Peter Drinkall of the Lithgow Environment Group has written an article giving background on the campaign to save the Macquarie River. You can download the PDF file that appears on this page.
Exert from the above:
Save The Macquarie – Again!
By Peter Drinkall February 8, 2016
‘Save the Macquarie’ is a call that has been shouted out several times over the years. The first time in my
memory was when it was voiced by the ‘Bathurst No Base’ movement in the mid-1980s, when it was proposed that a dam be built on the Macquarie River downstream of Hill End to service a proposed Army base. The ‘No Base’ protest eventually showed the total lack of logic in ruining a river and a large area of land when the Australian Army already held sufficient lands across Australia - lands more suited to training in the terrains in which its troops would most likely be deployed.
More recently, the ‘Save the Macquarie’ call went unheeded when Orange City Council decided to build an
expensive pipeline from the Macquarie River to Orange, ostensibly to drought-proof the city. Effluent produced from water which would have once flowed to the Macquarie, is not being returned to the river – it is being given away at a rate of up to 13 megalitres per day to Cadia Valley mine (gold and copper).
Plans are also afoot to build a pipeline from Orange’s Suma Park Reservoir to Carcoar Dam. This will enable Orange City Council to do a couple of things: keep Suma Park Dam less than 90 % full so they can continue to pump from the Macquarie River, and keep the flow going through to Carcoar Dam, which can then keep a good release going from the dam downstream to Newcrest Cadia mine’s pumps . As well, the Macquarie Pipeline will be topping up Molong Dam and sending water further out, so there will be an incredible drain on the river.
The call is going out yet again. Now Bathurst City Council has jumped on the bandwagon. Bathurst’s water
supply is pumped from the Macquarie River. A great proportion of this becomes effluent. The city’s treated
effluent is currently returned to the river, and, along with natural inflow, flows toward Burrendong Dam and on to meet the Darling River. On the way much of this is pumped out for irrigation and, of course, the
abovementioned Macquarie Pipeline.
Bathurst Council wants to sell ten megalitres a day of that treated effluent to Regis Resources for its Kings
Plains (McPhillamy) gold mine. The chemicals used in gold processing, particularly arsenic, will leave this water unfit for release into the environment ; the official response states that “Approximately 60% of the treated wastewater used in the process would be recycled using modern technologies with the remainder contained in a tailings storage facility.”
The Macquarie River and its main tributary the Turon River have greatly fluctuating inflow regimes. Indeed, way back in 1836, Charles Darwin was disappointed, because, as he wrote “
respectable river, and it is the largest of those draining this part of the watershed; yet to my surprise I found it a The Macquarie figures in the map as a mere chain of ponds, separated from each other by spaces almost dry.” This is the river that our councillors want to deprive of another ten megalitres of water daily. If not currently afflicting us, droughts are always just over the horizon.
So what are we likely to lose if the inevitable dry times befall us and we end up with an even more stressed
river due to its water being sold or given to mining companies? We lose a lot of past effort by quite a few
people to restore the local habitat and river fauna, and we lose a recreational resource that has growing
recognition among the New South Wales, and indeed, national angling community.
The river oaks are what give the Macquarie and Turon Rivers their distinctive character. Now a protected
species, these trees were exploited by the gold seekers of the 1800’s. Their survival is crucial to the
environment. Most streams in this area are shaped and shaded by these magnificent trees to varying degrees.
Much of the fauna closely co-exists with, and depends upon the river oaks. Historically, these rivers saw the
first gold rushes in the 1850’s. However, the mining process was low-tech in those days. Later on, the pastoral industry is thought to have had a bigger impact with its sheep dips and other uses of chemicals. But the rivers and some of the fish survived. What a river cannot do without is water!
Murray Cod and Trout Cod, Golden Perch and Eel-tailed Catfish are the larger native fish in these waters. In the early 20th century Rainbow Trout from America and Brown Trout from Europe were introduced to provide a recreational fishery. Although this may have stretched aquatic food supplies it did not appear to have too great an impact on the larger native fish, although smaller species such as River Blackfish certainly suffered in the smaller streams. However, later infiltration of the waterways by European Carp and Redfin Perch in the 21stcentury is certainly a major problem.
Carp are ‘vacuum cleaners’ that, due to their size, great numbers and feeding habit, can strip a stream bed of
food items such as insect larvae, water snails, crustaceans, etc.. Redfin Perch can do the same and more, eating eggs and fry of other fish;
Redfin are also carriers of EHN virus (Epizootic Haematopoietic Necrosis virus) which
can devastate susceptible native fish like Macquarie Perch, Silver Perch, Freshwater Catfish and Murray Cod.
Redfin are listed as a class 1 noxious fish in New South Wales.
Silver Perch (vulnerable) are also a species that are currently present in the Macquarie above Burrendong Dam, along with smaller non-angling native species that play an important role in the aquatic environment;
unfortunately, Macquarie Perch are now thought to be extinct from the geographic region above the dam.
The only factor imposing some sort of control on invasive fish species is the efforts of recreational anglers. The Sofala branch of the Central Acclimatisation Society (CAS) has 40 members, and together with other branches of the CAS across eastern and central NSW, has for many decades been involved in distributing trout releases and doing what it can to maintain a healthy fishery. This century the branch’s focus has shifted to re-establishing native fish in the Macquarie and Turon. Both native and trout species are bred for release into public waters.
And what does fishing contribute to the economy? The following extracts are from The NSW Recreational
Fishing Expenditure Survey-2012 :
Inland Overall’, when flow-on effects are taken into account, recreational fishing contributes the
• 1,539 FTE (Full Time Employment) jobs, including 289 in the hospitality sector, 288 in the retail trade sector,
148 in the personal and other services sector, and 138 in the agriculture sector;
• $73.50 million in household income with 13.4 percent being
in the retail trade sector, 13.1 percent being in
the hospitality sector, 7.4 percent being in the personal and other services sector, 7.0 percent being in the
public administration sector, and 6.8 percent being in the transport and storage sector;
• $149.85 million in industry value added, representing 0.30 percent of total regional value added of the NSW
Inland region; and
• $353.81 million in output. Recreational fishing will contribute 0.38 percent of FTE employment in the NSW
Inland region when flow-on effects are taken into account as well as 0.32 percent of household income and
0.26 percent of the estimated gross regional product of the NSW Inland region.
This amounts to a pretty good return on the amount spent on this activity.
With its proximity to the population centre of Sydney, the Central West of NSW takes a large share of the
economic benefits listed above. For a weekend angler, this region’s plentiful rivers and lakes make a trip of two
to three hours much more attractive than a five to six hour trip to the Snowy Mountains. Indeed, many Sydney anglers day trip to the closer areas of Lithgow-Bathurst-Oberon.
These rivers belong to the people, not to councillors, miners or anyone else. People want to improve them, not turn them into drains.
Save the Mac!