Northern Victoria’s iconic Gunbower Forest will receive its first delivery of environmental water this week using newly-constructed infrastructure and the milestone has been welcomed by Senator Simon Birmingham, Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment, and Victoria’s Minister for Water Peter Walsh.

Senator Birmingham said The Australian Government was committed to innovative works that delivered win-win outcomes for the environment and for irrigators.

“Our Government has committed to implementing the Basin Plan on time and in full, but we will do so in a way that ensures that we have both a strong irrigation sector that grows as much food as sustainably possible, as well as healthy rivers,” Senator Birmingham said.

“Sophisticated projects such as the Gunbower works allow for the more efficient use of water, achieving better environmental outcomes, with a reduced impact on irrigation communities.

“This is also a great example of how environmental water managers are working together to achieve good environmental outcomes from the entire pool of available water resources.”

Minister for Water Peter Walsh said the 66,000 megalitre allocation for Gunbower Forest showed environmental works and measures could help balance the water needs of irrigators and the environment.

“When the Victorian Coalition Government negotiated the Murray Darling Basin Plan, we were determined to ensure environmental works and measures were included as a way to deliver environmental watering without sacrificing productive agricultural districts,” Mr Walsh said.

“This Gunbower Forest Living Murray project demonstrates our argument. Up to 5000 hectares will be watered to improve the health of the River Red Gums, wetlands and wildlife and up to 70 per cent of that water will go back to the Murray system for downstream users.”

The watering infrastructure project was funded by The Living Murray Program with North Central Catchment Management Authority leading the project and Goulburn Murray Water completing the infrastructure works.

Visitors to Gunbower Forest will need to take note of local signage. There will be some tracks closed in lower parts of the forests, but popular camping and fishing spots will remain open.

The Living Murray project is a joint initiative funded by New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Commonwealth, co-ordinated by the Murray- Darling Basin Authority.