Home' InDaily : January 15th 2010 Contents January
Dear Julia Gillard,
We congratulate all who have argued that the floodwaters currently coursing
down the Murray-Darling River should flow to the sea. It is in the interests of the
Murray-Darling River system as a whole that the accumulated salts and nutrients in
the lower Murray, Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert are flushed to sea. We know
rivers die from the bottom up and our river is ailing.
Much has been promised. Will this be the week we made history, or the week we
continued mucking around with the Murray?
Monday: We sweltered and pondered the "Rules are rules" rhetoric regarding the
fate of the floodwater. It began as a cyclone in WA. Rain drenched Queensland,
NSW, the NT and SA. Let it flow to the sea. Let it do the work that floods do, we
Tuesday: Good local rain. We asked you to take a stand for the health of Australia s
River. These floodwaters are our opportunity to reset the ailing system. The cure,
fresh water, is in your hands, we wrote. Let it flow to the sea.
Wednesday: Refreshed by the cool change and delighted by the news that the
NSW and SA Premiers had come to an "in principle agreement" for "reasonable
environmental flows" to come down to Lakes Alexandrina and Albert, we
anticipated an announcement at the close of your meeting with the Basin Official
Committee (BOC) in Canberra.
Senator Penny Wong, Climate Change Minister, said the states had achieved a
"key milestone for the sustainable future of the Murray-Darling Basin ... with the
signing of Water Management Partnership Agreements." But where was the water
for the river?
"This agreement sets the framework for our investment in irrigation infrastructure
to help our farmers and regional communities and protect food security. But
what about the river? Don t farmers and communities also need a healthy river?
Thursday: We are at Code Catastrophic with the River Murray, Lakes Alexandrina
Sunday: We watch the water arrive at the Menindee Lakes, NSW. Does the much-
vaunted cooperative approach with the states deliver an outcome for Australia s
River or do we drown in a flood of rhetoric? The health of the River is in your
River, Lakes and Coorong Action Group Inc
Winner of the 2009 Jill Hudson Environmental Award
PO Box 187, Milang 5256
An Open Letter to the Hon Julia Gillard,
Acting Prime Minister: No 2
5The Independent Weekly
January 15 - 21, 2010
Every day, be it in pelting
rain, searing heat or, fingers
crossed, perfect weather,
thousands of South Australians
cast out a line in the hope of
snaring a beauty.
The SA Recreational Fishing
Advisory Council calculates
recreational anglers contribute
up to $750 million towards the
economy each year.
But angling participation rates
are dropping -- fast.
A government survey in
December found the number of
recreational fishers over the age
of five has dropped by almost a
third in 10 years. In the five to
29-year age group, the decline is
closer to 40 per cent.
In economic terms, the fishing
council says this translates to a
loss of $290 million a year, and the
council wants more funding to
ensure the decline is reversed.
"Current funding is barely
enough to pay wages," said
executive officer Trevor Watts.
"The Government seems to
be purely focused on advancing
commercial fishing. It doesn t
seem to understand recreational
Mr Watts said there was a
"contrast in fishing culture" to
other states, which receive far
more funding from their respec-
He said SA spent just $5 million
on recreational angling in 2008,
compared with NSW s $13 million
(2008), Queensland s $48 million
(2009) and Victoria s $18 million
Mr Watts said the funding
would be used to promote fishing
as a recreation, especially to
those aged five to 29, who
represented the future of the
"The decline we re seeing is
due to a lack of opportunities and
knowledge. There are plenty of
areas around that people don t
think are fishable, but they are,"
"We want to map the River
Torrens, for one thing. There
are plenty of spots families can
go and have a great time -- but
getting that information out
there costs money.
"Just the other day I had a little
girl ring up and ask where her
mum could take her fishing and
what she needed to go.
"I said you don t need much
at all: a cheap line and a piece
of sweetcorn or dough for bait
would do. I told her if they
couldn t get to the beach, they
could drop a line in under OG
However, all the funding in the
world isn t going to replenish
South Australia s fish stocks,
which are dropping just as
quickly as the number of anglers.
SA is home to more unique
marine life than the Great
Barrier Reef, but less than 1 per
cent of its waters is protected.
Protected species such as the
western blue groper, the largest
reef-dwelling fish which provides
ecological stability to reefs,
survive despite the decimation
of their habitats and fishing
All SA s major fish stocks are
over-fished or fully-fished, with
cockle, abalone, rock lobster and
tuna in serious decline.
With no more water between
the fish, the fight over access to
proposed marine parks has only
"We d love for the whole of
Gulf St Vincent to be kept open,"
Mr Watts said, "but we know
that s pretty unrealistic. At the
very least we d want the South
Australian shoreline kept open,
so that people who can t afford
boats, or families, can throw a
line in wherever they want.
"The Conservation Council
will probably object, given its
fetish for seals and sea lions."
Object the Conservation
Council did. Council spokesper-
son Shen Dycer said the fishing
body s request was unrealistic.
"It s an issue of balance.
We d like the zones to be nicely
balanced between environmental
needs and the economic needs of
the state," she said.
"Most existing boat ramps and
jetties will remain open, as will
most iconic fishing beaches. But
there will be some areas of the
coast that need protection."
But science is in no doubt that
SA fish stocks are declining.
Only 1 per cent of the state s
coast and ocean are protected,
compared with 25 per cent of its
SA recreational fishers remove
more than 6.5 million fish and
3.3 million marine shellfish from
our oceans every year. Ms Dycer
said this meant more than six in
every 10 mulloway, one in every
two whiting and four in 10 squid
swimming in our seas are taken
There s now a lot more water
between the fish, and they need as
much help as they can get.
Catch 22: the
end of the line The company which wants to develop
the site of the former Julia Farr
hospice for the terminally ill at
Fullarton will seek approval for a
new retirement complex to avoid a
Supreme Court battle over its original
Living Choice Australia s $80
million project was approved by
Unley Council, and then stopped
by the Environment, Resources
and Development Court after local
Living Choice has since lodged a
Supreme Court appeal, but project co-
ordinator Roger Pitt says the company
is working on a new proposal which
addresses the court s comments.
"It is somewhat surprising," Mr Pitt
said of the ERD Court decision.
"The court said some parts of the
development -- the height and bulk of it
-- were inappropriate for the area, but
there is a 10-storey building alongside
and the (current) building on site is
bigger and taller than the one we were
going to build."
Fullarton residents are disgusted
by the old building s condition, which
they say is an eyesore attracting
vandalism and other crime.
However local police say there is
little left on the site to damage or
"It now attracts people more out of
curiosity," said police Superintendent
"These people tend to throw items
around and create noise which
disturbs the local residents.
"Of course, if the building was
demolished and the site cleared then it
goes without saying that the problems
would be resolved."
Mr Pitt said due to legal and
financial issues, the old building could
not be demolished until building plans
The building has been empty for
more than 20 years.
Julia Farr s smashed windows and walls:
rife with vandalism.
Photo: Kate Elmes
Some day Farr away
More South Australians go fishing for sport than play
cricket or footy, writes Harry Thring, but anglers are
worried about the lure of the future.
Photo: Kate Elmes
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