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Mokoan irrigators welcome McGauran support

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Irrigators dependent on Lake Mokoan have welcomed the strong support of the Federal Minister for Agriculture, Peter McGauran, for the maintenance of current level of security of supply of water in the event that Lake Mokoan is decommissioned.

Mr McGauran met with a delegation of irrigators during his visit to Shepparton last week and heard irrigators’ grave concerns about the future of the Broken River Irrigation System if the Victorian Government goes ahead with the decommissioning of Lake Mokoan.

Bill Sykes, National Member for Benalla and fierce advocate of retaining the current security of supply of water to irrigators, organised the meeting with Mr McGauran by a delegation led by Wayne Spinks, an irrigation farmer from Goorambat.

Mr Spinks said, “Mr McGauran was very supportive of our call for an independent assessment of the current security of supply of water. He well understood the impact of a drop in the level of water security from 97% to 91% (which the Bracks Government is offering) on high value agricultural production.

Mr Spinks said that he was very pleased with Mr McGauran’s re-affirmation that any Federal Government support of the decommissioning of Lake Mokoan was conditional on the Victorian Government honouring it’s commitments to maintain security of supply to irrigators and not to impose a level of charges which is above that which would otherwise apply, and compliance with statutory requirements such as under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The Australian Government will be considering these conditions during the Investment Plan process.

Irrigators are pleased that given there was a debate about what is the current level of security of supply of water Mr McGauran supported the commonsense solution of having the matter resolved by an independent assessor.

Mr Spinks concluded, “All we want is justice for the Broken Valley. We need to retain current security of supply of water to continue our move into high value agricultural production. We are very pleased that the Federal Government through Mr McGauran is going to stand by us in our fight for justice.”

Bill Sykes, Nationals Member for Benalla, has cautiously welcomed recommendations to use grazing as part of the weed management strategy for the proposed Mokoan wetlands but in doing so he has raised a series of concerns regarding the practicality and cost of the proposal.

The latest consultant’s report on rehabilitating Mokoan wetlands (in the event that the lake is decommissioned) recognised weeds, in particular phalaris, to be a major problem.

Dr Sykes said, “Weed control whilst revegetating up to 6,000 hectares is a formidable challenge.

“I and many other landholders know how hard it is to control weeds when revegetating creek frontages and creating wildlife corridors.

“It is especially challenging in the first few years when young trees, shrubs and grasses are particularly susceptible to competition from phalaris and other weeds but the use of stock to graze is generally not appropriate because of the damage caused by livestock to the desirable species being encouraged.

“Then when the vegetation is a few years old the DSE/DPI recommends ‘crash’ grazing rehabilitated areas with large numbers of stock for just a few days.

“You are talking about stocking densities of hundreds of dry sheep equivalents per hectare, having large mobs and relative small areas to graze on a rotational basis.

“For grazing to be effective to manage phalaris it needs to be done in a brief window of opportunity of about 30 days in late spring. Cattle are more effective because they are less selective grazers but unfortunately cattle also do more damage to desirable species – especially if they are feeling frisky they can demolish a tree/shrub in minutes.”

Dr Sykes continued, “I reckon that at least 100,000 sheep or 10,000 cattle would be required and the 6,000 hectares would have to be subdivided into ‘paddocks’ of less than 100 hectares with good quality stock water also being made available to each ‘paddock’.

“Such large numbers of stock will not be easy to access for such a short period and issues such as the introduction of more weeds via grazing animals may be a risk.

“And of course the cost of over a hundred kilometres of extra fencing and multiple stock troughs will be significant.”

Dr Sykes concluded, “There are clearly a number of practical and economic issues to be resolved prior to finalising any plans to use grazing as a weed control option in the proposed Mokoan wetlands.

“But there is also a major philosophical issue of using livestock for weed control for the Bracks Government who has kicked the mountain cattlemen off the high country and are now hell bent on kicking cattlemen out of the Barmah Forest.

“One thing is for sure – the proposed wetlands have a high risk of simply becoming a weed infested jungle if the Bracks Government manages it as it manages so much of Victoria’s seven million hectares of National Parkes and State Forests.


Written by Greg Naylor

7 August 2006 at 8:33 pm

Posted in media release

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