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Murray River businesses depend on river healt -

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TONY EASTLEY: The early morning sounds on the Murray River at Mannum, the home of the river boats.

We're onboard the 30 metre steel motor vessel, Proud Mary.

In its heyday the Murray had 250 registered paddle steamers and 500 registered barges, all working the waters from here at Mannum right up to the upper reaches of the Darling, the Murrumbidgee and the Lachlan. It's claimed to have been busier than the Mississippi.

That was then. Nowadays business depends on the health of the river.

I caught up with Proud Mary's skipper, Dave Farren.

The river today, albeit it it's a bit windblown, but it's very full. It looks very healthy. Is everyone happy with the way the river is managed?

DAVE FARREN: Well, I better not get into that, the way it's managed because of things. But really at the moment looking at the river, and I've been on the boat now 25 years, this is the best the river has looked over 15 years.

TONY EASTLEY: And why is that?

DAVE FARREN: Because it's had all of these storm waters, the rains, the flushings, the run-offs. And if you look at the river as the kidneys to any land area, it takes all of the contaminants from the land, flushes it all through down into the ocean, the ocean treats it and gives it back to us as fresh water.

TONY EASTLEY: Do you think the rest of Australia actually realises how important this area is?

DAVE FARREN: Only those that directly work within the river system realise the significance and the importance. And that's not even, at this stage, touching the major importance of the ecology of the river.

TONY EASTLEY: If you had a message to the next federal government, whatever that government may be, what would be that message?

DAVE FARREN: Put a one body, government body in charge of the whole system instead of four states that will then take into consideration all aspects of domestic usage, irrigation, farming, production, recreation, the whole thing - one governing body.

TONY EASTLEY: Proud Mary skipper Dave Farren.

Also on the river here at Mannum is Chris who rents canoes to tourists. He says the Murray is in pretty good shape but politicians of all stripes need to keep its health as a priority.

CHRIS: The river is a little bit murky but that's only mud and as the summer comes that should subside a bit and become clearer, although it will always be a milky look.

Wildlife is great. I mean several years ago we had the drought but it's come back very, very nicely. And we got water coming down from over the border so that should top it up again.

All we want is the politicians to be aware that it's got to be looked after. So that's one of my biggest issues.