12 Oct 2022
By Michael Simmons
A new water research hub will harness First Nations and community input and improve scientific knowledge to better manage the internationally significant Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth region.
The Goyder Water Research Institute will receive $8 million from the Australian Government to work with communities to investigate the impacts of climate change on the health of the waterways over the next four years. And it will be based in Goolwa. The investment has been lauded by all sides of politics as Federal Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek visited Goolwa on Thursday, October 6 and met with Indigenous leaders.
“The Coorong and Lower Lakes are Ramsar-listed wetlands. They are internationally recognised for supporting rare and endangered plants and animals, as well as significant populations of waterbird and fish species,” Ms Plibersek said.
“The wetlands support the greatest wealth of waterbird species in the Murray-Darling Basin. They host important nesting colonies of cormorants, plovers, ibises and terns, and also supports globally endangered species such as the orange-bellied parrot and the Murray cod.”
The Goyder Institute is a partnership between the South Australian Department of Environment and Water, CSIRO, Flinders University and the universities of Adelaide and South Australia. “It is essential we identify future threats to water security and develop an integrated approach to water management in South Australia. This is a responsible investment into the future of South Australian Natural Resources,” she said.
“The investment is also another vote of confidence in the growing Goolwa community. The research hub will provide a huge boost to the local economy and attract the best and the brightest to work here. This investment demonstrates the importance of the region to the ecological health of the Basin.”
The hub should be up and running in the first half of 2023 with a planned research program.
“Rivers die from the mouth up. Restoring the Murray Mouth, Lower Lakes and Coorong is a critical investment in the health of the whole system,” Ms Plibersek said.
“An important part of the Goyder Institute’s work will be to develop relationships with First Nations, communities and industries to harness ideas to improve management of this ecologically important area.
“The Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth are not just important ecologically – they’re a tourism drawcard, and support towns, jobs and agriculture.
“I want to thank the advocacy of my South Australian Labor colleagues and Independent Rebekha Sharkie MP – who advocated tirelessly for the importance of the Research Institute for the future of the river.”
Ms Sharkie said Labor had honoured the former government’s commitment to invest in a water research institute managed by the Goyder Institute in the Goolwa region.
“This institute is critical for the prosperity of the communities of the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth,” Ms Sharkie said.
“The Murray Mouth contains vital wetlands of local, national and international scales and contains a productive and uniquely diverse estuarine fish community. It is also a critical habitat for numerous threatened species so this announcement couldn’t come soon enough.
“South Australians are all aware that the Murray Mouth is in poor health and that climate change is wreaking havoc on the region. There is a strong community expectation that urgent action be taken to improve the situation.
“I have advocated long and hard for this institute, so I am therefore extremely excited to see it finally come to fruition.
“The first question I had for the new government in Parliamentary Question Time was to Minister Plibersek, wanting to find out if the new government was committed to delivering the full 450 GL to the Murray as promised at the Federal election and if so, when this will be achieved.”
Dr Alec Rolston, Deputy Director, Goyder Institute for Water Research said the funding would enable the Institute to deliver a four-year research program through the hub, working with First Nations, local communities, scientists and agencies to investigate the impacts of climate change on the health of the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth region.
“The Institute is delighted to be able to continue to play a significant role in the development of the Coorong and Lower Lakes region,” he said.
Alexandrina Council Mayor Keith Parkes said council had been talking to the Morrison Government over the past two years.
“Rebekha Sharkie negotiated with the Federal Government for this research centre to be located in Goolwa. We have lobbied as a council with Ms Sharkie to get this outcome. It will not cost council any money and it will create jobs,” Mr Parkes said.
Senator for South Australia Andrew McLachlan said the project was strongly supported by the Coalition Government from the initial planning stage and the Member for Mayo, Rebekha Sharkie’s longstanding advocacy on the issue.
“The River Murray is the lifeblood of South Australia and it is essential that its environment and flows are maintained. As a Senator for South Australia, I will hold the Labor Government to its pre-election promise of delivering 450 gigalitres of environmental water to the Murray Darling Basin, as per the requirements of the Murray Darling Basin Plan,” Mr McLachlan said.