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Knowles to visit

Friday, 25th March, 2011

The new chairman of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) will visit Menindee next week to learn more about the lakes' economic potential and plans to have them recognised as a wetland of world importance.

Craig Knowles will attend a high-level meeting at the Civic Hall on Wednesday to discuss nominating the Menindee Lakes as a Ramsar wetland and promoting it to eco-tourists.

The meeting will be attended by representatives of the MDBA, the federal Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, the National Farmers' Federation, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the National Irrigators' Council.

The party will also visit Broken Hill later in the day to meet City Council and Essential Water, amongst others. 

Regional Development Australia (RDA) Far West NSW invited Mr Knowles to the meeting to meet the people involved in the Menindee Lakes Wetlands

Project, hear presentations and learn more about the Ramsar proposal.

About 20 members of the project group will attend, while about 30 members of the general public from Broken Hill and Menindee were also expected to attend.

The CEO of RDA Far West NSW, Linda Nadge, said the timing of the visit could not have been better.

"Mr Knowles will fly into Menindee when the lakes are full and whilst there is still minor flooding in Menindee," Mrs Nadge said. 

"The hardships being faced by the people affected by this localised flooding will become apparent.

"Also, the true benefit of the flood mitigation properties of the Menindee Lakes can be observed."

Mrs Nadge said the RDA had an economic evaluation of the lakes and this would be presented to the meeting.

"This information is of great significance to planners and decision-makers in all layers of Government," Mrs Nadge said.

"But more importantly, we will have a keynote speaker, Tony Sharley, who has first-hand experience in working through the Ramsar application processes. 

"He will present the Banrock Station, SA, case study so that the people of Menindee can understand what is involved, particularly how much work is involved, and the type of detail that is needed."

The meeting will also hear about how the lakes are operated while Aboriginal artist and teacher, Eddy Wighton, will also provide information about how locals can benefit from the project economically. 

"Mr Wighton will bring samples of his artworks and explain how Aboriginal art can earn income for those with a passion to succeed in this field," Mrs Nadge said. 

She also said having Mr Knowles visit the area meant he would be able to hear what locals had to say.

"We have been advised that he and his team are here to learn and understand issues from the local perspective," Mrs Nadge said. 

Late last year, the Far West RDA sent a submission to the MDBA Plan and the Windsor Inquiry which included comment from the public, Mrs Nadge said.

(The submision may be seen at www.rdafarwestnsw.org.au.) 

"Effectively, our region seeks from the MDBA two critical things. Firstly, the necessary water allocation increases for the under-developed potential in our region," she said.

"For example, the horticulture project near Wilcannia which has the potential to provide fresh fruit and vegetables for our region.

"Similarly, this is a key future opportunity in Menindee. This type of project address critical local issues like healthy diets, jobs, education, quality of life improvements and so on.

"Secondly, we support regional ecotourism collaboration and the Ramsar listing of the Menindee Lakes is essential for this to become a reality. 

"This 'master project' rests on scientific merit, yet it will likewise contribute to economic development in Menindee, Broken Hill, Ivanhoe and elsewhere across the region."

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