Federal cash to help protect treasured wetlands

Tracey Ferrier |

Curlew sandpipers are among species set to benefit from improved habitats near the Murray mouth.
Curlew sandpipers are among species set to benefit from improved habitats near the Murray mouth.

The federal government has promised $17 million to improve the health of one of Australia’s most important wetland areas.

The region, at the end of the River Murray in South Australia, provides vital habitat for a host of native aquatic and bird species, but is also used by some of the planet’s most impressive travellers.

Dozens of species that migrate from as far away as Siberia and Alaska visit the area each year, to feed and rest alongside native birds including the endangered Australasian bittern and the vulnerable sharp-tailed sandpiper.

The money, for the Coorong, Lower Lakes, Murray Mouth and South-East landscape, will be used to improve shorebird and wetland habitat.

Specifically, there will be new infrastructure on wetland and flood plain flats to increase the area and duration of quality shorebird and wetland habitat, among other things.

The money will underpin Australia’s commitment to international obligations including the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.

“Restoring the Murray Mouth, Lower Lakes and Coorong is a critical investment in the health of the whole system,” federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said on Friday.​

Red-necked avocets
Red-necked avocets are among the bird species found in the Murray mouth wetlands. (HANDOUT/Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water)

“This new project will ensure the survival of our internationally significant wetlands and the plants and animals who call them home.”

South Australian Deputy Premier Susan Close said the money would add to important habitat restoration projects already planned or underway.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said her party’s advocacy helped secure cash.

“The Greens have been fighting for years to protect this area from corporate greed and over-extraction, and this project will be an important step for our precious waterways and ecosystems,” she said.