“The Coorong and in particular the South Lagoon is still in a highly degraded state so while we’ve been getting flow, additional flow could go a long way to helping the recovery of the Coorong.”
That’s one of the resounding messages from the short film ‘A decade of connection and healing’, released by the Department for Environment and Water (DEW) today.
The film commemorates ten years of continuous connectivity at the Coorong and Lower Lakes since the end of the Millennium Drought in 2010, made possible by water for the environment.
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September 14, 2010 saw barrage flows reinstated for the first time in more than three years after significant volumes of River Murray flows refilled the Lower Lakes following the drought.
The short film includes interviews with local First Nations, community representatives, scientists, and government and tells the story of just how severely the Coorong and surrounding areas have suffered over time and how better water management, research and collaboration between community and government is seeing gradual improvements to the Coorong and Lower Lakes.
Program Leader for the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth (CLLMM), Carol Schmidt said the film’s theme is one of connection – the connection of flow from the River to the sea, the connection between people and their environment, the connection between what happens upstream and downstream, and the connection between all who share a passion for a healthy, sustainable and functioning River Murray system.
“We want people to understand the plight of the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth and just how important continuous flow is along the River Murray Channel down to the Murray Mouth.
“We also want to highlight the essential role of water for the environment in this journey of ecological recovery; not just for the Coorong and Lower Lakes, but for the health of the whole Basin.
“With this film we wanted to tell the story of the impacts of increasing water consumption and over extraction amongst a changing climate; while celebrating the ecological, social, economic and cultural recovery that is slowly occurring at this iconic Ramsar wetland.”
Carol said the natural environment in the wetland has been recovering slowly with the help of water for the environment which has supported a range of ecological outcomes.
“Diadromous fish are now migrating between fresh and salt water with increasing numbers, and native fish populations continue to increase in the Lower Lakes,” Carol said.
“While we have had some periods of good flows, much of the site, particularly the Coorong, is still degraded and in a period of recovery and there is still lots of work to be done.
“A significant volume of water for the environment has been delivered to the Coorong over the last ten years with the majority of flows being utilised across multiple wetlands upstream for various outcomes before being returned to the river, to meet further outcomes downstream.”
Carol said more than twelve years of data collected has increased our understanding of how the system responds to flows.
“We are now have a greater ability to fine-tune the timing, location, duration and extent of flows to target certain species and outcomes – allowing more effective use of water for the environment,” Carol said.
The Decade of Connection and Healing film also acknowledges the various stakeholders committed to working together to improve the local environment and the local community.
Rick Hartman, Yarluwar-Ruwe (sea-country) Project Coordinator from the Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal Corporation said the Meeting of the Waters site and the Murray Mouth is a very important place for the Ngarrindjeri.
“It’s a very important place for us to maintain connection and we need to keep it healthy so we can keep our people healthy,” Rick said.
Commercial fisher Garry Hera-Singh said the rural communities are always going to struggle if you haven’t got a healthy environment.
“The bandwagon we need to get on is do whatever we can to improve the Lower Lakes and Coorong and it’s really simple… it’s more water,” Garry said.
The film has been funded by The Living Murray Initiative, one of Australia’s most significant river restoration programs. Established in 2002, The Living Murray initiative is a joint initiative funded by the New South Wales, Victorian, South Australian, Australian Capital Territory and Australian Governments, coordinated by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. The long-term goal of the program is to achieve a healthy working River Murray system for the benefit of all Australians.
The film contributes to the Project Coorong initiative which is taking action to restore the health, vitality and visitor experience of this important area.