Fresh on the River Country team, this was my first road trip with the collective to learn what’s going on for communities along the Murray River. We reached Wadi Wadi country and the Nyah-Vinifera Park in the late afternoon, and set up camp by the river. River red gums lined the banks, their bare roots exposed by erosion, lead down to the water. The Murray was a beautiful sight, despite the damage it has faced over the years.
Next morning we headed into Swan Hill to meet Wadi Wadi Traditional Custodians and community members to reconnect over ongoing water management issues in the Nyah-Vinifera.
The Nyah-Vinifera needs regular flooding to stay healthy. Over the past decades natural flooding events have become less and less frequent, leaving the forest dry and trees struggling to survive. Over extraction and river regulation have left these forests with not enough water, and when water does come it’s often at the wrong time.
The state and federal governments and the local Mallee Catchment Management Authority responsible for administering the return of water to the river under the name of “environmental water” are instead preparing some earth works in the Nyah-Vinifera. The tinder dry forest needs water but instead of allocations there are plans to install infrastructure, such as bigger pumps and levy banks, to deliver the water ‘more efficiently’.
The most pressing problem is that the community consultation for these projects has just not been good enough. Traditional Custodians of the land understand best how this country should be managed, and their voice must be genuinely listened to.
There are concerns that the infrastructure will do more harm than good, reducing the amount of water available for this special forest and failing to address the long-standing issues of management over the park. Cultural burns and clearing debris from the forest floor are high on the agenda for Wadi Wadi.
Since River Country last visited, the project has continued to progress, despite continued flawed consultation.
This trip helped me learn about some of the challenges and difficult decisions that people are facing in this water crisis. We need your help to keep up this work. Will you volunteer with River Country?
Blog by Zeb Peake