Images © Steve Posselt
I haven’t seen much of the Murray. When I paddled down the Darling to Wentworth there were just 832km of the Murray to go until I hit the Southern Ocean. That only takes three weeks and it’s done. Subsequently I only paddled 17km upstream from Echuca before turning right at the Goulburn and heading across Victoria. There is a lot left to paddle.
There is no doubt that it is a beautiful river. People love it. It is part of our national psyche. My favourite moment was in August 2007 when I was near Blanchetown. A storm had passed over and way out to the west the sun was setting. It threw a powerful glow onto the cliffs with the dark storm clouds behind them. Hugging the right bank I was sheltered from the strong westerly wind and just marvelled at the majesty of it all.
A couple of weeks later after paddling across Lake Alexandrina, I was confronted with a dam. They call it the barrage. It seals the Murray off from the sea and even then the water on the river side was a lot lower than the salt water on the other side.
I had to decide what my emotions were. With more than 3000km passing under the kayak, a third of it walking because there was no water in the rivers, it was time to come clean to myself. What I felt surprised me, but it was shame. I was ashamed to have been a part of a society that had wreaked so much devastation, but most of all as a civil engineer in the water industry I was ashamed of our own ignorance.
So I set about making amends. I guess I became an activist. The Queensland government is hell bent on sending the lungfish extinct with a dam on the Mary River. How many people know that the one lunged lungfish, our link between the sea and the land that we learned about at school is native to only two rivers in the world? Both are in Queensland and after damming one there has been ‘nil recruitment to population’ in that river. Highlighting this involved another gruelling two thousand kilometres.
Showing my powerpoint presentation to hundreds of schools and community groups I talked about this destructive madness. The epicentre of this is the North South pipeline. The Murray River continues to die with the situation getting ever more serious. The Goulburn River, food bowl of Victoria flows into the Murray – what’s left of it that is. We know this water does not reach the sea, that the Murray is drying out and getting shorter. The North South pipeline takes water from the Goulburn River to supply Melbourne, the city that was run over by a tortoise.
Melburnians are set to steal water from the dying Murray. Of course there are claims that this is ‘saved’ water. With ten years of university training behind me, with 35 years of water industry experience, I cannot find the savings they claim. In the end it seems pretty simple: you cannot make water. Even God can’t do that because we have the same amount on the earth now as we had millions of years ago.
My plea is for everyone who reads this to take note, to do whatever you can for the Murray River. Cry Me a River is a book about my adventure from Brisbane to Adelaide. You don’t even have to care about the environment to read it. My hope is that those who do not understand the problems we face read it for the sheer enjoyment of coming along for the experience, sharing what I shared with my son for much of the trip. But having read it, I do hope they take note of what we have done, and help us sort out this mess,
Buy Steve’s book, Cry Me a River or visit kayak4earth
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