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The Lindsay, Mulcra and Wallpolla islands cover over 26,100 ha of Victorian floodplain in the Murray-Sunset National Park (Figure 5.2.6). They form part of the Chowilla Floodplains–Lindsay–Wallpolla Islands Living Murray icon site that straddles the Victoria and South Australia border. Lindsay Island, Wallpolla Island and Lake Wallawalla are recognised as nationally-important wetlands.

The wetlands and waterways in the Lindsay, Mulcra and Wallpolla islands system hold significance for Traditional Owners and their Nations. Currently there is no Registered Aboriginal Party for the region and the Mallee Catchment Management Authority involves the region's Traditional Owners in in the management of Lindsay, Mulcra and Wallpolla islands through its Aboriginal Reference Group, which includes First Peoples of the Millewa-Mallee and the Wadi Wadi and Tati Tati Traditional Owners.

System map

Environmental watering objectives in Lindsay, Wallpolla and Mulcra

Fish icon
Increase the diversity, abundance and distribution of native fish Provide flows for large-bodied fish (including Murray cod and golden perch) to feed and breed
bird icon
Provide feeding and breeding habitat for a range of waterbird species including threatened, migratory and colonial nesting species (such as egrets)
Plant icon
Increase the diversity, extent and abundance of wetland plants

Environmental values

The Lindsay, Mulcra and Wallpolla islands represent three separate anabranch systems including streams, billabongs, large wetlands and swamps. When flooded, waterways and wetlands within these systems provide habitat for native fish, frogs, turtles and waterbirds. Terrestrial animals (such as woodland birds) also benefit from the improved productivity and food resources when the system floods. During dry periods, large floodplain wetlands (such as Lake Wallawalla) can retain water and provide important refuge areas for wetland-dependent species and support terrestrial animals (such as small mammals and reptiles).

Mullaroo Creek and the Lindsay River are renowned for supporting one of the most-significant populations of Murray cod in the lower River Murray. These waterways provide fast-flowing habitat that Murray cod favour, and they contrast with the slow-flowing and still habitats in the nearby River Murray. Mature breeding fish in these waterways are an important source of juveniles for the overall Murray system. Waterways and wetlands throughout the icon site also support several other threatened fish species (such as the freshwater catfish, silver perch, Murray-Darling rainbowfish and unspecked hardyhead).

The reduced frequency and duration of floods in the River Murray has degraded the water-dependent vegetation communities, which has in turn caused declines in the diversity and abundance of animals that rely on healthy vegetation for habitat.

Social and economic values

Lindsay, Mulcra and Wallpolla islands offer recreation opportunities in a remote location with camping, boating, fishing popular with residents of nearby communities and long-distance travellers. The area provides many birdwatching opportunities: over 200 aquatic and arid species are known to use the site.

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Conditions 2018

Apart from a storm-driven flow pulse in early December 2017, the River Murray had lower-than-average inflows for much of 2017–18. Water for the environment was delivered to 11 wetlands in the lower Murray system during the year. Most of this water was used to partially or completely fill wetlands in spring, to consolidate ecological responses triggered by widespread floods in 2016–17. With continued dry conditions through the second half of summer and into autumn, the focus of deliveries of water for the environment shifted to protecting critical habitat. Top-up flows were delivered to Lake Hawthorn to provide habitat for waterbirds and to Brickworks Billabong to support the critically endangered Murray hardyhead.

The December flow pulse in the River Murray flooded the Nyah and Vinifera floodplains, Margooya Lagoon and Yungera Island, extending the period of inundation and providing connectivity between the floodplain and the River Murray. Rainfall, irrigation drainage and stormwater run-off were sufficient to meet ecological objectives at Koorlong Lake. Recent monitoring found over 700 Murray hardyhead in Koorlong Lake, proving that the population in the wetland is self-sustaining and robust.

Deliveries of water for the environment to Neds Corner in spring 2017 were halted on the advice of the Arthur Rylah Institute after monitoring through the Victorian Government's Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program identified 15 rare, vulnerable or threatened plants in Neds Corner Central that had not been detected in the wetland before. Continuation of the watering may have displaced these plants. Management of the wetland has changed to reflect this finding: the approach is now to allow at least five years between inundation events where possible, to allow these threatened plants to establish. The wetland was last filled in 2016, so deliberate watering will not occur until at least 2021–22.

Scope of environmental watering

Table 1 Potential environmental watering actions and objectives for Lindsay, Wallpolla and Mulcra islands

Potential environmental watering

Environmental objectives

Wetland watering

Bidgee Lagoons (fill in spring/summer)

  • Maintain and promote the growth of vegetation that aligns with floodplain grassy wetland, pond herbland and shrubby riverine woodland ecological vegetation classes

Butlers Creek/Ducksfoot Lagoon (fill in spring/ summer)

  • Provide feeding habitat for waterbirds 
  • Control noogoora burr
Brickworks Billabong (fill in spring or partial fill in autumn, as needed to maintain water-quality targets and minimum water level)
  • Maintain and improve the condition of aquatic vegetation and water quality to increase the population of Murray hardyhead 
Cardross Lakes Basin 1 East and West (partial fill in spring or as required to maintain waterquality targets and minimum water level)
Koorlong Lake (partial fill as needed to maintain water-quality targets and minimum water level)

Bullock Swamp (fill in winter/spring)

  • Provide freshwater inflows and flushing flows to reduce salinity levels and improve the condition and diversity of wetland vegetation. 
  • Improve ecological function

Burra Creek North (fill in winter/spring)

  • Rehabilitate seasonal connectivity along Burra Creek 
  • Improve the health and structure of the vegetation 
  • Stimulate the growth of emergent and semiemergent aquatic vegetation
Burra Creek South (fill in winter/spring)
Burra Creek South Proper (fill in winter/spring)

Carina Bend wetlands (fill in winter/spring)

  • Improve the condition of mature river red gum 
  • Provide aquatic habitat to support fish and frogs 
  • Provide habitat for waterfowl

Cowanna Billabong (fill in winter/spring)

  • Increase wetland productivity
  • Provide feeding habitat for waterbird

Inlet Creek Karadoc Swamp (fill in winter)

  • Improve the condition of mature black box trees 
  • Provide habitat to support frogs and fish 
  • Provide habitat for waterbirds

Keera Wetland 1 (fill in spring)

  • Promote the growth of vegetation that aligns with the intermittent swampy woodland, lignum shrubland and lignum swampy woodland ecological vegetation classes

Keera Wetland 2 (fill in spring)

Lake Hawthorn (partial fill in spring or as required to maintain water at the minimum level)
  • Support the growth of aquatic vegetation 
  • Reintroduce saline marsh habitat 
  • Provide habitat for waterbirds
Liparoo East (fill in winter)
  • Support seasonal habitat for small native fish 
  • Provide feeding habitat for waterbirds 
  • Maintain aquatic vegetation
Liparoo West (fill in winter)
Margooya Lagoon (fill in winter/spring/summer
  • Improve the condition of river red gums 
  • Improve the native fish assemblage of the lagoon 
  • Rehabilitate submerged aquatic vegetation in the open-water areas of the wetland
Nyah Floodplain (fill in spring/summer)
Vinifera Floodplain (fill in spring/summer)
  • Improve the condition and structure of wetland vegetation 
  • Provide seasonal feeding and reproductive opportunities for native fish 
  • Reestablish resident populations of frogs and small fish 
  • Provide breeding habitat for waterbirds including colonial nesting species 
  • Rehabilitate floodplain productivity to maintain the resident populations of terrestrial animals including carpet pythons, sugar gliders and greycrowned babblers
Planigale Wetland (fill in winter/spring)
  • Promote the growth of vegetation that aligns with the intermittent swampy woodland, lignum swampy woodland and riverine chenopod ecological vegetation classes 
  • Improve habitat for mammals and reptiles 
  • Support growling grass frogs
Tata North (fill in winter/spring)
  • Maintain the health and structure of river red gum communities
Sandilong Creek (fill in spring/summer)
  • Support catfish recruitment 
  • Maintain fringing terrestrial vegetation
Woolshed Creek (fill in winter/spring)
  • Improve the condition of woodland vegetation 
  • Improve habitat for mammals and reptiles 
  • Support growling grass frogs
Yungera Wetland (fill in winter/spring)
  • Maintain and improve the health of river red gum and other floodplain trees
Wakool Creek (fill in spring/summer)
  • Promote healthy and productive lignum shrubland 
  • Provide habitat for waterbird nesting and roosting

Wetland drying

Bridge Creek, Heywood Lake, J1 Creekline, Kings Billabong, Lake Carpul, Lake Powell, Little Heywood Lake, Neds Corner Central, Neds Corner East, Pound Bend Eastern wetlands, Robertson Wetland, Sandilong Billabong, Tata South

  • These wetlands will not be actively watered in 2018–19
  • Drying will promote the growth and establishment of vegetation in and surrounding the wetland, priming the system to support a wide range of wetland-dependent birds and animals

Risk management

In preparing its seasonal watering proposal, Mallee Catchment Management Authority considered and assessed risks and identified mitigating strategies relating to the implementation of environmental watering. Risks and mitigating actions are continually reassessed by program partners throughout the water year.

Engagement

Table 2 shows the partners and stakeholder organisation with which Mallee CMA engaged when preparing the Lindsay, Mulcra and Wallpolla islands seasonal watering proposal.

Seasonal watering proposals are informed by longer-term regional catchment strategies, regional waterway strategies, environmental flow studies, water management plans and other studies. These incorporate a range of environmental, cultural, social and economic perspectives and longerterm integrated catchment and waterway management objectives. For further details, refer to the Mallee Regional Catchment Strategy and Mallee Waterway Strategy.

Table 2 Partners and stakeholders engaged in developing the Lindsay, Mulcra and Wallpolla islands seasonal watering proposal

 

Partner and stakeholder engagement

  • Commonwealth Environmental Water Office 
  • Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning 
  • Four friends groups 
  • Goulburn-Murray Water 
  • Lake Lascelles Committee 
  • 24 Landcare groups (24) 
  • Mallee CMA Aboriginal Reference Group, including First Peoples of the Millewa-Mallee and members of the Wadi Wadi and Tati Tati Traditional Owners groups 
  • Mallee CMA Water Technical Advisory Committee (an advisory group to Mallee CMA comprising community members) 
  • Mallee Fowl Recovery Group 
  • Meringur Historical Society 
  • Mid-Murray Field Naturalists 
  • Mildura Rural City Council 
  • Murray–Darling Basin Authority 
  • Parks Victoria Recreational users (Sunraysia bushwalkers, Birdlife Australia (Mildura), Mildura 4WD lnc.) 
  • Sustainable Living in the Mallee 
  • Victorian Environmental Water Holder