1294th OGM and Open Lecture

Professor Richard Kingsford“Murray-Darling Basin turmoil:
past, present, and future”

Professor Richard Kingsford FRSN

Professor of Environmental Science
Director, Centre for Ecosystem Science, UNSW (Sydney)

Date: Wednesday, 2 June 2021, 6.30pm AEST 
Venue: Zoom webinar
Video presentation: YouTube video

Summary:  The Murray-Darling Basin is Australia's most developed river system, supporting extensive irrigation industries, pastoralists, traditional owner communities, fishers, tourism and ecosystems. More than a century of river development through the building of dams, development of floodplains, and diversion of water has had devastating impacts on ecosystem services and ecosystems. The Millennium Drought was a catalyst for change. The Australian Government took over control of the Basin with the Water Act 2007, implemented by the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. The Commonwealth Government's external powers, particularly in relation to wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention and migratory shorebirds were the primary driver for this, but States still remained in control of their rivers under the Federal Constitution, through their planning. A principal objective was to restore the health of the Murray-Darling Basin River system.

More than $13 billion dollars later, there are many challenges and questions about what has been achieved and at what cost. The number of inquiries continues to rise. The NSW Government is planning to build three large dams and smaller weirs on the rivers. Unfortunately, the ecological state of the Murray-Darling Basin continues to decline, albeit potentially at a slower rate than would have occurred otherwise. In this talk, I will present my research on wetlands and waterbirds within the context of these major changes, past and present, as well as identify some of the major challenges for the future.

Brief biography: Professor Richard Kingsford is a river ecologist and conservation biologist who has worked extensively across the wetlands and rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin. He also worked with many different communities and governments across this region. His research has influenced the policy and management of rivers in Australia, including through his involvement on state and federal advisory committees. He also leads a reintroduction or rewilding project, Wild Deserts, in Sturt National Park (NSW). He is the Director for the Centre for Ecosystem Science UNSW, Sydney. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW in 2018.

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