Stealing Water from the Macquarie Marshes: A Note and More Pictures from Chris Hogendyk

During the past month there has been a tributary flood event in the Macquarie Valley resulting in a moderate but valuable volume of water (approximately 26,000 megalitres) making its way down to the drought ravaged Macquarie Marshes.

Over 30% of this water was delivered away from the publicly owned Nature Reserves into the Gum Cowal/Terrigal system than runs down the eastern side of the Macquarie Marshes. This system has been receiving almost annual flooding throughout the drought. All this system is on privately owned country and as can be seen from the following images, the water is simply being diverted out onto the flood plain to grow fodder for cattle.

The following images show only two examples of the many diversions that are occurring.

mac marshes blog 1.jpg

mac marshes blog 2.jpg

Sadly, while this is happening, the two Nature Reserves originally selected for their key ecological values and owned by the people of NSW, lie starved for water and are in a significantly worse state having missed out on much of the so called environmental flows that have been despatched to the Marshes over a considerable period. Mr Hogendyk, Chair of Macquarie River Food and Fibre (MRFF) says this situation is absurd. “We are losing these iconic wetlands yet everyone involved is closing their eyes to the real cause of the problems.

Government and NGOs are simply focused on attacking the irrigation industry and buying more water entitlements while continuing to deliver water without understanding how it is being managed and diverted in the Marshes. ”

Mr Whittaker, executive member of MRFF adds “even when water does get directed to the Nature Reserves, both have large embankments upstream of them robbing them of much of their water. Has anyone assessed the impact of these banks?”

“Furthermore, of the water that does get into the Northern Nature Reserve, much of the water passes down the Bora channel system to the west rather than down the Macquarie River system. This deprives the core reed beds of much of their water” he said. The Bora channel prior to 1980 used to carry only 30% of the Macquarie River flows, now it carries 70%.

It is time all parties involved with the Marshes sat down and worked out an effective protocol for the long term by understanding the real issues and taking ownership of what are questionable practices and diversions. It is no longer acceptable for government, NGOs and some scientists to make judgements from afar that bear no resemblance to what is really the underlying problem.

from Chris Hogendyk
Chair of Macquarie River Food and Fibre

I have written about the marshes here for OLO:
And there are more blog posts here:

9 Responses to Stealing Water from the Macquarie Marshes: A Note and More Pictures from Chris Hogendyk

  1. melaleuca July 29, 2007 at 12:14 am #

    I note the CSIRO’s recent Ecos report on the Marshes.

    Chris Hogendyke represents the interests of irrigators and is trying to deflect blame for the dismal state of the Macquarie Marshes from the overallocation of water to irrigators onto cattle grazers. He is being misleading and possibly dishonest. Hogendyke says:

    “There is a need to start doing some active work in the area – to get rid of the weeds and cattle and get the native grasses back in,.. Grazing is one of the major impacts on the marshes.”

    However according to Bill Johnson, Senior Scientific Officer for Wetlands and Rivers at DECC:

    “The southern marshes have been without livestock for nearly 20 years, except kangaroos and emus, but there is now not even enough feed to sustain them,”

    The Marshes need more water, which means irrigators will have to accept less.

    Those irrigators who are caught stealing water from the Marshes should have their water rights and property confiscated.

    Obviously cattle stocking rates should be reduced, but this is pointless if the Marshes have no water.

  2. rojo July 29, 2007 at 1:37 pm #

    “Those irrigators who are caught stealing water from the Marshes should have their water rights and property confiscated”

    Then so it should be for graziers guilty of the same offence. Diversion by any means, effectively diminishes flow to the Marshes.

    You state the marshes need more water, which is invariably true, but why would irrigators have to accept less whilst grazier diversions continue unchecked.

    “Obviously cattle stocking rates should be reduced, but this is pointless if the Marshes have no water” Why then, send water to grazing degraded marshes? The outcome still isn’t going to be pristine wetland.

    The point Chris is making is that there is water, obvious in the photos, it’s just not getting through to the marshes unhindered. Why shouldn’t irrigators “deflect” the blame if they feel they are not solely responsible for water diversions.

  3. Bush Spider July 29, 2007 at 6:17 pm #

    Melaleuca sounds like a parrot who would do well to take a holiday and fly over the Macquarie Marshes. Our parrot obviously hasn’t been there. He seems unaware of how survival of the species happens in rural situations let alone in a wilderness marsh area. His thoughts indicate bias (if birds can think) and the bias indicates little observation or information on the subject of MM. Sounds like our parrot should go back to his melaleuca tree, stop trying to stir fruitless arguement, and not comment until he can view this rural reality with positive solutions.

  4. melaleuca July 29, 2007 at 7:16 pm #

    It’s argument not arguement, Spidey.

    The solution is more water. Wetlands need water so that they are, well, wet. That is my positive solution.

  5. Brolga July 29, 2007 at 9:10 pm #

    “The Marshes need more water, which means irrigators will have to accept less.”
    It seems to me that you and Chris Hogendyke are in agreement- the Marshes need more water. It looks as though Chris is trying to point out that that won’t happen while some local graziers are diverting environmental water onto their own properties to irrigate pastures for grazing.That makes them irrigators.
    Why would you call someone dishonest for trying to stop this theft of environmental water?

  6. Ian Mott August 1, 2007 at 12:26 am #

    My guess is that the graziers were there first, long before the upstream dam and the irrigators. The off-take by the dam and its irrigators would most certainly have reduced the amount of water that is available to both the graziers and the reserves.

    We need to know when the diversion facilities downstream were put there. If they predate the establishement of the reserves, and if they predate the Dam, then they are clearly part of the existing use rights of the downstream graziers. If they have been put in place more recently then they could still be measures that merely restore part of their existing flooding regime.

    Interesting how quickly some people are to call for the complete confiscation of water entitlements for a breach of entitlement. Would they confiscate a cab drivers taxi because of a traffic offence? Would they confiscate the entire stock of a corner store for selling tobacco to a minor? Would they shut down a pub because they served an under-aged drinker?

    And who the &%$#@ does Chris think he is in calling for the removal of cattle from the private land of legitimate land owners downstream? Is natural fodder for cattle somehow less noble than cropped fodder?

    Clearly, this issue has been going on for some time now which is more than suffient time for the relevant authorities to intervene if they had grounds to do so. If the diversion works are of recent origin then they could be compelled to remove them.

    But if the reserves were established after the diversion works were established, and after the Dam was built, then this is nothing more than a sleazy attempt to make the graziers pay for the upgrading of second rate reserve land.

    As I stated the last time this topic was raised, we need to hear from the downstream graziers before anyone passes judgement.

  7. rojo August 1, 2007 at 9:25 pm #

    i thought the point of all this was the marshes, and their environmental flows.
    irrigators are obliged to let flows through to the wetlands. Why then should the graziers be entitled to starve the wetlands? The net result is “the marshes need more water” and more water is sent to be further diverted and so on. It is water specifically for the marshes and particularly the reserves and should not be diverted to irrigate grazing land using the most valuable water possible. The marshes.
    This is environmental flows we are talking about, in a decent sized flood no-one will worry about some piddling grazier diversion.

  8. Ian Mott August 2, 2007 at 3:35 pm #

    Correction Rojo, the graziers diverted 30% of the flow. It does not follow that all of the flow was even intended solely for the reserves. In fact, it is highly unlikely that a flow that is high enough to get to the reserves would not also be high enough to go to the graziers.

    There appears to be a perception amongst irrigators that the only legitimate purpose, other than their own, is environmental flow. This is not the case.

    If down stream graziers have had a history of obtaining partial flooding of part of their pasture then they have equal call to other irrigators.

    The facts are that the NSW Authorities have had ample time to prosecute if they had a case (and they are hardly reticent) so in the absence of any formal charges one must assume that the graziers are perfectly within their rights.

  9. rojo August 2, 2007 at 10:22 pm #

    i didn’t say they diverted it all, and yes it is possible that flow may not have reached the Marshes anyway.
    The fact is that it will not get closer to the marshes if it is siphoned off along the way, and the closer it gets the less water is required to get to the Marshes in the next flow.
    There is no problem with water flooding grazing land on the way to the marshes, the objection is to flooding land, via cuttings and banks, that would not have flooded naturally in such an event.

    If you feel that things don’t change in terms of rights then you must be a supporter of native title too. Govts allocated water to irrigation to make more valuable use of the water, and have been highly sucessful. Perhaps too successful. Now we want to turn back time.

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