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Tuesday, 16 November 1976
Page: 2708

Mr LUSHER (Hume) - I do not wish to take too much of the time of the House. I would like to be associated with this legislation principally to draw to the attention of the House some matters which will have to be considered by the Government, if not by the House, at a future time. The Bill and the whole program of water conservation are obviously beneficial but the program is not one without problems. The Blowering Dam and the Burrinjuck Dam are located in my electorate. Obviously they are backed up by the whole Snowy system which is not in my electorate but which has a significant effect upon it. In the last 3 years we have had major flooding on the Mumimbidgee as a result of heavy rain, not necessarily in the area, but in the Snowy catchment area, and because of the inability of Blowering and Burrinjuck to control the flow of water there have been significant floods and a lot of damage. Flooding has affected in particular the town of Gundagai; in the electorate of my colleague, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fife), the town of Wagga; in the electorate of the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan), towns such as Narrandera; and, dependent on the severity of the flood, towns down as far as Balranald. The floods also have affected those people who are trying to farm areas along the Mumimbidgee all the way from Burrinjuck to the River Murray.

There is a problem in terms of management. The Burrinjuck Dam is controlled by the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission as it was known until recently. I think it is now called the Water Resources Commission and is a statutory authority of the New South Wales Government. Burrinjuck is an irrigation dam. It is not a flood mitigation dam. Blowering is in a peculiar situation because on it are power generation plants which are the responsibility of the Snowy Mountains Council. Once the water has passed through those plants it becomes part of the body of water in Blowering itself and then comes under the responsibility of the Water Resources Commission. Although there is probably a good degree of co-operation between the Snowy Mountains Council, which is a federal instrumentality, and the authorities that look after the States' water resources, there is still an apparent inability to be able to regulate the degree of flooding which occurs in the Mumimbidgee system. It is indisputable that no matter how good the management, major flooding cannot be avoided.

In some of the recent flooding experiences the rainfall has been such that there would have been no way, if all the dams had been empty, that we would have been able to stop them filling and indeed flooding the Mumimbidgee system. The authorities are trying to meet the needs of electricity generation and the needs of the water users and irrigators further downstream. These are among the prime purposes of the Snowy system. At the same time, as far as flooding is concerned, the authorities are doing there best to act in a way which is not irresponsible. The primary problem that exists in my electorate is that there is just no way that we seem to be able to manage the system of dams so as to reduce the flooding that might occur. The flooding affects a lot of people and a lot of different industries in the Mumimbidgee Valley.

I make particular reference to the Mountain Maid operation which is probably known to all members of this House as a vegetable and fruit processing co-operative. Mountain Maid owns an asparagus farm which is a magnificent piece of country on the banks of the Mumimbidgee. In the last 3 years water has covered the property to varying degrees and has caused significant damage. Mountain Maid also draws very heavily from other growers along the Mumimbidgee Valley who grow under contract. When their crops are wiped out, as they have been with monotonous regularity in the last 3 years, obviously the Mountain Maid operations are affected as well as the well-being, economically and socially, of the growers themselves.

There is another serious problem although it probably does not affect as many people. I refer to the raising of the water table particularly below the wall of Blowering Dam. The wall of Blowering is on the Tumut River. Some magnificent properties there have been highly viable in recent times. Since the construction of the Blowering Dam their whole economies have been severely affected. For large portions of the year when water is released to those further down in the irrigation areas and the water table below the wall is raised, the users cannot get their tractors into the areas, crops become waterlogged and significant problems result. Obviously the value of the land has been cut quite drastically. People in that area are having great difficulty in being able to get compensation, particularly in this case from the State Government which in its legislation has protection from claims by landowners as a result of action taken by it.

I do not want to get into further detail at this moment. I want the House and those who might be listening to this debate to be aware of the fact that problems are associated with what is obviously a significant program in the national interest. I think that there may be a need, as I said at the outset, to bring back to the House at a later time the sort of problems which are being experienced in the Mumimbidgee Valley in particular. I am very grateful to the managers of business in the House and to members of the House for the opportunity to make this small contribution to this debate this afternoon.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.

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