The Opposition is calling on the Malinauskas Labor Government to provide Riverland and Murraylands communities with certainty and declare a specific trigger point at which recreational restrictions on the River Murray will be lifted.
On December 20, an immediate ban on recreational aquatic activities on the River Murray was announced – a time when flows at the border were around 180 GL/day.
Last week, in a boost for river communities, restrictions on shoreline fishing were sensibly reversed after the Opposition highlighted the issue.
Leader of the Opposition David Speirs said once flows decline to a certain level, the River must reopen for all South Australians to enjoy.
“The bans on swimming, fishing and boating have been incredibly tough on our river communities at a time when the River Murray is usually flourishing with both locals and tourists,” Mr Speirs said.
“The ban on recreational activities as well as the shambolic way in which they were communicated have had a significant social and economic impact on a region already hurting. Of course, safety must be the top priority, but the restrictions shouldn’t be in place one day longer than necessary.
“The Malinauskas Labor Government must nominate a specific flow level that acts as a trigger point for when these restrictions can be lifted – even if it’s done bit by bit as peak water levels travel down the river.”
Shadow Minister for Water Resources and the River Murray Nicola Centofanti said it’s imperative any changes to the rules are communicated clearly to all those affected.
“When these recreational bans were first introduced, the messaging was confusing and ultimately it hurt local businesses with some operators closing down,” Dr Centofanti said.
“Safety must always come first, but some of these restrictions – particularly those that were placed on fishing – were an overreach.
“It’s essential that as these restrictions are wound back the Malinauskas Labor Government communicates these changes clearly so all river users can make informed decisions going forward.”
Member for Chaffey Tim Whetstone said a specific threshold for restrictions to be eased would give local residents some much needed certainty.
“We are calling for a specific measure at which point the river will be reopened so that all South Australians can experience this one in a fifty-year event safely,” Mr Whetstone said.
“Summer is a prime time for recreational activities along the river and local residents are telling me they’d like to know exactly when they – and visitors to our community - can get out and enjoy all the river has to offer.
“We understand certain watercraft rules must remain in place to protect levees, but we see no reason why other restrictions can’t be lifted once flows decline below a certain level.”
Member for Hammond Adrian Pederick acknowledged that restrictions would need to be lifted in a staggered way.
“River communities that I represent lower down the river are still experiencing peak water flows so restrictions might be required in these areas for a little bit longer,” Mr Pederick said.
“But there is a lot of speculation surrounding exactly when these recreational restrictions on the River Murray will be lifted and locals shouldn’t be left in the dark.
“The confusing rollout of these restrictions has not been well received by local communities and we’re calling on the Malinauskas Labor Government to lift its game when it comes to removing them so everyone can plan ahead and have the confidence they’re doing the right thing out on the water.”