While concern is being expressed about native animal and bird populations, poor water management that is contributing to their demise is being ignored.
The community-based Speak Up Campaign says it cannot understand why environmentalists are not “hopping mad” at the needless destruction of key habitats.
“Too many scientists and city-based ideologists are quick to blame farmers for environmental damage, but where are they when it’s our water managers who are creating the problem?” asked Speak Up deputy chair Lloyd Polkinghorne.
Concerns have been expressed about declining numbers of Azure Kingfishers, known as the ‘canary of the river banks’. They are a beautiful bird with bright blue wings and orange breast which live on the banks of the Murray and Edward River systems.
“These are bank nesters that burrow their way into the river bank to make a nest. But bank erosion through the mid-Murray from Hume to Barham and through the Edward system is impacting on the nesting habitat of this remarkable bird,” Mr Polkinghorne said.
“Consistently high summer flows to meet unrealistic downstream targets, with no consideration for upstream damage, are causing massive issues with bank erosion.
“Passionate locals who are observant nature watchers have seen kingfisher nests eroded away, and have identified nesting sites along the Edward River, in particular, which have been destroyed in recent years by these excessive flows.
“So where are the environmentalists? Why aren’t people like Richard Kingsford, who is supposed to be the Murray-Darling Basin bird expert, demanding improved flow monitoring to stop the erosion and destruction of bird habitat?” Mr Polkinghorne asked.
“Surely these birds also deserve to be protected.”
He said there had been recent media attention around a decline in platypus numbers, and these unique Australian creatures also rely on river banks for their habitat and nesting.
“Maintaining and restoring bank stability is a vital part of platypus management and breeding. Yet under the Basin Plan it seems okay to destroy upstream habitat, as long as the ridiculous flow targets to South Australia are maintained.
“If the Basin Plan is all about protecting our environment, it should not be okay to ruin some parts with a pretence of helping others,” Mr Polkinghorne said.
He called for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to start acknowledging the imbalance in the Basin Plan and admit the damage it is causing to some parts of the basin. Only then can the plan work for everyone, not a select few.