PEOPLE dependent on water from the Yanco Creek system, including farmers and the towns of Conargo, Moulamein, Morundah, Wanganella and Jerilderie are standing against a Department of Industry proposal to place a regulator at the mouth of Yanco Creek.
Meetings called by DOI last week in the towns of Conargo and Jerilderie were attended by 120 and 350 people respectively, all seeking answers about the future of their water supplies.
Their concern is, with a regulator capable of drying the system out, there is no guarantee a future government will not dry it out, thereby destroying a rich ecosystem and denying the towns water.
Murrumbidgee Council Mayor Ruth McRae said people of the southern Riverina deserved a neutral impact on the environment, agricultural productivity and the socio-economic sustainability of the community and small businesses.
Ms McRae has deep concerns that project teams have been assembled and office space leased in a bid to guide the regulator’s approval through the required regulatory framework.
“Historically with the (Murray Darling) Basin Plan the amount of money invested to get a project begun is a lot. And generally once they start they’re not likely to pull back. Putting in a regulator means our communities can be affected by the whim of politicians,” she said.
“At this stage of the process I am choosing to believe we can have an influence.
“We have to believe the democratic process can work.”
Ms McRae said the communities she represents and those around them are extremely vulnerable and she felt it was government’s “responsibility to give our people the opportunity to lead productive lives”.
She said the Murrumbidgee community had already taken large hits in reduced water allocations and any more would start to unravel people’s quality of lives.
Jerilderee farmer Andrew Sleigh, whose family operates Sleigh Pastoral Co, said the Yanco, Colombo and Billabong Creeks were highly valued and protected by landholders. “They’re a very important part of our farming systems,” he said. Mr Sleigh said it was imperative to retain a adequate permanent flow from the Yanco Ck offtake right through to Moulamein.
“It’s about the health of the creek, wildlife, people and livestock and it should be enshrined in legislation,” he said. The drying of the creek in non-irrigation periods such as winter was unnatural, said Mr Sleigh, and would allow weeds and red gum suckers to take hold.
“I’m afraid a lot of people think this is a done deal,” he said, “and that’s very sad”.