The Barmah-Millewa Forests and Barmah-Millewa Forum
The Barmah-Millewa Forest is the collective name given to the Barmah and Millewa group of forests, which are located on the floodplain of the River Murray between Echuca, Deniliquin and Tocumwal. The Barmah Forest is on the Victorian side of the river and the Millewa forest is on the New South Wales side. Together they cover an area of approximately 70,000 hectares, forming the largest river red gum forest in the world. The Forest contains a unique range of wetland habitats of high environmental value. The Barmah section of the Forest has been declared a Ramsar wetland site of international significance. Within the Forest there are areas of historical value, tourism opportunities and substantial timber resources.
When the Hume Dam came into operation in 1936 flooding patterns within the forest were changed. These changes resulted in an inappropriate watering regime for the forest, with unseasonal and unnatural wetting and drying having marked effects on plant and animal communities. As a result the Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Council asked the Murray Darling Basin Commission to develop a water management strategy for the forest which would enhance forest, fish and wildlife values whilst not creating undue adverse effects on other areas.
In 1993 the Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Council approved an annual Environmental Water Allocation (EWA) of 100 gigalitres to the Barmah-Millewa Forest, provided equally from the water entitlements of New South Wales and Victoria. This followed extensive public consultation undertaken as part of the development of the water management strategy, business plan and annual operating plans for the Forest.
The Murray Darling Basin Commission made first use of the EWA in October 1998 and released 100 gigalitres of water stored in the Hume Dam to supplement a minor flood already occurring in the Forest. The spring 2000 flood allowed the opportunity for a second use of the EWA. On the advice of land managers, the EWA was used to slow the recession of the flood. A total of 341 gigalitres of water was released to prolong the flood, with 176 gigalitres from New South Wales and 163 gigalitres from Victoria. The release of the EWA to follow the natural flooding allowed high water levels to remain in the forest from September 2000 to January 2001.
The prolonged flooding enabled the successful breeding of a number of bird species and improved the success rate for chicks maturing into adult birds. The management of the flood resulted in the most successful bird breeding event in the Forest since the 1970's. The flood also encouraged successful breeding of frogs, with nine species being recorded during the event including two species never previously recorded in the Forest. A wide diversity and abundance of invertebrates and small fish species were also observed in the wetlands during the event.
The Barmah-Millewa Forum was established in 1994 to help implement the water management strategy and business plan for the Forest. The Forum was established under clause 14 of the Murray Darling Basin agreement, which allows private interest groups to review and provide advice on projects funded directly by the Murray Darling Basin Commission. The Barmah-Millewa Forum provides advice on the operating plans of the Forest to ensure coordination between the two states, and also advises the Murray Darling Basin Commission on general water management of the Barmah-Millewa Forest.
The wide-ranging interests within the Forest are represented on the Forum. It includes advisers from private water scheme operators, non-wood and wood based forest users, environment groups and tourism operators. The Forum also has representatives from government agencies in the form of State Forests of NSW, NSW Department of Land and Water Conservation, Victorian Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, Goulburn Murray Water and Environment Australia.
The Barmah-Millewa Forum has released a Water
Read the Strategy [PDF] 589 KB
For further information about the Strategy, contact:
Last updated on: 9/ 9/ 2004