Menindee Lakes protection a “no brainer”
Thursday, 5th February, 2015
By Erica Visser
A renewed push to have the Menindee Lakes formally protected was a “no brainer”, according to a key figure in the original bid.
Linda Nadge, who was CEO of Regional Development Australia (RDA) Far West until mid-2012, was behind work to list the lakes on the Ramsar international wetlands treaty.
“It’s a no brainer to do something positive for the environment but it’s a complex situation with the Murray Darling Basin, there is no doubt about that,” Ms Nadge said this week.
The goal had fallen off the radar in recent times but Council last week unanimously voted to ask the state government to support it in the wake of fears over water security.
When the matter was flagged in 2011 the region had received heavy rains so a sense of urgency did not exist.
Current RDA Far West CEO Michael Williams said since he started in the role in October 2012, there had been two unsuccessful attempts to have the lakes listed, the most recent 12 months ago.
“I read the paper with a little bit of surprise, I didn’t know that’s something Council was wanting to pursue.
“The government told us they had rejected it because of uncertainty surrounding the lakes at that time.
“I think for the community’s sake now is the time. But it is dependent on whether or not the government will lend its support.”
State Minister for Water Kevin Humphries last week said the treaty was a federal issue, but was willing to discuss it with Council.
Menindee resident Geoff Looney, a long-term advocate for the listing, said protecting the lakes was paramount to not only people living within the region, but the unique wildlife that would die out if they were decommissioned.
“I’ve spotted over 200 species of bird here, some of them are ground birds but a lot are water birds too. They really rely on the eco-system here,” Mr Looney said.
“I’m no Green, but I can see the strong point for the need to have the lakes listed.
“When it first came up it was well-supported by the people and the businesses and the councils.
“There were some people in the community who were scared of what would happen (it the lakes were listed), but it’s mainly because there were misunderstandings about what it would mean.”
Ms Nadge said she did not recall receiving any formal complaints from residents surrounding the Menindee Lakes.
Mr Looney ran fishing and bird watching boat tours from 1994 until 2006, when he was forced to retired due to low water levels.
“I was becoming quite popular and a finalist in the NSW Tourism Awards then next minute I’ve got nowhere to put my boat in,” he recalled.
“It was probably worse in 2006 than it is now, but who knows which way things are headed with talk of pipelines and aquifers.”