Murray River business owners worry flood warning could dry up summer trading


A flood advice message issued for shack areas along a corridor of the Murray River has left some regional business owners concerned for the peak summer trading season ahead.

Heavy rainfall in the northern part of the basin is flowing down to South Australia, creating a high river event in that part of the Murray.

The SA State Emergency Service (SES) has issued a flood advice message for the shack areas between Cadell and Mannum.

Authorities are forecasting high water levels to peak in two to three weeks.

About 550 people live in the Riverland town of Cadell, but that number swells when the summer holiday season starts.

Cadell General Store proprietor Deborah Bergen said her business relied on summer trade and she was worried about what floodwaters moving down from the north could mean for the town.

“The local camping area is quite low so we won’t have campers visiting [if river levels rise] and shacks close to the river could go under,” she said.

Low-lying shacks in Morgan flooded in 2011 and 2016 during high river events.(Supplied: Mark Dutton)

“Some people aren’t renting their houseboats out. We’re not getting water skiers because the flow is way too fast, and the currents mean fishermen don’t want to come up because the fish aren’t biting.

“It knocks out all of the tourism.”

‘Please still visit’

The advice came as the region’s peak tourism body, Destination Riverland, called out to tourists to continue to visit river communities as the weather warmed up.

General manager Pamela Canavan says it is important to remember the flood advice is just a warning at this stage and there is no immediate threat to river communities or visitors.

“Shack owners [and other operators] are being mindful of keeping an eye on the river levels in the coming months and have a bit of a plan in place should levels rise,” she said.

“It really depends on rainfall higher up and we may not reach those higher levels.”

Ms Canavan says a high river is a tourist attraction in itself and now is the perfect time to experience the region, alongside its other offerings like food, wine and natural experiences.

Three people in a canoe paddle
The Murray River is a tourist destination during the summer holidays.(Supplied: Victorian Murray Floodplain Restoration Project)

“It’s about keeping safe on the river, but it’s also a beautiful time to come and see something you can’t always see like an abundance of birds, fish and wildlife,” she said.

“Plan ahead if you are thinking of coming to the river, but please still visit.”

River shack rentals owner-manager David Hartley echoed those sentiments.

He said his conversations with the Mid Murray Council indicated businesses and authorities were prepared but not overly concerned about river levels and the current flood risk.

“They don’t think we’re going to be shutting too many shacks off, so hopefully it will still be a good summer season,” he said.

“People just need to make sure they’re careful on the river, use common sense and be safe.”

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