Councillor’s passionate plea to protect Goulburn River

By John Lewis

A Greater Shepparton City councillor has called a decision to cap water flows down the Goulburn River to prevent further environmental destruction as "wonderful news".

In a council-produced video released yesterday, Cr Dennis Patterson made an impassioned plea to protect the degradation of the Goulburn River from high water flows to customers downstream on the Murray.

In the video, released across social media networks, Cr Patterson is seen travelling stretches of the Goulburn River in a boat and pointing out collapsed trees, destruction of vegetation and the erosion of river banks.

He said the damage could be attributed to the Murray Darling Basin Plan which allowed high environmental flows in autumn followed by high water deliveries in summer to customers downstream in north west Victoria.

Hours after the video was released, Victoria's Water Minister Lisa Neville announced the Murray Darling Basin Authority had agreed to limit the amount of inter-valley transfer of water for trade deliveries along the Goulburn and Murray over summer and autumn to 40 gigalitres a month.

Cr Patterson said the cap was a "significant improvement" on previous destructive flows.

He said during the 2018-19 period, 82.9 Gl was released in January, followed by 68.9 Gl in February and 50.8 Gl in March.

In yesterday's video, which had more than 17,000 views by mid-afternoon, Cr Paterson said damage to the Goulburn around Shepparton had increased at an alarming rate.

“It's been 12 months since I've been on a boat in this section of river, and it's gone back a long way since then,” he says in the video.

“Even the environmental flows that are put down the river to help the bank grow and support itself - it's all being killed off by high flows in summer,” he says.

“It's a waste of time, money and water,” he says.

Cr Patterson, who is chairman of the Murray Darling Association's Region 2 Committee, also highlighted the damage being done to aquatic life by the release of cooler water from Eildon during summer which he said prevented shrimp breeding and affected the food chain.

The issue was due to be debated at a virtual MDA conference scheduled for September 14 in Shepparton.

Cr Patterson said despite lower inter-valley flows, the river would take years to recover.

“You can't rebuild the banks, a river is living thing. Hopefully after a few floods it will recover. But it will take time,” he said.