ecologically important forests, woodlands and wetlands, many of which are floodplain ecosystems – nearly flat areas along the courses of streams or rivers that are naturally subject to flooding, and which require seasonal inundation of water to maintain their health.
  • But for too long, too much water has been taken out of Victoria’s northern river systems, which means that when the parks were declared, they were parched and dying for a drink. The new parks were created this year, but until the recent rains, have been for the most part largely dry for fourteen years. These floodplain ecosystems have been in distress, with 75 percent or red gum trees stressed, dead or dying. The truth is, Victoria’s new River Red Gum parks contain the largest remaining red gum forests on Earth, but vast areas are dying because in most years, natural floodwaters no longer reach them.
  • Of course in a drier climate all water entitlement holders have to make do with less water, but for years now the environment has been hit hardest and suffered the most by having its fair share of total available inflows being prioritised for consumptive users – residents, agriculture and industry. In fact, only 6 percent of all water entitlements in the state are set aside for the environment. These graphs show the discrepancy and inequity between the amount of water allocated for consumptive uses such as agriculture, industry and personal consumption, and how much water we set aside for the natural environment. In 2007/08 Victoria allocated just 6 percent of total water entitlements to the environment. In the same year only 1 percent of water delivered that year actually made it into our rivers and wetlands.
  • It’s no wonder our rivers are struggling. And, and you can see, there’s room for improvement when it comes to providing our rivers and wetlands - and our new River Red Gum parks - a fair share of total available water. Allocating a reliable and secure environmental water entitlement to the new River Red Gum parks is an opportunity to turn things around for some of Victoria’s rivers – before it’s too late.
  • This time, nature stepped in, and the parks benefited from Spring rains. And it’s important to recognise that this reprieve has come about through an act of nature, not of good governance. You can see how the environment can respond in a wetter month. But this rainfall needs to be supported by a dedicated environmental watering program into the future to support the values of the new parks. Because short and sharp floods, even with very high flood peaks, don’t meet the ecological needs of all species that live and thrive in these biodiverse environments. Water needs to stay in place to a certain depth and for a period of time to benefit vegetation and wildlife. Prolonged and sustained water in wetlands provides spawning opportunities for fish and other aquatic animals, which provide sufficient food for migratory birds to take the opportunity to breed. Our key message is that getting back to health will take years of above-average rain – which in the face of climate change, is not in any way guaranteed.
  • In the meantime, the next state government cannot rely on sporadic rainfall events to sustain the new parks. The Brumby state government created these parks. Their proper management is a state government responsibility. The next state government must ensure that the values for which the River Red Gum Parks were declared are not put at unacceptable risk by failing to provide environmental water for them. Securing and delivering a reliable and legally entitled allocation of water for the new parks will make the world of difference to that environment. The Parks have been declared, and are a magnificent conservation asset. But they’ll struggle to survive without a dedicated environmental watering program.
  • In 2008, the first ever Victorian State of the Environment (SoE) report called on the Victorian state government to “act with urgency” to buy back water for stressed rivers and wetlands.
  • Furthermore, in it’s final report to the Brumby state government, River Red Gum Forests Investigation , the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC) states that the most urgent and serious environmental problem in the investigation area is the need for delivery of sufficient environmental water to halt the imminent loss or degradation of large areas of flood-dependent riverine forests and wetlands. So it’s clear from state government commissioned reports that watering of these ecosystems should be prioritised. This state election, securing a reliable allocation for the parks would be a good step towards achieving this outcome.
  • The Australian Conservation Foundation recently conducted some polling, and found that 77 percent of the public support putting more water back into the Murray River to make it healthy and 74 percent of the public support government creation of freshwater sanctuaries to protect what is left of the red gum forest and wetlands along the Murray River. So there’s high levels of support in the public for securing adequate environmental water for these ecosystems.
  • Last but not least – our amazing native wildlife. This account is one of how a species was rescued because of adequate and legally-entitled environmental water being delivered to rivers and wetlands. An entitlement called The Murray Flora and Fauna Entitlement saved the Murray Hardyhead – small, silver native fish – from extinction because that water is high-reliability. Another example is in Barmah Forest - part of the recently declared River Red Gum National Park system - is an internationally recognised wetland. The River Red Gum trees and wetland habitat provide feeding and breeding grounds for an array of plants and animals. The rivers, forests and wetlands rely on natural wet and dry periods, a seasonal sequence and system that has been turned upside with the ‘modernisation and development’ of river systems into dams, weirs, pipes, irrigation channels and associated over-extraction of water. By spring of 2008 magnificent River Red Gum trees, turtles and fish were dying in the Barmah forest. But thankfully, these wetlands received a 300 million litres share of environmental water. That year, turtles persisted and their condition improved. And white-bellied sea-eagles and superb parrots paid the forest a visit. With just a fraction of the water the ecosystem needed, Barmah forest improved and habitat for native fish species got a good drink and flourished. So asking for a decent drink for the new River Red Gum Parks is not only good management, but will mean the values for which these national parks have been declared will endure and flourish.
  • The solution to the crisis our River Red Gum forests and wetlands are still facing is for the state government to secure an adequate and legally-entitled allocation of environmental water for delivery to the River Red Gum parks from 2012. There are a series of opportunities and mechanisms through which this can happen: The state government must deliver the 700 GL earmarked to Victoria’s northern rivers through the Northern SWS process, water which will go some way to sustaining the River Red Gum parks and wetlands. The state government should establish a fund to buy back water for the River Red Gum Parks, to be managed by the recently established Environmental Water Holder. In concert with the Federal Government, through the MDBA Plan, secure and deliver high-reliability water for the parks. And perhaps most significantly, improvements to the Victorian Water Act as outlined in our report ‘Bringing the Victorian Water Act into the 21 st Century’, would ensure our rivers have a fair share of total available inflows, allocated as high-reliability entitlements.
  • Victoria’s five leading conservation groups are working together on this ask. A key test from these groups this election year is the level of state government commitment to and action on buying water for the environment as part of a package of measures to rescue our rivers. This state election, we hope you’ll agree these parks are too important to lose, and prioritise securing an adequate and legally-entitled allocation of environmental water for the new River Red Gum parks, for delivery from 2012.
  • Water for Parks

    1. 1. River Red Gum parks Magnificent legacy – still dying for a drink
    2. 2. River Red Gum parks: magnificent legacy - still dying for a drink River Red Gum parks provide multiple benefits… … but only if they have an adequate and legally entitled allocation of environmental water delivered to them from 2012.
    3. 3. River Red Gum parks: magnificent legacy - still dying for a drink Steamer Plain with Moira Grass, Barmah Forest, 2005
    4. 4. River Red Gum parks: magnificent legacy - still dying for a drink Lindsay-Wallpolla near Gunbower Lindsay Point area
    5. 5. Victoria’s rivers don’t have enough water: River Red Gum parks: magnificent legacy - still dying for a drink In dry times all water users have had to compromise, but the environment has been hit the hardest.
    6. 6. River Red Gum parks: magnificent legacy - still dying for a drink Thirsty and degraded Murray River banks , drying and dying floodplain in Gunbower , parched Parnee Milloo Creek in Niah Vinifera.
    7. 7. River Red Gum parks: magnificent legacy - still dying for a drink Barmah wetlands, September 2010 But getting back to health will take years of above average rain
    8. 8. River Red Gum parks: magnificent legacy - still dying for a drink Action: Secure an adequate and legally-entitled allocation of environmental water for delivery to the River Red Gum parks from 2012. <ul><li>The Brumby government created these magnificent new parks which can be an environmental and community asset for all Victorians </li></ul><ul><li>Their proper management – including the provision of adequate environmental water – is a state responsibility </li></ul><ul><li>Without adequate water, the values for which these parks were declared are at risk – afterall, who wants to go camping in a dead forest or fish in river strangled by salt and blue green algae? </li></ul>
    9. 9. 2008 SoE Report Recommended that the Victorian government to “act with urgency to increase environmental water reserves … including buying back water. In particular, floodplains need floods to continue functioning as floodplain ecosystems.” River Red Gum parks: magnificent legacy - still dying for a drink Grounds for securing environmental water for River Red Gum parks
    10. 10. 2008 SoE Report VEAC Final Investigation Recommends that the Victorian government to “act with urgency to increase environmental water reserves … including buying back water. In particular, floodplains need floods to continue functioning as floodplain ecosystems.” States that the most important and serious environmental problem facing red gum country is the outstanding need to deliver sufficient water to halt the loss of flood-dependent riverine forests and wetlands. River Red Gum parks: magnificent legacy - still dying for a drink Grounds for securing environmental water for River Red Gum parks
    11. 11. 2008 SoE Report VEAC Final Investigation ACF polling <ul><li>77% of the public support putting more water back into the Murray River to make it healthy </li></ul><ul><li>74% of the public support government creation of freshwater sanctuaries to protect what is left of the red gum forest and wetlands along the Murray River. </li></ul>Recommends that the Victorian government to “act with urgency to increase environmental water reserves … including buying back water. In particular, floodplains need floods to continue functioning as floodplain ecosystems.” Grounds for securing environmental water for River Red Gum parks States that the most important and serious environmental problem facing red gum country is the outstanding need to deliver sufficient water to halt the loss of flood-dependent riverine forests and wetlands. River Red Gum parks: magnificent legacy - still dying for a drink
    12. 12. Grounds for restoring River Red Gum parks to health 2008 SoE Report VEAC Final Investigation ACF polling Threatened wildlife <ul><li>77% of Victorians support putting more water back into the Murray River to make it healthy </li></ul><ul><li>74% of Victorians support government creation of freshwater sanctuaries to protect what is left of the red gum forest and wetlands along the Murray Rivers </li></ul>Recommends that the Victorian government to “act with urgency to increase environmental water reserves … including buying back water. In particular, floodplains need floods to continue functioning as floodplain ecosystems.” States that the most important and serious environmental problem facing red gum country is the outstanding need to deliver sufficient water to halt the loss of flood-dependent riverine forests and wetlands. River Red Gum parks: magnificent legacy - still dying for a drink The Murray Flora and Fauna Entitlement saved the Murray Hardyhead fish from extinction because that water allocation is high-reliability.
    13. 13. Opportunities to restore River Red Gum parks to health: Solution: Secure an adequate and legally-entitled allocation of environmental water for delivery to the River Red Gum parks from 2012. River Red Gum parks: magnificent legacy - still dying for a drink <ul><li>Improve the Victorian Water Act to ensure our rivers have a fair share of total available inflows, allocated as high-reliability entitlements. </li></ul><ul><li>In concert with the Federal Government, through the MDBA Plan, secure and deliver high-reliability water for the parks </li></ul><ul><li>Establish a state government fund to buy back water for the River Red Gum Parks, to be managed by the recently established Environmental Water Holder </li></ul><ul><li>Deliver the 700 GL earmarked to Victoria’s northern rivers through the Northern SWS process, water which will go some way to sustaining the River Red Gum parks and wetlands </li></ul>
    14. 14. River Red Gum parks: magnificent legacy - still dying for a drink Thank-you

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