Water Week

EWN Publishing

Cotton, citrus growers on Macquarie River claim new aerial photos prove marsh graziers using legal and illegal levee banks and channels to flood land with water

Posted by waterweek on 14 September 2007

Cotton and citrus growers on the Macquarie River upstream of the marshes claim new aerial photos prove marsh graziers are using legal and illegal levee banks and channels to flood their land with water that should be going into the Macquarie Marshes nature reserves, reported The Sydney Morning Herald (15/8/2007, p.10).

Graziers: it’s legal: Graziers insist most of the structures are legal and no water is being stolen because their land is part of the marshes. Irrigation development on the Macquarie River after the Burrendong Dam was built in the 1960s. Graziers say that until then, their land and the nature reserves were frequently flooded and boasted healthy wetlands. Upstream irrigators claim the marshes are dying because of overgrazing and graziers diverting water.

Govt in mass irrigation licence buy-back: The marshes, north of Warren, cover about 200,000 hectares, 12 per cent of them in nature reserves. The Government has started spending millions buying back irrigation licences so more water can get to the marshes. Chris Hogendyk, the head of the irrigator group Macquarie River Food and Fibre, said the Gum Cowal-Terrigal branch of the marshes received less than 10 per cent of flood flows before 1980 but now got up to 30 per cent of what previously went to the nature reserves.

Flooding kills trees: There were once no large bird breeding colonies on the system, he said, but now there were several. “The water should be going to the nature reserves, not onto private land. Once water enters the Gum Cowal-Terrigal system it is diverted and banked up across the floodplain by no less than 30 banks and channels. This water creates wonderful feed for fattening cattle, but kills the trees that are flooded. The resulting man-made wetlands are grazed bare.” Hogendyk said.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 15/8/2007, p. 10

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