Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fresh Water Embassy opened at Clayton

Two hundred and fifty Lower Lakes and Coorong residents have opened a Fresh Water Embassy at Clayton in South Australia.

The purpose of the Embassy is to provide a profile for protest against the State Government’s plans to place an earthern water flow “regulator” from Kumarangk (Hindmarsh Island) to Clayton in order to cut off fresh water flow into Lake Alexandrina from the Finniss River and Currency Creek.

Other regulators and a weir are planned to completely seal off both Lakes Albert and Alexandrina.
(Kumurangk in the background. A house boat sits high and dry. To the right, bulldozers wait for use in building a 400 metre wide "regulator" across the water to Clayton).

The Government claims that such measures are necessary following the drastic decline in water levels of both lakes and the need to manage the emerging problem of exposed acid sulphate soils and sediments. The Government intends to raise the water levels in the lakes by flooding them with salt water, although this will kill off their freshwater ecosystems.

The Government claims that engineering solutions are necessary to manage the ongoing effects of drought and climate change. These are both contributors to the plight of the lower sections of the River Murray.

However, the more significant factor in the water crisis affecting the Murray-Darling Basin is the privatization of what should be protected as a common good - water.

The establishment of a water market carries forward the criminal neo-liberal, free market fantasies of the Bush and Howard eras and is the real reason for the destruction wrought on the Lower Lakes and Coorong.

Maude Barlow, Senior Advisor on Water Issues to the UN General Assembly, claims that “Commercial water takings have decimated water systems in Australia and around the world.”

“Water markets are a terrible idea. They separate water from the very watersheds we need for survival and sell upward towards money, not need.

“They will also open up Australia’s water resources to foreign investors.”

The state Government has been forced to act like kiddies playing with Tonka toys in a sandpit because neither they nor the Federal government will take back water from the private market they have established.

They treat private profit as holy and betray the sacred trust of the environment and the people.

The opening of the Fresh Water Embassy was preceded by a Ngarrindjeri smoking ceremony carried out by Elder Major “Moogie” Sumner. The Ngarrindjeri people are the traditional custodians of the lands and waters of our Lower Lakes and Coorong.

(From right: Diane Bell, Major Sumner, Tom Trevorrow)

Ngarrindjeri Elder Tom Trevorrow in a circulated statement said that “we support an holistic approach to the problems occurring in the River, Lower Lakes and Coorong due to over allocation of water…(the) regulators will cut up our country and waters.”

“As traditional owners, we have an inherited sacred responsibility to care for the country.

“Our teaching is that all things are connected.”

Then anthropologist Prof. Diane Bell spoke about the issues behind the protest and declared the Embassy open. She relayed a message of greetings and support from Maude Barlow.

The Australian, Ngarrindjeri and Murray River flags flew overhead.

Alexandrina Council Mayor Kym McHugh opened “relations” between the 1800 square kilometer Council and the Embassy, declaring that “We are resolute in our resolve to have a fresh water solution.”
Peter Laffan, spokesperson for the Friends of Gulf St. Vincent and the anti-desalination plant Save Our Gulf Coalition, conveyed greetings from the "salt water creatures of the Gulf to the freshwater creatures of the Lakes and rivers."
His presence symbolised the growing unity of purpose between various action groups that have developed in response to the water crisis in South Australia.

Local residents placed core flutes carrying their slogans around the flagpoles.

The Council has given permission for the Embassy to be housed in a shelter shed nearby for the duration of the “regulator” construction, and volunteers have posters and leaflets about the issue to hand to the public.

For further information see and

For Matt Walker's much better photos, go to

1 comment:

goodbooks said...

Thanks for the coverage and your photographs are stunning. It was a terrific day on Sunday and we had lots of people visit the Embassy today(June 29)
A couple of corrections/clarifications if I may:
para 2 - the stated purpose is management of ASS. The cutting off of fresh water from the tributaries will be a consequence.
para 3. There is already a 'bund' at Lake Albert and we are waiting on the decision re the Wellington (Pomanda) weir across the Murray.
para 4 - the Govt is yet to say whether they will bring seawater into the Lakes. They say they have purchased 50 GL to offset the water they will pump into the Clayton-Goolwa weir pool they are creating.
Keep blogging Diane Bell