Melissa Rebbeck: Fighting for the future of the Murray Darling Basin

The Flow goes on: Alexandrina Councillor Melissa Rebbeck is fighting for the future of the Murray Darling Basin in her newly elected role of Region 6 MDA Chair.
The Flow goes on: Alexandrina Councillor Melissa Rebbeck is fighting for the future of the Murray Darling Basin in her newly elected role of Region 6 MDA Chair.

Alexandrina Councillor Melissa Rebbeck, is fighting for the future of the Murray Darling Basin, following her election as Chair of Region 6 of the Murray Darling Authority (MDA).

She says not enough is being done to ensure water is being supplied back to the environment across the Murray Darling Basin and in her role will strongly push both state and federal governments to utilise integrated approaches to achieving ecological recovery across the Basin.

Councillor Rebbeck has a wealth of experience in this area, having worked for two decades as an applied agricultural scientist including at the University of Adelaide; is heavily involved in the agricultural industry and is strongly connected to regional farm and natural resource management groups.

Over 20 years she has worked on projects specialising in soil health, minimising frost impacts on southern Australian cereals, improving seasonal climate forecasts for South Australian primary producers and minimising methane outputs in cattle and sheep while increasing production.

She was recently elected as a first-time Alexandrina Councillor and said her experience and passion for environmental issues drove her to campaign.

"I have a broad knowledge of the impact on stakeholders in the region of less water and also the impact on the environment, so I thought I was really well placed to nominate for the Chair position within the MDA," she said.

"Similarly, I campaigned for Alexandrina Council because of my passions in agriculture, natural resources and climate change and I wanted to really step up what I'm doing in that space.

"As Chair of Region 6, I want to advocate upwards to the state and federal governments and do all I can because it's really important and if this drought continues, the Coorong and Lower Lakes will be extremely vulnerable."

Discussing the current issues plaguing the Murray Darling Basin, Cr Rebbeck said it is critical that all Basin States continue to prioritise further environmental water recovery as required by the Basin Plan.

She said this issue, coupled with the ongoing drought poses a serious and significant threat to the long term survival of the Basin and its ecosystems as evident through recent drying and mass fish kill events.

Being a farmer on Hindmarsh Island, Cr Rebbeck said she was all too aware of the devastating effects drought can have on communities, having suffered through the millennium drought.

"Having been through that, I know just how seriously our local region was affected, not just agriculturally but through tourism as well.

"The environment in parts of our region, especially the Coorong still hasn't recovered and economically, the effects of the Millennium Drought are still being felt."

She warned we could potentially be facing an even greater drought in coming years.

"I only know too well, having worked in climate agriculture for 20 odd years, that because of climate change we are likely to get a drought worse than what we experienced during the millennium drought.

"In south eastern Australia in the last 20 years we've had a 10-15 percent reduction in rainfall and the flow on effect from that for stream flows is even worse."

Cr Rebbeck said unless something was done to make preparations for a drying climate, the region and the Murray on a whole was drastically at risk.

"I want to support our councils to recognise that we are in a state of climate emergency and if we can start from the bottom up and communicate more strongly to state and federal governments, then we can get them to do more in that space of mitigating the impacts of climate change.

"What I would really like to do is create more community awareness of the issues and really get the community behind what we're doing so we can be a louder voice for water going back to the environment, so there is a river for our kids in the future, as well as all the ecosystems and animals that rely on it."

Region 6 of the Murray Darling Association conduct public meetings bi-monthly, with a strong program of guest speakers on all aspects of the management of the River Murray, Lakes and Coorong.