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Professor collects lakes evidence

Wednesday, 12th August, 2020

Professor Richard Kingsford in the city during the week. PICTURE: Emily McInerney Professor Richard Kingsford in the city during the week. PICTURE: Emily McInerney

By Emily McInerney

Residents in the district are being asked to have their say about the Menindee Lakes system in a bid to create a plan to help prolong the life of the river.

University of NSW’s Director of the Centre for Ecosystem and Science, Professor Richard Kingsford, is in the region to conduct research on the river system.

Prof. Kingsford has been working on the river and Menindee Lakes for over 30 years.

He was part of the Academy of Science panel that investigated the 2019 fish kills.

“Zoe Ford, my honours student, and I are in the region to speak with locals about the condition of the river and the lakes and the changes they have undergone over time.

“We want to collect evidence to help ensure it has an ecologically sustainable future.

“There is a lot going on and we want to create a win/win situation to restore Menindee Lakes and create water savings.”

Prof. Kingsford said they have been interviewing traditional owners of the land, local farmers and local Broken Hill and Menindee residents.

“We would love to see input from people, we have created an online survey for people to fill out,” he said.

He said they were taking note of changes to the river, fish intake and water birds.

“We have a good handle on the scientific knowledge but we know that local knowledge is also important.

“We want to capture that.”

So far, they have spoken to Menindee resident Graham McCrabb, property owner Rachel Strachan, Aboriginal elder Badger Bates and Derrick Hardman as well as other elders in Menindee.

“I first came out to Menindee in 1986 and was part of an aerial survey of water birds,” Prof Kingsford said.

“The last time I was here, was in October last year.

“Over time, I have really noticed how the river is drying right back and the drying times are more frequent and happening for longer.

“The tap at the top of the catchment is being turned off and is contributing to less water coming down as with the development of tributary rivers like the Macquarie, Border Rivers, Condamine-Balonne and Namoi. These are the supply system for the river and Menindee Lakes. 

“The combination of low flows, summer temperatures and the storms with the blue green algae blooms produced a lethal combination resulting in low oxygen so the fish died because they couldn’t breathe.

“The challenge for us is to create a balanced sustainable position for the river that remains an ecosystem on the Darling and that doesn’t get sacrificed.”

Prof. Kingsford said they will assemble their evidence and hope to create a report with their conclusions by the end of the year.

“The most obvious concern is around long-term flooding around Lake Cawndilla and Menindee Lakes.

“Both lakes are in a national park. If you looked at it terms of the government, it is their responsibility to manage the river as well as the national parks.

“It is the cause of the internal tension in the NSW Government. You have to also respect a commitment to conservation of Kinchega  National Park”

Prof. Kingsford said there were a number of options to creating ecological sustainable development framework.

He hoped that this research would contribute towards that and local people could help by doing this survey  

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