Senator Simon Birmingham, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment, and Victorian Minister for Water Peter Walsh have today officially launched the Hipwell Road environmental watering works in Victoria’s iconic Gunbower Forest.

The new infrastructure, developed under The Living Murray initiative, is designed to deliver environmental water from the River Murray into the forest.

Mr Birmingham said the environmental works would allow a more natural watering regime to be restored to the forest, while also using environmental water more efficiently.

“Gunbower Forest is an international Ramsar-listed site. It’s part of the second largest river red gum forest in the Murray-Darling Basin and is home to many important plant and animal species,” Mr Birmingham said.

“As a result of increased river regulation and recent dry years, the forest hasn’t received flows in the frequency and duration that it needs to continue to support its wetlands and river red gums, to provide habitat and food for waterbirds and other key species.

“With these works, we are watering 4,700 hectares of forest and wetlands and helping build their resilience to survive future extended dry periods.

“Infrastructure projects like these are great examples of how basin governments can achieve a healthier and more productive River Murray system that sustain ecological assets, river communities and agricultural industries for years to come.”

The new Gunbower infrastructure has been successfully delivering environmental water into the forest since early June. Works include the Hipwell Road Channel and connection to Spur Creek; a regulator and fish lock to control water entering the forest; a bridge for Island Road; and a regulator on Gunbower Creek with fish passage to direct flow from the creek into the channel.

Minister Walsh said the infrastructure was an example of how balance could be struck between the needs of irrigators and the needs of the environment.

“The Victorian Coalition Government has always held that environmental outcomes can be achieved in the Murray-Darling Basin through infrastructure works, rather than simply taking water from productive use on farms. This project is an example of how that can be done,” Mr Walsh said.

“Gunbower Forest, like so many other wetlands in north central Victoria, was significantly impacted by the 10-year drought so I encourage people to come and visit the area to see how the forest is recovering.

“Seventy per cent of the water being delivered to protect the forest’s internationally-acclaimed river red gums, wetlands and wildlife will flow back into the Murray.”

The Gunbower Forest is one of six icon sites under The Living Murray program, a joint initiative of the New South Wales, Victorian, South Australian, Australian Capital Territory and the Commonwealth governments, coordinated by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.