The South Australian River Murray communities are breathing a sigh of relief as the government eases restrictions imposed on the river during the height of the recent floods.
The river had been divided into eight zones and banned from recreational use, including motorized vessels, human-powered vessels, and activities such as swimming, according to a report by ABC News.
However, police have now relaxed the rules, allowing most boats, swimmers, and fishers back on the water above the Wellington ferry crossing, with speed limits and safety restrictions still in place.
Houseboat operators upstream of the Wellington ferry are especially grateful for the change, as they were further restricted under the initial ban. Despite being grounded by the unpredictable floodwaters, Jodie Reynolds, a Morgan houseboat operator, still runs multiple businesses from her home and office but is unable to access either by road.
Although she appreciates the change in rules, Reynolds is concerned about increased river traffic and people running into debris in the water.
Paringa houseboat operator Kim Seymour is also excited to reopen her family business, but she says there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“We will check out any moved sandbars and the state of the banks. We’re making sure they’re dry enough for people to actually enjoy their stay,” said Seymour.
Riverland canoe tour guide, Kym Werner, was able to operate throughout the flood event as a commercial operator, but he found the strict rules impacted his business. “I think the restrictions should have been never put in place,” said Werner.
The recommendation of keeping off the river and keeping away from the edges of the river was good, but [being able to] go out on the floodplains was just incredible. We had 45 people over three tours on Sunday around the caravan park in Loxton. People were just longing to get out onto the water.”
The reopening of the River Murray is a positive step for the South Australian communities, providing opportunities for recreation and business once again.
While concerns about increased river traffic and potential dangers remain, the houseboat operators and canoe tour guide are hopeful that people will be sensible and follow the speed limits and rules for everyone’s safety.