Graziers and Conservationists Call on Queensland Parties to Protect Channel Country Rivers

Contact: Dr. Barry Traill, +61 (0)7 54296657


Australia, Brisbane - 03/04/2009 - Grazier and conservation groups today announced a powerful alliance seeking protection for Queensland’s Channel Country Rivers in the Lake Eyre Basin.

The alliance, which includes the Australian Floodplains Association, the Cooper’s Creek Protection Group, The Wilderness Society and the global Pew Environment Group, is seeking support for the permanent protection for the river waters of the Channel Country from over extraction and pollution.  The region in Western Queensland has three huge river systems- the Diamantina, Georgina, and Cooper’s Creek. These rivers provide more than 90% of the water that fills Lake Eyre. 

The alliance is calling on all political parties running in the 2009 Queensland election to announce policies guaranteeing the long term protection of these magnificent inland rivers in the south west of the state.

“We depend on the water continuing down the rivers, providing feed for cattle, creating healthy fisheries and abundant native flora and fauna.  This is the foundation of the local beef industry, local tourism and our recreational fisheries.  We need permanent legislative protection to protect our waters for the long term,” said Mr. Angus Emmott, Board member of the Australian Floodplain Association and Channel Country grazier.  

“This is one of the great natural river systems remaining on Earth. The Channel Country Rivers flow thousands of kilometres from the tropical North into the arid heart of Australia, bringing water and life.  As a global organisation, Pew is pleased to join with local people and organisations to keep these living rivers thriving,” said Dr. Barry Traill, Director, Wild Australia Program, Pew Environment Group.

“Ten years ago my organisation worked with scientists and conservationists to stop a destructive irrigation project being built on the Cooper’s Creek.  Fortunately we won that debate.  But we don’t want to have to keep fighting off these sorts of projects again and again.  We expect to see strong and unambiguous policies from Queensland parties to protect these rivers,” said Dr. Bob Morrish, President of the Cooper’s Creek Protection Group, and Channel Country grazier.

“The Channel Country rivers are unique and should be protected. The regular floods bring life to the desert and provide one of the last great sanctuaries for wetland dependent bird colonies. The regular floods also provide much needed water for floodplain grazing. This election we are calling on all the political parties to commit to policies that ensure a win-win outcome that protects the rivers and protects the flood waters that are so important to the Channel Country cattle industry. We don’t need another ecological and economic disaster like the Murray-Darling system,” said Mr. Lyndon Schneiders, National Campaign Director, The Wilderness Society.
 
The country of the three Channel Country Rivers relies on periodic natural floods, which flow slowly through a vast network of channels, floodplains and wetlands.  As is occurring this week, the large floods send water all the way into South Australia, filling Lake Eyre, Australia’s biggest lake. 

The new alliance wrote today to ask party leaders to pledge to make river protection in the Channel Country a priority if elected.  In addition, it will be contacting and working with local people and community groups throughout the region, and all Australians, seeking their support for the long term protection of these rivers.  To drive the work the Australian Floodplain Association will be engaging a local project officer to specifically work on the issue.

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