Landcare group removes over two tonnes of plastic from the Murray Mouth

Protecting our Mouth: Hindmarsh Island Landcare Group coordinator, Richard Owen, pictured with a variety of waste items collected from the Murray Mouth, on display at Alexandrina Council's Goolwa offices.

Protecting our Mouth: Hindmarsh Island Landcare Group coordinator, Richard Owen, pictured with a variety of waste items collected from the Murray Mouth, on display at Alexandrina Council's Goolwa offices.

Almost three tonnes of rubbish has been removed from the Murray Mouth and replaced with 2500 new native plants, thanks the hard work of the Hindmarsh Island Landcare Group (HILG).

A core group of 25 volunteers have spent over 200 hours carefully removing a variety of rubbish, planting 27 species of native plants and surveying visitors to the region.

The project, 'Really Caring for the Murray Mouth ICON Site' was made possible through $15,000 of grant funding provided by Landcare Australia and the Coca-Cola Foundation.

The HILG was one of only six organisations nationally to receive funding from Coca-Cola and HILG coordinator Richard Owen said it has allowed the group to make a real difference.

"Without this funding, we wouldn't have been able to do this work and it's given us the chance to develop a diverse project that we hope will enable us to encourage action on the part of the authorities including the Alexandrina Council and State Government, so we can improve this tourism icon," said Mr Owen.

The focus of the project has been on taking care of the Murray Mouth around the lookout and Sugars Beach area and will continue until mid-December 2019.

It has also aimed to discover what draws tourists to the area and what can be done to improve their experience, whilst minimising their impact on the landscape.

So far, the group has removed over 2.6 tonnes of plastic plant guards and canes from the Mouth, eliminating the potential of plastic waste ending up in the ocean or on the roadside.

A significant amount of throwaway items and everyday rubbish has also been removed

"The variety of rubbish we collected from the roadside was quite amazing, all kinds of things from tyres to chairs to television aerials, to the normal things like glass, plastics and cans," said Mr Owen.

This is symptomatic of a larger problem facing the Mouth - a lack of facilities.

The closest public toilet is almost three kilometers from the Murray Mouth Lookout and there are no rubbish bins servicing the site.

Mr Owen said these were essential improvements that needed to be prioritised and this is a view that has been supported by HILG's surveys of visiting tourists.

"We wanted to know why people came to the lookout and in the survey work that we did with visitors to the Murray Mouth, we were not surprised to find out that they came from all over Australia," said Mr Owen.

"Many were amazed that there were no toilet facilities here and saw that as a very serious priority.

"People also look for rubbish bins to place their litter in at the lookout but there are none there, it just seems that very basic infrastructure is being overlooked."

A spokesperson from Alexandrina Council said they recognised the "outstanding contribution of Hindmarsh Island Landcare" and note their identification of the need for provision of toilet and bin facilities at the Murray Mouth.

"Alexandrina Council has requested FRWA to install a new public litter bin in the cul-de-sac turn around area near the access point to the Murray Mouth Lookout," said the spokesperson.

"Alexandrina Council has under development the Sugars Beach-Murray Mouth Icon Project which includes a $3.5 million concept plan to provide facilities at this unique location including public toilets, boardwalks and viewing platforms, a shelter and information hub with a strong Ngarrindjeri theme as well as extended parking facilities for buses and cars.

"Alexandrina Council is in close liaison with Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority on the concepts and is advocating for substantial funding support from Federal and State Governments."

In the meantime, the HILG will continue their work in the area and are next aiming to clean up Sir Richard Peninsula which is an area where there are even less facilities.

"People often don't take rubbish with them, sometimes they bury it at the Mouth because they think they are doing the right thing, but the area is very volatile and windy and litter spreads easily," said Mr Owen.

"We can do a lot better at protecting the environment and we would like to see rapid action taken to improve what's here."

As part of an awareness campaign, the HILG has set up a display at Alexandrina Council's offices in Goolwa, with a large variety of rubbish collected from the Mouth on show to the public.

Working alongside FRWA, a display has been constructed identifying how each individual piece of rubbish can be recycled or disposed of.

As well as upgrades to facilities, Mr Owen hopes tourism information at the Mouth can be improved as what is available currently is "way out of date."

"Tourists don't realise that a lot of the information at the Mouth is out of date," he said.

"The sand pumping has been going non-stop since about 2002, but the detail that's on the information at the Mouth is all out of date.

"A majority of people didn't make a connection between what they saw happening at the Mouth and the river itself.

"They could see that the Mouth needed to be kept open so the sea could come in and out... but they didn't connect that with the fact that there was no water coming up and down the river to keep the Mouth open naturally.

"Under the Murray Basin Plan, the Mouth is supposed to be open 90 percent of the time naturally, but we have dredges there 24/7."