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A community discussion meeting for the Castlereagh catchment area was held at Gilgandra on 25 February 1998, and was attended by more than 40 people. Formal written submissions were also received, some from people declaring a long-standing attachment to the catchment. The issues raised and comments made will be considered by the local river management committee when developing management plans.
The community identified a diverse range of uses for the river, with most consideration given to the river's economic value in terms of irrigation and stock water. People thought that the river's value for recreation was also important, as were town and homestead uses. There was some discussion about the sustainability of groundwater use, and about management, at times of little or no flow, of spearpoints (small bores) sunk into the river sand to extract water.
Considerable concern was voiced at the meeting about the cost of implementing the objectives, and who would be responsible for this. Some also felt that an increase in controls and regulations could become a burden.
While members of the community were almost unanimous in expressing preference for water quality at a level that would ensure basic river health and advanced human uses, they considered that a more realistic target in the short term would be to aim at water quality that would support basic river health and basic human uses. Support for maintaining the status quo was expressed by one community member. The benefits of working towards higher quality water were seen as being associated with less pollution, better recreation, tourism, and general community well-being.
Many people perceived the worst water quality problem to be toxic chemicals from upstream farms. One submission asserted that water-borne herbicides were affecting downstream river users, river plants and pasture productivity, and destroying wetland areas along creeks in the western part of the catchment.
It was acknowledged that clearing of native riparian vegetation was resulting in widespread instability and erosion of the riverbanks. Many people also cited the presence of weeds (particularly willows) along streams as a problem that needed to be resolved. It was suggested that revegetation with native plants would help.
Abundant carp were also seen as problem.
Significant river-flow problems in the catchment included the accumulation of silt and sand in the river, decreased flows at times of low flow and drought, and the resulting reduction of water holes. Some said too much water was being extracted, especially during low-flow periods. People felt that equitable sharing of the water allowed to be extracted was a necessary next step.
Remedies suggested included:
The Gilgandra meeting recorded most support for river flow objectives that would protect pools in dry times, protect natural low flows, and protect important rises in water level. Concerns were expressed about cost and the need to ensure that natural differences between wet and dry seasons were recognised.
Other river flow objectives supported by more than one group at the meeting were managing groundwater to support ecosystems (with some but not excessive limits on the use of bore water), and minimising the effects of weirs and other structures. Some people requested that no more weirs be built. Some wanted a return to more natural flows, but recognised that farm dams, pasture and cropping had changed runoff patterns.
Costs and increased regulation were identified as possible negative consequences of implementing the flow objectives. A number of people mentioned that they would prefer these issues to be further discussed within the community before specific actions were decided.
The process of drafting the objectives and receiving comments from the community identified numerous major issues that need progressive action to achieve healthy and viable river and wetland systems. Proposals for action on these issues (not listed in any priority order) can be summarised as follows:
Significant effort and progress has already been made by groups involved in Castlereagh River catchment management initiatives. Communities, through the catchment management committee, Landcare and other programs, are undertaking important on-the-ground projects and making significant progress. The NSW Government has already established and is funding programs such as Waterwise on farms, Blue-Green Algae Management, Floodplain Management Program, Wetlands Action, the Country Towns Water Supply and Sewerage Scheme, the Carp Assessment and Reduction Program and the Urban Stormwater Management Program. At the Commonwealth level, programs are being funded through the Murray-Darling Basin Commission, Landcare and the Natural Heritage Trust.
The Central West Catchment Management Committee has developed broad management strategies; Regional Assessment Panels are directing Natural Heritage Trust investments to priority issues and sites; and Landcare groups and individuals are tackling local issues.
Where management plans and programs such as these are already underway in the catchment, they should be acknowledged and, where possible, incorporated into the river management plan.
This page was published 1 May 2006