The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has released the final scoping requirements setting out the matters to be investigated under the environmental assessment process for the nine Victorian Murray Floodplain Restoration Project (VMFRP) sites.
In December 2020, the Minister for Planning determined that the floodplain restoration work proposed at Lindsay and Wallpolla Islands and at Hattah Lakes North and Belsar-Yungera would each be assessed under a joint environment effects statement (EES).
The remaining five sites are being assessed under two environment reports: one for the work proposed at Nyah and Vinifera Forests and Burra Creek and one for Guttrum and Benwell State Forests and the Gunbower National Park.
“These works will help restore and preserve these ecologically significant Murray River floodplains, all while keeping irrigation water in the community,” said Josh White, VMFRP’s Project Director.
“The EES is a robust process that allows us to show how restoring these floodplains will benefit the environment and communities, while also respecting cultural values.
“Community consultation plays an important role in shaping these projects and we invite the community to get involved as we explore any potential environmental impacts and how we will manage them.”
Sixteen specialist investigations are now under way to assess the matters set out in the scoping requirements. The investigations include assessments of potential impacts to areas such as biodiversity and habitats, water quality, cultural heritage, social, economic and amenity impacts, and waterway use and infrastructure.
“This assessment process is the culmination of ten years of project planning,” added Josh. “It’s a great opportunity to take stock and be really confident that these projects will bring these floodplains back to life, restoring them for generations to come.
“We know how important a healthy, connected river is to river communities and to our wider ecosystem. The science is clear – our Murray River floodplains are dying. Modifying the river system to support towns and our regional economies has left these floodplains disconnected from the river.
“Building this infrastructure is our best shot at bringing our floodplains back to life. We’ll be able to return to more natural flooding patterns in a really efficient way – getting environmental water back onto the floodplain, holding it there for as long as needed, and then releasing it back into the river when it’s done its job.”
The EES scoping requirements went through a public consultation process in late April 2021, giving the public the chance to influence what would be investigated during the EES. DELWP received 12 submissions for Lindsay and Wallpolla Islands and seven for Hattah Lakes North and Belsar-Yungera.
Environment reports do not go through public consultation.
The two EESs and two environment reports will be publicly exhibited by DELWP in mid-2022, giving the community a formal opportunity to have their say on the environment assessment process.
Alongside the EES process, Cultural Heritage Management Plans are being prepared with Traditional Owners for each site. These plans assess the potential impact of projects on Aboriginal cultural heritage, and outline measures to be taken before, during and after construction to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage.
The VMFRP is offering a number of engagement opportunities throughout the EES investigations, such as site tours, webinars and community drop-ins. To find out how to get involved, visit vmfrp.com.au/get-involved or call Jodi Reynolds, Project Officer Communications and Engagement on 0428 516 233.
Scoping requirements and consultation plans can be downloaded from the VMFRP library.