Little has been done to address concerns from frustrated local farmers over the current water sharing plan.
A meeting was held last Wednesday between landholders along the lower Gingham and Gwydir watercourses, the New South Wales Office of Water and the New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage.
Farmers along both watercourses had experienced problems with constant flooding of their farmland due to the large volume of environmental water coming down the system.
The Moree Champion was not permitted to attend the meeting but local landowner John Greer told the Champion about 70 landholders and their staff attended the meeting, representing 100 per cent of the lower Gwydir and Gingham properties.
Mr Greer farms and grazes cattle on his property “Birrah”, on the lower Gwydir River. He has lost an estimated 400ha to water inundation on his property.
Mr Greer is also one of just two landholders on the Environmental Contingency Allowance Operations Advisory Committee (ECAOAC), which aims to provide advice on the management of environmental flows.
Mr Greer said the meeting commenced with an open forum for landholders to talk about their concerns.
“There were many different examples of people whose land had been affected by constant flooding,” he said.
Mr Greer said the main issues raised were the increased volume of environmental water coming into the system, the State Government’s purchase and re-vegetation of wetland properties, and the inflexibility of the water sharing plan.
He said the water plan implemented in 2004 had been formulated with 45,000ML of environmental water released, but since 2004 the environmental water had increased to 225,000ML.
The government has also purchased Old Dromana, Bunnor and Munwonga wetlands properties and re-vegetated them, which Mr Greer said caused the water to spread out into different channels due to the heavy vegetation.
“Now (farmers) are being expected to work with a plan made back in 2004 when so many of the goal posts have moved since then with increased environmental flow and the purchase of these properties,” he said.
“It’s just beyond me how we are expected to work under this plan with no flexibility when there’s been such big changes.”
Mr Greer raised the possibility of revising the water sharing plan now to deal with these changes.
The Office of Water refused, saying it was too close to the end of the water sharing plan’s term.
The plan is up for review in 2014.
“Two more years of (these water issues) could mean farmers miss two more crops. That’s enough to send some people broke,” Mr Greer said.
The farmers then asked if the environmental water could be held off for the remainder of the term until the plan could be revised.
Again the Office of Water representatives refused.
The Office of Water also refused to divert the three tributaries water which has flowed onto properties, after an assessment revealed it could cause problems for those down the Carole or Mehi if diverted now.
The soul hope of local farmers now rests with works such as channels and piping which could be built under the State Government’s Flood Plain Management funding.
The works would aim to contain the environmental water within the areas it was designated to.
Mr Greer said the Office of Water and the Office of Environment and Heritage were planning to formulate a proposal for the flood plain management plan to bring back to landholders present at the meeting.
“It has the potential to help the issue, but the crux of the issue is still the water sharing plan. And it worries me that if we sign off on these works it might just mean we get more of the same problems,” Mr Greer said.
The Moree Champion contacted the Office of Water and the Office of Environmental Heritage for comment however we did not receive a response by the time of print.