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Tourism offers an ‘essential’ economic lifeline for parched NSW inland

While environmental activists have been critical of the allocation of high-security water to support the golf course, its operators point to the severe cutbacks in water use as flows in the nearby Macquarie River threaten to run out next year in the absence of relieving rains.

Annual water use will drop from 330 megalitres to 70ML in the 2019-20 financial year, said Laken Carrett, the club’s operations manager. The donation of 30ML from a nearby miner “gets us to March next year”, she said.

Other water savings “are keeping our greens live – everything else will go”, Ms Carrett said.

An aerial view of the 27-hole Dubbo Golf Club, which is hoping its water reserves will keep it greens alive long enough to hose the 2020 Women's NSW Open next March.

An aerial view of the 27-hole Dubbo Golf Club, which is hoping its water reserves will keep it greens alive long enough to hose the 2020 Women’s NSW Open next March. Credit:Wolter Peeters

Further downstream on the Macquarie River another potentially large tourism opportunity awaits in the Macquarie Marshes, an internationally recognised wetland that is listed for protection under the Ramsar Convention.

Bill Phillips, a former deputy secretary of that convention and now head of the RiverSmart group, secured $3.4 million in state funding to build a boardwalk and other tourist facilities to lure visitors to the Marshes.

Bill Philips, director of a project to promote tourism into the Macquarie Marshes, sees huge opportunities for tourism in the region.

Bill Philips, director of a project to promote tourism into the Macquarie Marshes, sees huge opportunities for tourism in the region.Credit:Wolter Peeters

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Mr Phillips recalls a frosty response when he raised tourism during a meeting with Warren shire’s general manager a decade ago. “He said, ‘stop – don’t use that word in my office. This town was built on agriculture and always will be.'”

Glenn Wilcox, the shire’s current general manager, says locals “are starting to see the light” on tourism. “There’s never been any promotion.”

One impediment is that only about 10 per cent of the 200,000-hectare Macquarie Marshes are on public land, and even that is on area is protected as so-called nature reserves with limited access.

Public signage to those reserves is all but non-existent, with an open day held just once a year in October.

Even without recent flows, the Marshes offer visitors a stark if harsh view of outback Australia.

An aerial view of the southern nature reserve in the Macquarie Marshes.

An aerial view of the southern nature reserve in the Macquarie Marshes.Credit:Wolter Peeters

Matt Kean, the Energy and Environment Minister, said care had to be taken in developing the Marshes for tourism.

“The Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve is internationally recognised for its wetlands,” he said. It is  an important breeding site for nesting waterbirds in Australia including threatened species such as the Magpie Goose, Brolga, Australasian Bittern and Freckled Duck.

“Seeing these wetlands and encouraging people to be champions of our environment is important but this needs to be balanced with protecting the significant biodiversity value of the area,” Mr Kean said. “That’s why visitor opportunities are limited throughout the year.”

For those wanting a less searing experience, there are also attractions like the newly born White Rhino calf at the Western Plains Zoo.

“It seems like she’s super friendly,” one keeper said. “They are just like big puppy dogs.”

'Like big puppy dogs': Taronga Western Plains Zoo has another star attraction with the recent birth of another White Rhino calf.

‘Like big puppy dogs’: Taronga Western Plains Zoo has another star attraction with the recent birth of another White Rhino calf.Credit:Wolter Peeters

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