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'$100m Lakes'

Thursday, 7th April, 2011

by Gina Wilson

The Menindee Lakes are worth almost $100 million a year and could become the jewell of outback NSW, a report said.

In the first economic study ever undertaken of the lakes, recreation, tourism, water filtration, flood control, water storage, habitat provision and other environmental benefits were assessed to estimate the value.

The AECgroup study said with government help the Menindee Lakes could attract 80,000 visitors per year.

"The current total economic value of the Menindee Lakes has been estimated at $90.3 million per annum," the report said.

"The Menindee Lakes are an iconic ecological asset of national significance and significant government support could see it become the premier tourism attraction in Outback NSW."

The "Menindee Lakes Economic Benefit Assessment" was used by Far West Regional Development Australia to identify, assess and quantify the existing and future socio-economic and environmental benefits associated with the protection of wetlands.

The study, completed last month, said $15 million more would be added to the "conservative" yearly estimate if the lakes were listed as a wetland of world significance.

"The Menindee Lakes are an iconic ecological and cultural asset of national importance," the report said.

"Despite having remained virtually untouched for 50 years, the region is beginning to appreciate the significance of the wetlands as reflected through the push to gain Ramsar listing.

"When assessing the potential growth of the tourism sector in the area, the total value could increase to over $105 million per annum."

The report said that last year there were 20,000 visitors but that with the increased tourism potential the lakes presented that could rise to 80,000 visitors annually.

"With the Menindee Lakes having the potential to be an iconic ecological and tourism asset, these projections are believed to be conservative," the report said.

"However, tourism business and infrastructure investment will be required to make Menindee Lakes more attractive to potential visitors."

The report said potential tourism attractions included Aboriginal history, ecotourism, bird watching, outdoor recreation, accommodation and art and culture.

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