Page 192 - VEWH Seasonal Watering Plan 2020-21
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 5.1 Northern region overview
 Southern Basin First Nations Environmental Watering Priorities Statement 2020‐21
Representatives of sixteen First Nations across the Southern Murray Darling Basin have made information about their priorities for the use of environmental water in 2020–21 available, as part of the First Nations Environmental Water Guidance project.
First Nations share common concern for all major rivers across the region. Notably, multiple Nations submitted priorities relating to the Murrumbidgee, Baaka (Darling River), Lachlan, Campaspe, Murray and Edwards‐Wakool systems. First Nations understand that declining river health and low‐flows in one part of the Basin can affect communities and cultural outcomes across the region.
Nations want to see improvements in water quality and the volume and timing of flows in all major rivers, and particularly in degraded river systems. Improved seasonality of flows, informed by First Nations’ science and traditional knowledge, is a key to sustaining the cultural health of major waterways. Addressing barriers and constraints, such as barriers to fish movement, is essential to sustain the interconnectivity, which underpins our stories and cultural values. Improving the health of tributary waterways and ensuring adequate flows, is also a key to revitalising major rivers. Nations recognise that Basin Plan targets for environmental water recovery are inadequate to support revival of the ecological and cultural health of our waterways. More must be done to restore the balance.
Participating Nations’ contributions stressed the significance of wetlands, billabongs and floodplains. Nations want to see life return to these culturally significant places through watering activities that create connectivity between rivers and floodplains and restore the hydrological cycles of degraded wetlands, thereby supporting cultural values and resources.
Participating Nations identified key plant and animal species that are most in need of watering in the 2020–21 watering year. These species are all of totemic significance to diverse clans and Nations. Key culturally significant fish such as Murray cod, golden perch (yellowbelly) and catfish were identified as priorities by most Nations. More than half of all contributing Nations highlighted black swans, pelicans and duck species as culturally significant waterbirds that would benefit from environmental watering. Improved health and abundance of old man weed and other medicinal plants were noted as priorities for vegetation, alongside improved outcomes for river red gums, black box, cumbungi and lignum.
Critically, Nations stressed the importance of considering outcomes beyond fish, waterbirds and vegetation. Nations also want to see improved outcomes for aquatic fauna such as turtles, yabbies, mussels, frogs, platypus and
rakali (water rat). The contributions also stressed the importance of environmental watering in sustaining healthy populations of important terrestrial fauna such as kangaroo and emu.
Participating Nations have identified a range of key threats to the cultural health of waterways as well as preferences for improved participation in environmental water planning for 2020–21. Water holders should consider these preferences alongside the detailed, locally specific watering objectives produced by Nations. It is essential that water Holders continue, and strengthen, direct engagement with First Nations to empower our participation in environmental water planning and delivery.
Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations
First Nations Environmental Water Guidance Project
     190 | Victorian Environmental Water Holder | Seasonal Watering Plan 2020–21

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