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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Farmer complains of Environmental flow damage

Hobby farmer and irrigator Gerard Ryan is demanding recompense to relocate a pump that has been submerged by recent environmental waterings in the Goulburn River, but says he regrets having to look to Goulburn-Murray Water for the money.

CATHY WALKER February 4, 2014 4:02am

Gerard Ryan is concerned about the effects of recent environmental watering.


Hobby farmer and irrigator Gerard Ryan is demanding recompense to relocate a pump that has been submerged by recent environmental waterings in the Goulburn River, but says he regrets having to look to Goulburn-Murray Water for the money.

Mr Ryan has 10ha with river frontage at Murchison on a quiet bend he says was once beautiful but is now ‘‘a mess’’ after environmental watering took the river higher than he or older locals had ever seen it.

‘‘I understand G-MW is the operator of the system but I don’t blame them, I blame the CMA (Catchment Management Authority) and the greenies,’’ he said

Mr Ryan is a retired G-MW employee who was a water system planner, collating water orders to be released from Eildon.

He talks with passion about the riverbank property he chose eventually to retire to when it was purchased in 1987, making points with his sticks that are now with him permanently, the legacy of polio.

‘‘This tree here,’’ he points, ‘‘was on the bank before the watering; now as you see it’s collapsed over my pipe.’’

The pump has a simple operating system — a power take off on the back of a tractor — but the deterioration of the bank means it’s no longer safe to take the tractor he paid $30000 for last year so close to the precarious bank.

‘‘Next year I won’t even have a pump site,’’ said Mr Ryan, who has been quoted $2500 to have it moved a few metres higher up the bank.

While he has irrigated some pasture for his Angus cattle, his planned lucerne planting didn’t happen because the pump was submerged at the time.

He refutes any suggestion that the waterings are simply returning the river to more like its pre-drought status.

‘‘That’s absolute rubbish ... in ’89 it was like a beautiful park. Fifteen years of drought didn’t do this river any damage.’’

Mr Ryan said two years ago he spoke to G-MW’s Mark Bailey about environmental water flooding over the pump. Dr Bailey told him it was up to diverters to gain access to the water.

But Mr Ryan said when the pump was put in (1989) the director of diversion inspections, Rob Fisher, said it would ‘‘never go under’’.

‘‘For 22 years he was right,’’ Mr Ryan said.

G-MW’s catchment services general manager Graeme Hannan said last week diversion customers had licences to take and use water from waterways or from groundwater, as well as works licences for their pumping infrastructure.

‘‘The licences do not stipulate or guarantee the surface level of the water in rivers or streams at the pump locations, and it is the licence holder’s responsibility to allow for the variations in height at their pump sites in a fluctuating river environment,’’ Mr Hannan said.

He said advice was available about river flows in the regulated rivers to assist diverters’ understanding of river conditions.

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