Pressure grows to end grazing in River Murray icon wetlands

One of Australia's greatest River Red Gum wetlands will no longer be grazed by sheep after a historic decision by the South Australian government.

The Chowilla flood plain in the South Australian Riverland will be protected from grazing immediately. Environment groups called on the Victorian and NSW governments to follow South Australia's lead and end damaging grazing and logging in their River Red Gum forest wetlands.

The Chowilla flood plain is listed as one of six 'icon' sites in the Living Murray Initiative along with sites including the Barmah-Millewa and Gunbower-Perricoota forests in Victoria and NSW.

"Environment groups congratulate the South Australian government for setting a new standard in managing these iconic forest wetlands. Victoria and NSW should lift their game and follow South Australia's lead," said Nick Roberts of the Victorian National Parks Association.

"These red gum forest wetlands are national icons, not cow paddocks or logging coupes and damaging practices like logging and grazing should be stopped," he said.

The Federal, Victorian, New South Wales and South Australian Governments declared River Red Gum forests national 'icon' sites in 2003 as part of the Living Murray Initiative and promised to return 500 billion litres of water to the Murray to save these forests and wetlands.

"If the Victorian and NSW governments do not remove grazing from these iconic wetlands, $500 million of taxpayers investment could be wasted," said Dr Paul Sinclair, Director of River Health at Environment Victoria.

"A recent report shows that 75% of the River Murray's red gums are highly stressed, yet damaging grazing and logging continue. These icon sites are being flogged - we urge the Victorian and NSW governments to act before it's too late," said Dr Arlene Buchan of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Last week it was revealed that a Victorian government mistake resulted in River Red Gum trees used by the endangered superb parrot in the Barmah Millewa Forest being logged.

The Living Murray Initiative is the biggest investment into river health in Australia's history, with irrigators and environmentalist expecting positive improvements in river and flood plain health.

"Flooding wetland forests like Barmah-Millewa and Gunbower-Pericoota Koondrook while cattle trample and pollute is poor policy, and we call upon the respective Ministers to get the management right now," said Nick Roberts.