Region review sought

By Country News

An independent review of the Barmah-Millewa region is needed to determine the extent of river damage, according to Southern Riverina Irrigators.

The group is calling for state and federal governments to ensure that productive water is no longer allowed to flood the forest.

According to a Murray-Darling Basin Authority report, hundreds of gigalitres was lost in the past 12 months, partly due to the need for overbank transfers through Barmah-Millewa Forest.

SRI chairman Chris Brooks said the water was needlessly lost during the summer months and also caused environmental damage.

‘‘River operators know the limits; they know the capacity of the Barmah Choke is now under 8000Ml a day,’’ he said.

‘‘So why they would exceed this amount and have water flooding into forests is incomprehensible. And when it happens during a drought, it’s beyond belief.

‘‘My members — hard-working Australians who are trying to make a living — are struggling. Some have left their farms in utter frustration.

‘‘Yet this has been so unnecessary, caused by wasting our precious resource, and must never be allowed to happen again.’’

Mr Brooks called for newly appointed Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley to make an independent review into environmental damage caused by the high summer flows her ‘‘first priority’’.

‘‘Along the Murray River we are seeing erosion and riverbank slumping at what appear to be unprecedented levels. Parts of the riverbank that were once solid and stable are falling apart,’’ Mr Brooks said.

‘‘At the same time, highly-qualified river scientists are expressing concerns at the ideal breeding conditions we have developed for European carp. As their numbers explode, the environmental damage will worsen.

‘‘We are supposed to have a basin plan that is protecting the environment, but unfortunately that is not happening.’’