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What the river means to you: Neil Eagle, citrus grower

Submitted by Laurissa Smith
on September 02, 2011

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ABC Rural – 1 September, 2011

Farmer Neil Eagle has lived through his fair share of droughts and floods.

As so have the river red gum forests that meander through his home town of Barham on the banks of the Murray River in south-west New South Wales.

But he doesn’t believe the forests or the rivers are in need of repair.

“It’s in remarkably good shape,” he says.

“The salinity levels are at pre-Word War II level at Morgan, at the monitoring point.

“Turbidity levels are low, nutrient levels of nitrates and phosphates are down.

“We would want scientists to be telling us what is wrong with this river ?”

He says there wouldn’t be much of a community at Barham, if it weren’t for the Murray.

His family has grown citrus in the region since 1929.

Water from the river is also used to irrigate rice and dairy farms.

But the Neil Eagle fears food production will be jeopardised if water is diverted to the environment under the much-anticipated Murray Darling Basin Plan.

He’s seen first hand what a decline in water availability can do to the region’s agricultural industries.

“We’ve already lost a tremendous amount of the productive sector already out at Wakool.

“There were 24 dairy farmers before this drought, and there are three left.

“If this sort of attitude towards the productive sector keeps going, we’re going to lose more people.

He’s unconvinced the authorities know what to do with the water they’ve already recovered for the environment.

“What we should be doing is identifiying what we’re concerned about, then working out the best regime.

“If you peel it back and see what is driving this whole debate, it is to a great extent not the environment, but it’s to do with filling the lakes at the bottom end.”

“And spilling a vast amount of water which is 2,000 gigalitres anually over the barrages into the sea, to keep that clearance open between the Coorong and the sea.”




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