22 January 2019

Victorian Government must urgently fix mismanagement of Barwon Downs Borefield

State Labor must stop any further use of the Barwon Downs Borefield and urgently commence remediating the terrible environmental damage which has been caused by excessive water extraction.

Today I was joined by Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price to tour Boundary Creek at Yeodene, south of Birregurra, which is technically “dead” as a result of acid sulphate contamination.

The acid sulphate levels are so high that no fish can live in the water and the pylons which form part of the Gerangamete Bridge are being impacted.

Barwon Water has only recently conceded that its licence to extract as much as 20,000 mega litres of water a year from the Otways aquifer has compromised the health of these waterways. Barwon Water is now applying for a new licence to extract up to 12,000 megalitres a year at Barwon Downs in the Gerangamete Groundwater Management Area.

Ms Price has committed to investigate whether there have been any breaches of federal legislation such as the Environment Protection Biodiversity and Conservation Act 1999.

There is evidence of declining populations of platypus, a protected species.

I have previously raised these matters which was met with denials by Barwon Water that there was any issue.

Ms Price said that what she witnessed today was quite distressing.

I commend local landcare groups including the Land and Water Resources Otway Catchment (LAWROC) Landcare Group for the incredible amount of work it has done to demonstrate the mismanagement of the waterways. Mal Gardiner, in particular, has been a leading advocate for many years.

Barwon Water CEO Tracey Slatter has apologised to the community but this is not good enough.

Barwon Water must withdraw its license application and State Water Minister Lisa Neville must urgently disclose her plan to remediate the waterways.

There has been no groundwater pumped from the Barwon Downs Borefield since 2016 but the damage caused by many years of extraction is long-lasting and serious.

As a result of excessive groundwater extraction, this has also compromised Barwon River water flows as far away as Winchelsea.

Otway residents deserve the certainty that the health of their waterways will be protected.

22 January 2019