| Contents | Background
| Consultation | Objectives | WQOs | RFOs | Glossary | Bibliography | Map |
Five community discussion meetings were held in early 1998 in Bathurst, Mudgee, Warren and Dubbo, including a separate meeting in Dubbo with Aboriginal people in the Central West on the proposed environmental objectives. At a further meeting in Nyngan concerns were raised about the discussion paper options relating to Duck and Gunningbar creeks, and town water supplies. Subsequently, over 180 written submissions were received.
Many issues and solutions to local water quality and flow problems were put forward. Equity between upstream and downstream water users in terms of both quality and quantity was one of the key issues identified.
There were constructive comments and criticisms made about the consultation process and queries about the further process of objective setting.
Aboriginal people expressed various concerns about catchment and water management and their effects on cultural and spiritual values, such as a reduction in the quantity and safety of fish, mussels and other traditional foods. They requested opportunities to be actively involved in planning and restoration of rivers.
The consultation process confirmed that people wanted water quality suitable for a diverse range of water uses in the catchment. These included potable water supply, agricultural water supply, recreation, production of edible fish and shellfish, aquatic ecosystems, aquatic wildlife, recharging of groundwaters, scientific education, aesthetic values, bird-watching, and the simple enjoyment of a healthy river. Almost all people wanted to either maintain or improve current water quality.
Most submissions indicated that people want the best possible water quality, but that the costs of improving water quality to the desired levels may be too great in the short term. Many people requested assessment of the local costs and benefits of improved water quality. There is a need to continue to work towards achieving improvement in a cost-effective way.
Many benefits of the proposed water quality objectives were raised, including:
Some of these views differed between the upper and lower catchment.
Most submissions indicated a desire to achieve high water quality in the long term, including protecting water quality for aquatic ecosystems, swimming, fishing and homestead uses. It was recognised that these uses often were not possible owing to existing poor water quality. There was concern that many of these values were under threat.
Some people were sceptical about the approach of setting river flow objectives, although there was broad support in principle for the need to improve the understanding and management of flow. Each objective was rated as important by at least one discussion group at each meeting, but no objective was consistently supported by people in the community meetings. Some people proposed other objectives. Several submissions and comments at the Mudgee meeting raised concerns about high flows at unnatural times and erosion in the Cudgegong River. The Bathurst meeting discussed issues relating to the transfer of water from Oberon Dam to the Blue Mountains and local power stations. Other issues included silting of the Fish, Campbell and Macquarie rivers, and willows in streambeds.
Many different views were expressed, including submissions stating a desire to achieve the highest possible water quality standards over a timeframe that would not cause social and economic disruptions. Many submissions indicated that people were happy to keep things as they are. Some wanted to improve water quality only to the level of swimming and homestead use and only after detailed assessments of current water quality and a full cost-benefit analysis of available strategies.
A similar wide range of views was expressed about river flow objectives in the lower catchment. Some matters were of particular concern. Many people objected strongly to any option that would stop flow in Gunningbar and Duck creeks, even for one to two months in the autumn to mimic natural drying. More than half the submissions raised this concern, so the NSW Government has decided to exclude this objective from consideration for these creeks. It was also noted that Gunningbar Creek has deteriorated rapidly since regulation owing to the use of pumps that are too big for the creek. This has caused bank erosion and, together with the reduction of high flows caused by Burrendong Dam, has contributed to the silting up of natural pools. Many submissions from the Gunningbar-Bogan area requested more high flows.
Concerns were commonly raised that irrigators already affected by the 1996 Macquarie Marshes water plan should not lose more water, or that the 1996 plan should not be replaced without review.
Concerns were also expressed that outflows from Burrendong Dam are too cold to allow fish to breed. Blue-green algae is a common concern and is sometimes associated with still or slow water.
The process of developing the objectives has brought out the following major issues that need action in subsequent river management planning:
River management committees should consider these issues to determine priority actions when developing their river management plans.
Some of the above issues are already receiving considerable attention and resources. For example, communities are undertaking important on-the-ground projects through Landcare and other programs. The NSW Government has already put in place and funded many programs, including Salt Action, Blue-Green Algae Management, Carp Assessment and Reduction Program, Floodplain Management Program, Wetlands Action and the Country Towns Water Supply and Sewerage Program. At the Commonwealth level, funding is in place for programs through the Murray-Darling Basin Commission, the Landcare Program and the Natural Heritage Trust.
This page was published 1 May 2006