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Traditional Owner cultural values and uses
Watering of the lower Murray wetlands supports values such as traditional food sources and medicines, important species and provides opportunities for teaching, learning and storytelling.
Mallee CMA has met with the First People of Millewa- Mallee Aboriginal Corporation (representing Latji Latji, Ngintait, Nyeri Nyeri and Wergaia Traditional Owners), and representatives from Tati Tati, Weki Weki, Wadi Wadi, Gilby Corporation and Munutunga Elders. Discussions covered a range of options for how environmental flows can be delivered in 2020–2021 and what the traditional ecological needs were in the current climate. Elders participated in planning and prioritisation processes on Country important to them and relationships with the Mallee CMA were strengthened. The values, knowledge and concerns raised through these discussions have supported Mallee CMA’s planning for wetland watering across the lower Murray region.Waterway managers are seeking opportunities
to increase the involvement of Traditional Owners in environmental water planning and management. Where Traditional Owners are more deeply involved in the planning and/or delivery of environmental flows for a particular site, their contribution is acknowledged in Table 5.2.12 with
an icon.
Robertson Creek is an area of high cultural significance that is being degraded as vegetation dies from lack of water and wind erodes the landscape. The First People of the Millewa Mallee Aboriginal Corporation are undertaking a program of restoration and protection work at the site. To complement the protection and restoration objectives, environmental water is planned to be delivered under all scenarios except drought, to improve the canopy cover of black box trees and to regenerate understory vegetation along Robertson Creek. In turn, the improved vegetation health will provide wind protection to the landscape alongside Robertson Creek.
Margooya Floodplain Wetland is a new site to be incorporated in the lower Murray wetlands environmental watering program in 2020-21. It is a small wetland to the north-east of Margooya Lagoon and the area is known to be of significant Indigenous cultural value. The main lagoon can receive water using existing infrastructure, but the surrounding floodplain is showing signs of drought stress. Mallee CMA has worked closely with the local Aboriginal community to identify potential watering actions to preserve and enhance cultural values at the site, including availability of traditional foods and medicines and preservation of
an ecosystem and landscape used for ceremonies and featuring in song lines.
Social, economic and recreational values and uses
In planning the potential watering actions in Table 5.2.12, Mallee CMA considered how environmental flows could support values and uses including:
• water-based recreation (such as canoeing, fishing, swimming and yabbying)
• riverside recreation and amenity (such as bushwalking, photography, running, yoga, geocaching, camping, birdwatching and four-wheel driving)
• community events and tourism (such as Parks Victoria’s ‘Junior Ranger’ school holiday programs including bushwalking, birdwatching and bug hunting, citizen science projects (frogs and bats), community education and engagement programs, and tourists visiting the wetlands)
• socio-economic benefits (such as local businesses).
Recent conditions
The lower Murray region had below-average rainfall
and above-average temperatures throughout 2019–20. Rainfall in some areas was the lowest recorded across two consecutive years. Flow in the Murray River was not sufficient to connect any wetlands on the lower Murray floodplain, and there was very limited run-off from local catchments.
In 2019–20, environmental water was delivered to 10 lower Murray wetlands that were identified as a high priority
for environmental watering under a dry scenario. Most deliveries were in spring to maintain native vegetation, provide refuges for fish and waterbirds and maintain key ecosystem functions. Top-ups were provided to Lake Hawthorn, Brickworks Billabong and Koorlong Lake during summer and autumn to protect habitat for endangered Murray hardyhead.
During 2019–20, the Mallee CMA monitored water levels at wetlands that it had identified as important refuge habitats for native fish and frogs. Continued surveillance of refuge habitats will be a high priority in 2020–21.
Scope of environmental watering
Table 5.2.12 describes the potential environmental watering actions in 2020–21, their functional watering objectives (that is, the intended physical or biological effect of the watering action) and the longer-term environmental objective(s) they support. Each environmental objective relies on one or more potential environmental watering actions and their associated physical or biological functions.
5.2 Victorian Murray system
  Watering planned and/or delivered in partnership with Traditional Owners to support Aboriginal cultural values and uses
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