Environmental flows blamed for land lost

FOUR MONTHS after the spring floods, some Riverina farmers says their problems are far from over. 

Bad seeds: Old Man Creek farmers David Goldman, Pip Goldman and Judy Bailey say environmental flows are to blame for the loss of their good grazing land - choked by a weed.

Bad seeds: Old Man Creek farmers David Goldman, Pip Goldman and Judy Bailey say environmental flows are to blame for the loss of their good grazing land - choked by a weed.

Old Man Creek farmer John Peterson said the river-overflow that kept his ankles wet for months contained the seeds of a noxious weed that polluted his land. 

“We were in dire straits in the creek country with 1000 acres underwater for eight weeks,” Mr Goldman said. 

“It had an unreal effect on farming land.”

He said government-approved environmental flows contained Lippia – a weed used to seal the river banks and targeted to areas of irrigation.

Mr Goldman said Burrinjuck Dam contained more than 60 per cent environmental water, which spilled during the floods and spread across hundreds of acres as the river rose.

“It wasn’t a designated environmental flow,” he said. “But you can’t separate the water.”

He said for years his family’s farm had survived the negative impacts of mother nature but he had never experienced anything like this.

Mr Goldman said his family had lost more than two-thirds of grazing land and had been left with a mere 60 acres to feed their diminishing stock numbers. 

“The last lot of flooding had a devastating effect because conditions were most suitable for the weed to bloom and expand,” he said.

“Some farmers who didn’t have it before have it now.”

Mr Goldman said the CSIRO condemned the weed in 2003 and estimated the cost of environmental damage to be close to $2 billion per year across Australia. 

“Imagine what it would be like now,” he said. “It’s only getting worse.”

Although they have sprayed some areas of the infected ground, My Goldman said they would never be rid of it. 

“Our neighbour had a magnificent crop,” he said. “He’s looking at a loss of $200,000 in flood damage – minimum.”

Livestock and crop farmer Brad Jenkins said the problems weren’t isolated, with many along the river impacted by the environmental flows that kept the river high for longer periods of time.

“It’s flood country, we realise that,” Mr Jenkins said. “But when they do these environmental flows, the water sits there for seven weeks.”