Proposed Tasmanian irrigation developments – update for anglers

A favourite dry fly stream

A favourite dry fly stream

Back on July 7th I posted a blog entry outlining a number of concerns about the various proposed Tasmanian irrigation schemes, and the effects that some of these schemes could have on Tasmania’s $60M recreational fishing industry. To date, none of the concerns have been put to bed.

One of the glaring initial concerns from my first post was a lack of transparency in regards to the processes involved in considering schemes such as the South Esk or Arthurs Lake schemes. The Tasmanian Irrigation Development Board (TIDB) website was intended to be the point of reference for the general public seeking information on the proposals, but this was pulled off-line more than six months ago. You can still call the TIDB, but as stated previously, how can you ask them an informed question without having the background knowledge? Despite personal assertations from the TIDB (in early July) that a new website would be up and running asap, the TIDB website is still offline. In the meantime, the proposed irrigations schemes are moving forwards, and anglers are being left in the dark.

Anglers Alliance Tasmania (AAT) are doing their best at representing anglers on the issue. This representation is being made via a board, with a representative from IFS (Inland Fisheries Service) going in to bat for anglers. It is great that through AAT and the IFS, our $60M industry has a voice, and I congratulate them. But ultimately IFS employees have to answer to the same Minister as responsible for the proposals themselves; surely this puts our voice between a rock and a hard place? Further compounding the problem for anglers in general has been the continuing lack of communication between the stakeholder group AAT, and its stakeholders (the angling public). The single exception to this has been a press-release in regards to Crescent and Sorrell water levels. I do believe that AAT and the IFS angler representative are making good progress, but please, can you keep us informed?

More than a fortnight ago (using the contact email given to the general public), I E-mailed the TIDB for an update on any changes or progress being made in relation to the South Esk scheme, a scheme being considered for the St Patricks, and any other details that I might find useful since my first and only other contact in early July. To date, no response has been received. Again, the process is certainly proving to be more opaque than transparent.

I am not the only one raising concerns about these proposed schemes. Earlier in the year, the Hobart  Mercury newspaper raised concerns in regards to subsidies, equity and fairness in the manner in which the irrigation schemes are being offered.

Ultimately, I am not against irrigation schemes as a whole. I do believe that many of the schemes relient on off-stream storages of winter flows will be beneficial for everybody. I do however think that on-stream dams such as those being mooted for tributaries of the South Esk (the St Pauls and/or Ben Lomond Rivulet) could spell disaster for the streams themselves, and the South Esk that they flow into. Likewise, a dam on the headwaters of the St Patricks river as alluded to more than a year ago by the government would spell the end to one of Tasmania’s top river fisheries, not to mention the rare giant crayfish that anglers have found in the area.

In closing, I would like to highlight that both the TIDB and the Minister have been on the public record as stating that for any proposal to go ahead, it must have a social licence from the people of Tasmania. Well I’m here to say that tens-of-thousands of Tasmanian anglers certainly haven’t been given the opportunity or information to ‘licence’ these proposals on their merits, one way or the other.

 

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2 comments

  • Pterosaur September 21, 2009  

    When working on catchment management a few years ago (1999 – 2000 ?) I did a short review of the upper St. Patrick’s proposal – several endangered species present, both plant and animal – the scheme appeared to be essentially an “ambit” claim and was being proposed by a company based in Scottsdale which specialises in the sale of irrigation equipment.

    I am not sure of what the proposed destination for the water from the proposed scheme is, but assume it may be for irrigating pasture (for dairies) and perhaps vegie growing in the Scottsdale area, given that all the streams around Scottsdale/Ringarooma have been “over allocated”, and also suffer from significant stealing of water by some of the landholders.

  • Brendan September 22, 2009  

    The St Patricks River has been described by many tourist and local anglers alike as ‘one of the most beautiful streams in Tasmania’. While some may fish it 2 times a year, others may seek enjoyment more than twice a week on this wonderful waterway – a privelige of which they pay for as part of their annual angling licence.

    The Tasmanian Giant Freshwater Crayfish (Astacopsis gouldi) is the largest freshwater invertebrate in the world. The species is only found in Northern Tasmania, and is listed as a vulnerable species due to habitat loss and over fishing. I have personally observed this species in its natural environment, in the headwaters of the St Patricks River. Quite a significant find really, considering this was fairly juvenille which tends to indicate they are breeding. Also, I have often read that they appear to be more common in the North West.

    I for one, don’t wish to see every river in Tasmania dammed in order to create a ‘food bowl’ of exotic, water-hungry crops. Remember also that the ‘holy grail’ of fish in Tasmania, The native Estuary Perch, requires a certain a mix of fresh and salt water to successfully spawn, as do our Bream (Which are known to be some of the biggest in Australia). While many years ago the Estuary Perch was quite common in several Northern estuaries and rivers, it’s now only known to be caught fairly intermittently in one system. I ask the question – How will reducing natural river flows impact our native fish and invertabrate species?

    It seems that those in power have more focus on money, jobs and production than keeping Tasmania’s most iconic and revenue-generating assets in their natural state.

    Damned if we do, Dammed if we don’t.