Mulwala resident Helen Purtle – with plenty of local backing – wants the land at the mouth of the Mulwala Canal heritage listed and remain as open space for the enjoyment of local residents and visitors.ROBERT MUIR July 8, 2014 3:49pm
“This land is a sacred historical site and should be for the people of New South Wales to observe and use,” she told The Yarrawonga Chronicle. “We must protect this environment.
The land is owned by Murray Irrigation Limited (MIL) a not for profit company made up of shareholders who are irrigators.
MIL acquired the land from the NSW Government in 1995, at no cost, and residents are now concerned they are seeking to sell it for commercial gain.
“Mulwala Progress Association and townspeople believe the land should be handed back to the people of NSW or at least left undeveloped, allowing community organisations such as Mulwala Progress Association, Rotary and Lions to beautify and make available to the public,” Mrs Purtle.
“In Mulwala, there is limited and diminishing foreshore access to Lake Mulwala.”
Mrs Purtle, who has lived in Mulwala all of her 64 years, was a regular recreational user of the land for years in her younger days with her friends. She wants to see that enjoyment flow on for generations to come.
She described the site as “the gateway to the town and an ideal point for the public and tourists to be able to see and access the lake for passive recreation”.
“We must maintain such open spaces, where young and new Australians can recognise the efforts and sacrifices our early pioneers created and endured,” Mrs Purtle said.
”The environment needs to be protected for the trees and wildlife such as fish, platypus and numerous bird species.
“Also the land has the magnificent presence of gums planted 80 years ago by our forefathers.”
The subject land is on the south and north sides of the mouth of the Mulwala Canal, the bridge that crosses the canal with the gates that control the height also a Cairn monument that commemorates the turning of the first sod on April 6, 1935.
A total of 3,000 people attended the first sod turning ceremony by NSW Premier The Hon. B.S.B.Stevens, MLA.
The land is further described by Mrs Purtle as “a marvellous open space in its natural state.”
“Next year will be 80 years since the turning of the first sod, therefore it would be appropriate and nice to have a celebration of this land.
“Mulwala Public School are this year planning to make it as part of their curriculum and project for 2014.”
Heritage listing/no subdivision
Mrs Purtle has submitted, on behalf of Mulwala Progress Association, an application to the Department of Environment and Heritage for the land to be heritage listed and does not want to see any plans for the possible sale and subdivision of the land by Murray Irrigation Limited (MIL).
Mulwala Progress Association also has plenty of support, in the way of a petition with over 500 signatures and letters of support from community organisations, to protest against any move to sell off the land.
In December 2013, MIL confirmed commercial options for the land were being considered because it is “surplus” to the needs of the organisation.
Corowa Shire Council has not received a development application, as yet, in respect of the subject land according to its Director Environmental and Planning Services, Bob Parr.
Maintenance work is currently being undertaken on both sides of the canal is “normal, routine asset maintenance work” according to MIL General Manager Anthony Couroupis.
Regarding the land’s future use, he re-iterated, “Consistent with what I said last year, we are considering our commercial options regarding surplus land.”
Mr Couroupis remained steadfast and would not give any indication as to timing of a decision on the land’s future or what it might involve.
Mrs Purtle said the land “is the entrance or the mouth of the Mulwala Canal, a NSW landmark that marks the beginning of the longest irrigational canal in the Southern Hemisphere”.
“It is not only significant to NSW but the history of Australia. After long years of drought and years of discussion, as part of the overall building of the Yarrawonga Weir, and damming of the Murray River (forming Lake Mulwala), the development of the Mulwala Canal commenced in 1935.
“This massive project employed up to 1000 people at the end of The Depression and was one of the largest engineering projects undertaken in Australia of its time.
”My husband’s (Robert Purtle) parents and grandparents came here in the 1930s to work on the construction project.”
Water diverts from Lake Mulwala to run through the Mulwala Canal, to Deniliquin to supply southern NSW with water for one of the biggest food growing areas of Australia.
The Mulwala Canal opened up the Southern Riverina Region for agriculture and settlement. Today it remains economically important for the supply of vital water to over 2400 properties totalling 740,00 hectares of farmland of the Riverina. Residents of Berrigan, Finley, Bunnaloo and Wakool rely on this irrigation system for their town water.
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