Namoi River
Community comment on the objectives

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Overview

The Namoi catchment community discussion meeting was held at Gunnedah on 23 March 1998, and was attended by 130 people. Eighty-one written submissions were received from individuals, farmers and community and environmental groups. The proposed objectives were also discussed at a meeting on water reforms held for Aboriginal people at Moree.

Water quality and value of the resource

There was overall support for the goal of improving river health. People identified a range of uses and values for the Namoi River. Most indicated that the river needs to be a source of good-quality water for ecosystems and swimming, and for watering stock. Irrigation and domestic uses were also viewed as important. The river provides a source of financial security for the community, which comes from industry and other economic benefits that depend on the overall water system-including secure groundwater supplies to bores. Of equal importance to the community was sustaining the river's biodiversity, and the value of nature conservation.

Other important values listed were town water supply, visual amenity and boating. People noted their awareness of the river's significance to the visual and spiritual amenity of the community, including its importance to Aboriginal people.

Meetings and submissions commented that traditional Aboriginal values of the river were not being taken into account as specific objectives and should be properly recognised in river planning. The Kamilaroi people had specific issues, recommendations and knowledge to contribute. Common concerns included ill health from swimming in and drinking the water; the decline in flora and fauna and aquatic food sources; and the lack of respect for Aboriginal cultural values, needs and places. Aboriginal communities requested that they be involved in water management decisions (which relate to their traditional responsibilities in managing river health), and requested access to clean rivers for cultural activities.

All people wanted either to maintain or to improve current water quality.

Most people at the meetings and in their written submissions supported the highest water quality option (basic river health and advanced human uses). They mentioned their need, however, to understand more about related costs and for water quality decisions to be site-specific. There was also support for the less-stringent option of water quality adequate for basic river health and basic human uses, either as a preferred choice or as an alternative to the previous option-particularly as a short-term goal for waterways affected by more intense human use.

People who supported these options felt that they would benefit from better environmental health, increased biodiversity (in particular, more native fish), and an improved quality of life for the community as a whole. The perceived drawbacks to these options related to economic concerns, with people wanting to implement the necessary improvement to water quality at an affordable rate.

Issues of particular concern were:

Some people at the Gunnedah meeting commented on the lack of detailed information available on water quality, and that insufficient time at the meeting was a barrier to making an informed choice on water quality. Most people, however, could make a choice of the water uses and values they wanted protected in the future, based on what they already used and valued the river for in their local area.

Some submissions argued that the threat to water quality in this region was the public's perceived number one enemy of the river, the carp. The presence of carp in large numbers was seen to cause erosion of riverbanks, deplete beneficial river plants and compete aggressively with native fish. Others felt that the large numbers of carp are a symptom of already poor river health, with the carp then creating additional impacts on water quality and native fish.

River flows

Support for the river flow objectives covered all options, except for that of mimicking dry periods in temporary waterways. Most support was given to the objective of managing groundwater for the health of ecosystems. Objectives to minimise the effects of dams on water quality and protect pools in dry times were the next most favoured. The meeting also recorded support for maintaining wetland and floodplain inundation patterns. Interest was shown in minimising the effects of weirs and other structures (although a couple of submissions questioned the relevance of this objective to their area), protecting important rises in river levels, and protecting natural low flows.

It was generally agreed that water users needed to be more educated and to be regularly informed about water quality and flow trends, and their obligations in relation to the catchment.

Specific recommendations called for:

People asked that the NSW Government establish the different needs of the community, acknowledge these needs and ensure that they were considered fairly. It was felt that all decisions should be site-specific.

The objectives were seen as beneficial in sustaining the region's groundwater supply, which was considered essential to support farming, domestic and environmental needs. People asked questions about actions needed to achieve objectives, and were particularly concerned about ensuring equitable access to the resource by all users, and the consequent need for effective monitoring of water extractions.

Other benefits mentioned revolved around improved recreation, the eradication of carp, increased income to the area, and associated benefits for future generations.

Concerns were raised in relation to the cost of implementing the objectives, and how a reduction in the amount of water available for irrigation would be managed. It was felt that this could adversely affect farm production and cause economic hardship.

Major issues

The consultation process identified major issues that need action to achieve a healthy and viable river system (comment on some of these is included in Section 3, in the supporting information for the recommended objectives):

Existing programs

Some of the above issues already receive considerable attention and resources. For example, communities are undertaking important on-the-ground projects through the catchment management committee, Landcare and other programs. The NSW Government has established and is funding programs such as Blue-Green Algae Management, Floodplain Management Program, Wetlands Action and the Country Towns Water Supply and Sewerage Program. At the Commonwealth level, programs are being funded through the Murray-Darling Basin Commission, Landcare and the Natural Heritage Trust.

Existing water quality management programs for the catchment include:

Where plans and programs such as these are already underway, they need to be acknowledged and, as far as possible, incorporated in the river management plan.

This page was published 1 May 2006

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