Wetland recognition a good step towards water security
Environment groups have welcomed this week’s announcement by The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, the Commonwealth's Minister for Environment and Water Resources, which recognises the Paroo wetland’s international significance.
“The free-flowing state of the Paroo River makes it particularly unique in the highly modified and regulated Murray Darling system. Its biodiversity values are very high, and Ramsar’s wise-use provisions will make inroads to ensuring the water resources for the area are secured for its maintenance,” said Averil Bones, WWF-Australia’s Biodiversity Policy Manager.
“Ongoing efforts by the area’s indigenous Baakandji and Budjiti people to protect the cultural and environmental values of Paroo country deserve the full support of government and the wider community and must be commended.”
“The Minister’s action recognising the area’s significance certainly opens the door for future heritage listing of the area,” said Michael Kennedy, Director of Humane Society International. “We look forward to working closely with the Commonwealth to achieve Australia’s first nationally recognised heritage river.”
The Wilderness Society’s NSW Campaign Manager, Timothy King, has also welcomed the announcement, but warns there is more to be done.
“The Gwydir wetlands landclearing case early this year illustrates Federal and State governments need to be much more vigilant in protecting fragile ecosystems even after their importance has been recognised under international agreements.”
Amy Hankinson from the Inland Rivers Network commented: “We look forward to the Federal Government now ensuring a secure future for the Paroo and its wildlife under the new Water Act, which seeks to actively uphold the Ramsar Convention.”
“The Minister must thoroughly assess implications of the proposed Warrego water sale to ensure there is no detrimental impact on this new Ramsar site.”
ACF’s Healthy Rivers Campaigner Dr Arlene Buchan welcomed the announcement and called on the Commonwealth to focus more closely on delivering environmental flows to other internationally significant wetlands.
“Sites such as the Coorong and Macquarie Marshes are both desperately in need of a rescue package,” said Dr Buchan.
During large floods that can cover as much as 800,000 hectares, the Paroo catchment is a magnet for waterbirds, with as many as 250,000 birds from 63 species thought to aggregate there at peak
timesi. This includes the highest concentration of rare freckled ducks (Stictonetta naevosa) in Australia. This species, recognised as threatened at both national and global scales has been
observed in flocks in excess of 10,000 birds.
The Paroo River catchment is also part of an inland route to southern Australia for migratory bird species. At least ten species, including the great egret, glossy ibis, black-tailed godwit, common
greenshank, red-necked stint, sharp-tailed sandpiper, curlew sandpiper, Caspian tern, whitewinged black tern and rainbow bee-eater, all listed under the Japan/Australia and China/Australia Migratory Bird Agreements have been recorded in the area.
The Paroo River catchment is also home to nationally endangered vegetation species, such as the Salt pipewort, and the yet-to-be described aquatic forb Utricularia.