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Milang jetty « Previous | |Next »
August 1, 2008

I was down at the resort townships of Milang and Clayton on Lake Alexandrina yesterday taking photos of the receding water in the Lake as part of my River Murray series. The Lake is drying out is due to the lack of flow down the River Murray, and it is caused by the over allocation of water licences, the drought and global warming. So photography needs to do more than celebrate the natural beauty of the region.

Milang jetty, originally uploaded by poodly.

I missed Brendon Nelson, the embattled opposition Liberal leader who, along with Jamie Briggs, the Liberal candidate Jamie Briggs for the seat of Mayo recently vacated by Alexander Downer, was campaigning for the upcoming by election. The politicians were at Clayton listening to the angry locals concern about the effects of the drought on the Clayton and Milang region.

I missed a local exhibition entitled High and Dry at Sails at Clayton, a local restaurant in Clayton, that is part of the SALA Festival in SA.The exhibition consisted of artworks in various media on the theme of drought, and particularly its effect on the Clayton Bay and Milang area Unfortunately, none of the images are online.

Milang.jpg Gary Sauer-Thompson, Milang, Lake Alexandrina, South Australia, 2008

In the late 19th century Milang was a port where goods were unloaded onto bullock drays which made the slow journey across the Mount Lofty Ranges to Adelaide. The town was known as a ship building centre with a number of paddlesteamers being launched from its yards.The town's heyday was from the mid-1850s through to the 1880s.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:47 AM | | Comments (4)


I read that when Bendon Nelson visited lower lakes of the Murray River he boldly proclaimed that climate change had nothing whatsoever to do with the unprecedented state of the river. It was due to a harsh drought and El Nino, he said, without the slightest concession that bigger factors might be at play.

Is he trying to deny the reality of climate change, and its effect on southern Australia?

the drought has meant less water in the river.That is pretty clear. But 'drought' is used as explanation for no water by the NSW Irrigators Council---and the Nationals---to say that it is a public myth that the current environmental problems are being caused by farmers taking too much water in the Basin.

Hi Gary.
I don't deny climate change is a reality. But I strongly feel that Rudd/Wong et al are merely distancing themselves from this issue by crying 'climate change - climate change'
To anyone interested in this issue, I strongly recommend they read the following book by Terry Sim: "A Fresh History of the Lakes: Wellington to the Murray Mouth, 1800s to 1935"
Copies are available from the Natural Resources Centre in Strathalbyn or as a pdf download here:
- an interesting tid-bit I was reminded about from the book: - there used to be a structure built just off the end of the Milang Jetty. I remember as a child, seeing it's ruins there. I always thought it was something to do with pumping water from the end of the jetty. Nope. Turns out it was a 4" bore. That bore was dug at the end of the jetty for the (paddle) steamers to replenish their supplies of _fresh_ water as the salty water from the lake was rusting their boilers. The year - 1903.
Locals became aware of the problems created by irrigation and the ingression of sea water back in the late 1880's. It wasn't until 1933 we got the barrages. Now 'they' want a weir...
Just one observation I've made from the many trips I've made to the Lakes; and like you, I'm making a photographic record of these events. There are numerous fence remains that stretch out into the lake. Do we stop to consider why they were ever built?

Download pdf 4.1 MB

I do agree with you that Rudd, Wong and Rann have spun heavily on this issue to cover their inaction.

However Rudd, when in Adelaide last for the community cabinet meeting, did acknowledge that the core problem was the over allocation of water in the basin---finally speaking the truth that has been since since 1994 when a cap was placed on taking water out of the Murray Darling river system.

My position is that the drought has made the over-allocation far worse and that climate change means long term dryness. So what we are looking at now is probably the new normal. Hence the need to buy back the water licences.

My understanding of the ecological history of the Lakes/Corrong area is that it was an estuarine system that was a mixture of fresh water and sea water. The fresh water flows increasingly declined due to irrigation from the 1890s, and so the region became increasingly salty. I didn't realize that happened back at the beginning of the 20th century---I thought that it was much latter.

Thanks for the link. I'll read the book. I remember talking to Kerri Muller about the ecological history of the Corrong region several years ago when I was working in the Senate.