High river flows over holiday period cause dismay

By Country News

Business and community leaders are furious about the high January river flows demanded by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

Late on Friday, December 20, the authority called for 40 billion litres to be pushed down the Goulburn River in the first half of January, obliterating sandbars for campers and impacting fishing.

The inter-valley transfer follows flows totalling 80 billion litres during November and December, leaving the lower banks of the river saturated and vulnerable to erosion.

Trelly’s Outdoor proprietor Stephen Threlfall said the double-whammy of destruction of the riverine environment and the region’s tourism was a disgrace.

The Shepparton businessman said it showed an arrogant neglect of the Goulburn Valley community.

City of Greater Shepparton councillor Dennis Patterson agreed.

“In years to come, people will read about this and say, ‘What? They did what? During a drought they sent vast amounts of water out to sea?’,” Cr Patterson said.

Both Mr Threlfall and Cr Patterson said the high and faster flows would deter fishers during the holidays.

They said the sudden injection of cold water would upset the fish and damage the survival prospects of small fish hatched during the closed Murray cod season.

Cr Patterson said the cold water appeared to slow the shrimp breeding process as well — a critical food source for the fish.

“And we don’t yet know the impact of the sudden temperature change on crustaceans and platypus, but it can’t be good,” he said.

Mr Threlfall said that once the “table talk” about the poor fishing and visitation prospects got around, the economic impact on his business and the town would be dramatic.

Cr Patterson likened the inter-valley transfers to “flushing wealth out of the country”, referring to recent investments by Canadian and New York superannuation funds in water and agriculture further down the basin.

“It might be nice that we’re spreading wealth around the world — but it’s not doing us any good here.”