Media Releases | 24th Jun, 2021

Boating, fishing, environment groups unite against high summer flows

Victoria’s peak fishing, boating and environment groups have united in a fresh call for limits on high summer irrigation flows down the Goulburn River, sending a joint letter to the Victorian Planning Minister last week. 

The groups are VR Fish, Environment Victoria, Victorian National Parks Association and Boating Industry Association of Victoria. Together they represent 200,000 registered boat owners, 840,000 recreational fishers and 138 fishing clubs, plus 200,000 people concerned about Victoria’s environment. The letter is also signed by local groups Goulburn Valley Environment Group and Goulburn Valley Association of Angling Clubs.

The letter comes as the Victorian government is due to announce the outcome of a review into the Goulburn Inter-valley Trade Rule, which governs water trades between the Goulburn and the Murray rivers. The existing trade rule has allowed environmental damage in summer months, when downstream irrigation demand is highest.

In recent years large volumes of water have been pushed down the Goulburn from December to April to irrigate crops in the Murray such as almonds, table grapes and citrus.

The groups are concerned these unseasonally high flows are eroding riverbanks, destroying vegetation and cultural sites, inundating sandbars and killing juvenile fish before they reach maturity.

“Balancing competing water use doesn’t mean that deliberately destroying our riverine Trout Cod and Murray Cod populations is an acceptable cost. It is absolutely not,” said VRFish Executive Officer Ben Scullin.

The letter mentions recent research by the Arthur Rylah Institute, which found increasing summer flows to 1800 megalitres (ML) per day is likely to decrease Murray cod survival by more than a third. During recent years, 2700 ML a day was being pushed down the river on average.

Boating Industry Association of Victoria Chief Executive Steve Walker said his organisation supports a variable flow level that does not exceed an average 940 ML per day over summer and autumn. “This will have the preferred outcomes in terms of fish habitat and stock levels, bank stability, and the flow on effect for fishing/boating related tourism and business.”

Environment Victoria Healthy Rivers Campaigner Tyler Rotche said a key concern was a proposal for large ‘pulses’ of water during summer, which was an entirely new and untested component for managing the flow of the Goulburn River.

“We know from previous studies that summer pulses of 2000 megalitres per day would remove vegetation on the lower banks, but one of the options on the table is pulses of up to 6000 megalitres per day.”

“The Goulburn needs to be treated like a living river, not an irrigation channel.”

Goulburn Valley Environment Group echoed concerns raised by Victoria’s peak fishing, boating and environment groups. “We cannot allow the Lower Goulburn to be sacrificed in the name of downstream development,” said GVEG President John Pettigrew.

Read the joint letter

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