Damming the Clarence


The issue of water availability for agriculture and communities has been a hot topic this year and the diversion of water from the Clarence River to areas west of the Range is again to the forefront.

The idea that water can be diverted from one river system to another, and again to those holding water rights on a system that doesn’t have enough water is flawed. Commentary on the mismanagement of the Murray/Darling has been with us for the last decade. Have we learnt nothing from that?

Originally water licences were attached to the land and passed with the land when the land was sold. Subsequently water licences were separated from the land and could be sold on the open market. This entitled those who acquired large water allocations to collect and store large amounts of water.

We have seen the Upper Darling sucked dry leaving little water for downstream farmers or the wildlife. The ensuing ecological catastrophe is a national disaster.

This brings us back to the Clarence. It makes no sense to tamper with this complex estuary by diverting water from it. One could argue that floodwater is wasted running out to sea, however flood is a natural phenomenon. Floods provide fertile soils, richer harvests, healthier forests and habitats for a variety of fish and wildlife.

Only the large corporate operators will benefit. It won’t be the small landowners or fishers who most need it, nor the ecosystem of the Clarence.

What the Clarence Valley offers is its natural environment that underpins our tourism, fishing and agricultural industries. We urge politicians and local Council to look at long term and sustainable management of this wonderful waterway.

Diverting our natural water flow to the benefit of large irrigators risks the environmental integrity of the Clarence River.

Graeme Granleese, Valley Watch Inc.