Proposed Tasmanian irrigation developments – update for anglers
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.