The iconic Murray Darling Basin is in strife. Climate breakdown, politics, industry and agriculture have left this incredible river system one of the most vulnerable water basins on the planet.
Now, the federal and Victorian state governments plan to “reengineer” nine vital floodplain sites. This could have huge impacts on the communities and creatures that rely on the river system.
What is proposed?
The proposed works are part of the Victorian Murray Floodplain Restoration Project (VMFRP).
The VMFRP is a bundle of environmental reengineering works across nine floodplain sites in Victoria, grouped and assessed together as follows:
- Hattah Lakes North and Belsar-Yungera.
- Nyah Forest, Vinifera Forest and Burra Creek.
- Guttrum and Benwell State Forests and Gunbower National Park.
- Lindsay and Wallpolla Islands.
The works are designed to get water into floodplain and wetland ecosystems in the absence of naturalised flooding.
They are a component of the Murray River Basin Plan which has been criticised for failing to deliver good environmental outcomes, and allowing water theft, illegal take and misuse of Commonwealth funds, amongst other things.
Public submissions are currently being accepted for proposed environmental engineering works at Hattah Lakes North and Belsar-Yungera (Central Floodplain Sites).
Submissions are due on Monday 14 November so don’t miss your chance to have your say here!
What is happening now?
Last year, the Victorian Planning Minister and the Federal Environment Minister decided the proposed works at Hattah Lakes North and Belsar-Yungera would have potentially significant environmental effects. This meant that the project proponent was required to prepare an Environmental Effects Statement (EES).
The EES provides detail about the project and the impacts it will have on the environment.
The EES is then exhibited for public comment and submissions. This is a crucial part of the planning process and is your opportunity to have your say.
After public exhibition has closed, a panel appointed by the Victorian Planning Minister, known as the Standing Inquiry and Advisory Committee (SIAC), reviews all the public submissions and conducts a public hearing over several weeks.
Why is this important?
The Murray-Darling is Australia’s largest and most complex river. Over the last century, it has become one of the most vulnerable water basins on Earth, primarily as a result of human intervention interrupting natural flows.
The VMFRP works have the potential to irreversibly change the way the river functions and flows, and the impacts and consequences will inevitably be felt upstream and downstream of each of the nine sites. Proper scrutiny of what is being proposed in these iconic and ecologically diverse places is essential to safeguard their survival for future generations.
What can you do?
This is an opportunity to identify issues of concern and potential impacts and effects the works will have on the environment. Your submission is your chance to tell the Committee what needs to be considered based
Check out Environment Victoria’s helpful guide on how to make a submission!
What happens next?
After public exhibition closes, submissions are put before a committee and a public hearing will be held early next year. If you make a submission, you can indicate whether you would like to speak in support of your submission at the hearing.
If you do not wish to be heard, the SIAC will still consider your written submission.
After the committee has considered the public submissions and conducted the public hearing, it prepares a report for the Minister setting out their findings and recommendations.
The Minister uses the report to decide whether or not to approve a project.
What is EJA doing?
EJA will be making a submission and appearing at the public hearing on behalf of Environment Victoria to ensure proper scrutiny and interrogation of the works and interrogation of the environmental assessments.
What about the other sites?
There will be three further processes for the other seven sites which will take place later this year and early next year.
We will keep you updated!