Sunday, 27 January 2013

Road trip – Murray’s Mouth

Leaving the Adelaide Hills it wasn’t an over taxing drive to reach Mount Gambier that night and there was time to pull over occasionally at whatever took our fancy. The first place we pulled up was where the Murray River empties into Lake Alexandrina at Wellington. Now the locals and the SA tourist mob may disagree but I don’t believe that this is any well-known tourist spot; what motivated me to check out this spot was the debate over the last few years on the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
The plan was finalised at end of last year with no one completely happy with the outcome other than glad that they could move onto other things from a prolonged debate over many years. As a member of the Australian Environment Foundation I was aware of their Rivers Need Estuaries campaign. A very rough summary of the AEF argument was that massive amounts of mega litres was to be taken from upstream irrigators under the MDBP possibly destroying the economic and social futures to keep the lower lakes, Lake Alexandrina & Lake Albert, in the unnatural state of being continually freshwater. That in the 1940’s barrages were built to keep sea water out of the lower lakes and prior to this the lower lakes were an estuary system that changed from freshwater in wet seasons with the Murray running and it drier years the seawater coming into the system. The AEF sought to remove the barrages which would have meant that irrigators around the lower lakes who since the 1940’s made use of the continual source of suitable water would lose out but AEF argued that it was better to fully compensate the few rather than drastic cuts to much larger productive areas upstream. I won’t bore you with any more, if interested go the Rivers Need Estuaries link and to this speech by Dr Jennifer Marohasy to the Sydney Institute.

           What did we see; the Murray was running high and from the wet years 2010 and 2011 Lake Alexandrina from a distance looked as if it was full. Where we crossed the river on the ferry the land was very low lying. As a farmer the salt lakes didn’t inspire me. There certainly far better land upstream in SA that was being irrigated. But this was only one spot on a very big lake system; I was only an interstater blowing by and no doubt influenced by state parochialism.

I gained a brief SA perspective that afternoon when I stopped for a prearranged coffee with a couple of online contacts in the seaside town of Robe. South Aussie’s feel that they have improved their water effientcies dramatically over the last decade especially upgrading infrastructure and they were not using a greater amount of water and it was time for the States upstream to do likewise. BTW if you travelling the Princess Highway on route to see the Great Ocean road make the detour to Robe and even stay a while, we were very pleasantly surprised in our 1 hour stopover.

The other stop we made that day was a lookout on a mini peninsular with views of the Coorong. The day we were there didn’t do any justice to what is by all accounts a very special spot. If you need to be enlightened to what the collective conscientious within the car of the best description to the smell; SA tourism would like you not to ask.
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  1. I really enjoyed that Dale, took me back to our happy days living in Adelaide with 3 little kids, with frequent visits down to Victor Harbor (bit typical of the Crowies though, that they went for that Yankee spelling :-) Waitpinga surf (and salmon!) beach, Goolwa, the Coorong...... And Robe was a favourite.

    As you might recall from my posts 'in other places' I have long been an advocate for getting rid of those damn barrages, to return the mouth of the poor old Murray to proper estuarine status. I used to argue with mates over this over 40 years ago, only getting away with it because they recalled that although we had moved across from Melbourne, I was a Queenslander rather than just another "bloody know-all Vic!"

    IMHO, Jen Marohasy is exactly right, and as the MDBP currently stands, it is an unacceptable travesty to waste all that fresh water just to appease a few, with an artificial solution. Surely a future federal government will have to sort this out.
    Cheers al

  2. The country around Millicent impressed me. Would have to be amongst the best dryland farming country in SA. There was thick stubble in the paddocks from the previos wheat harvest. More cattle there as in a lot of other places in the state is sheep country. In summer there is nearby Robe to go to; a place that I would like gp back to. Really nice weather when I went through but I imagine that the rainy cold winters would leave an entirely different impression.

  3. Hey Dale, why didn't you drop in on me?
    Were you in Mount Gambier?
    Next time, huh, if any of you guys happen this way, you are welcome to hang out over a tea or coffee break, at my little house of horrors, but please, no man flu germs.

  4. Eb, I didn't even knew that you lived in Mount Gambier. We have been blogging at the same sites for around three years and I never worked that one out.
    Yes we stayed at Mount Gambier overnight. I didn't get very good photos of the Blue Lake. It's a pretty neat water supply laid on for Mount Gambier. Does it ever have any water restrictions?
    And no I didn't have the man flu then. Was relaxed and enjoying the holiday with no facebook, no internet,no emails and not bothering to catch up with any news.
    Next time I think I will stay in Robe and I can call in and annoy you for a cuppa on the way past.

  5. Dale, the last water restrictions we had were at the time of the big drought in SA, about 2-3 years back. The Blue Lake (bottomless) was dangerously low.
    Our water is really great - the taste is good too.
    Two years ago fluoride was added - this made the anti-fluoride activists crazy - there were stupid protests, crazies who don't vaccinate their kids lost the plot over it - one man chained himself to the pumping station a the Blue Lake and went on a 7 day hunger strike....really dumb stuff.
    Fancy you going without internet Dale?
    I would not be able to.
    I am completey addicted - it would be like having no oxygen - but I did turn my mobile phone off over Xmas - I took some leave, first break in 10 years.
    You and co are welcome to drop by for a cuppa, next time.
    We will have a major bitch fest! even do a pity party.


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