On the trip home from our Listening Tour, two members of the Sydney Knitting Nannas and Friends stopped off in Mudgee to lunch with one of our old friends, Derek Finter, who has become involved with Healthy Rivers Dubbo. Derek spoke about the proposed weir at Gin Gin which has the potential to substantially reduce the flow of water into the Macquarie Marshes.
Having just visited the Marshes we were interested to learn more so invited Mel Gray from Dubbo to tell us about it on Zoom.
A ‘super’ weir (Mel calls it a dam because the walls are two storeys high) is proposed to be built to replace the old concrete weir which was built 112 years ago to divert the flow of the Wambuul (Macquarie River) at Gin Gin. The original 9 metre wall has crumbled and now stands at about 5 metres high. This is a big blockage for the passage of native fish.
The new ‘super’ weir is said to address this issue but Dr Martin Mallen-Cooper says it will have ‘a major negative impact on the river ecosystem, reducing biodiversity and reducing native fish populations’.
The proposed new 8.5 metre high gates will back up the river for 32 kilometres, drowning vegetation and the old red river gums which line the banks. At least one registered Aboriginal heritage site will be destroyed. Trangie Aboriginal Land Council oppose the project.
Native fish that enter the 32 kilometre reservoir behind the dam won’t survive easily as initially the water will be toxic from immersed and slowly rotting vegetation and for many years it won’t support the food they need. Any eggs fish lay won’t flow down to the fish nursery in the marshes but will be stopped at the dam wall and sink to the bottom of the reservoir to die.
Protesters have delayed the project. The timeline has been pushed out for the release of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) from July 2020 to March 2022. The aim of Healthy Rivers Dubbo is to stop the project before the EIS is released to the public for comment.
Even the NSW Government’s ‘Deputy Secretary of DPIE Water, Jim Bentley, said the project plans had significant deficiencies, and did not meet the requirements to demonstrate value for money and prudent use of public funds.’ More here.
One solution is to demolish the existing weir and let the river flow. However, cotton farmers relying on it for irrigation will demand to be compensated and the cost of paying them out would be great.
During the last drought the government shut the river at Gin Gin so no water flowed to Warren or the Macquarie Marshes. The Marshes are listed under the Ramsar Convention as a ‘Wetland of International Importance’ for its significance as a floodplain wetland in a semi-arid landscape. However, successive governments have allowed the Marshes to shrink from the outside in to a fraction of their former size, to the point where woodlands are permanently replacing marsh lands. Tragically, some migratory birds may even be driven to extinction in the near future due to greatly reduced flood events.
Trust in the Government’s ability to manage water is low as they prioritise water needs for the fast growing town of Dubbo, now in a marginal National Party seat, and for large irrigators, who donate to the National Party.
Government trust levels are low as water needs have been prioritised for the fast growing town of Dubbo, now in a marginal National Party seat, and to large irrigators, donors of the National Party who want more water. NSW water which is assessing the project has a conflict of interest as they also sell the water to irrigators.
To make matters worse, NSW Water, which is assessing the project, has a clear conflict of interest as they also sell the water to irrigators. After our recent visit to the Macquarie Marshes, Sydney Knitting Nannas and Friends aim to campaign against the Gin Gin Dam Project and bring it to the attention of the public.