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TAS Country : October 7th 2010
26 Tasmanian Country Friday, October 8, 2010 This land Meander Dam It has been a long time coming, but the Meander Dam is finally making a real difference to local farmers HAPPY: Father and daughter Bernard and Tracey Boon on their property. Picture: JENNIFER CRAWLEY land THIS Jennifer Crawley MEANDER Valley farmers Bernard and Tracey Boon have lots to smile about --- water is running past their front door and soon it will be spraying over their crops. The father and daughter are using Hagley Pipeline and Meander River water on onions and poppies on their 230ha property Meadowville. Mr Boon, 80, said the Meander Dam may have been 40 years in the making, but the long wait was well worth it. ''They put that many stumbling blocks in front of it I didn't think it was going to climb over it,'' Mr Boon said ''But it did and it's the best thing that's ever happened to the river.'' The Boons are close to the junction of the Meander River at Hadspen. ''Everybody upstream from us had a bash at the water before we did,'' Mr Boon said. ''They used to lower the Meander down so that you could walk across it here and a lot of other places. ''They pulled everybody up for three or four days when it got down to a certain level at the Strath bridge. ''They pulled them up because the water used to have a real smell to it.'' Tracey Boon said the river was ''a good two feet higher'' in summer because of the Meander Dam. ''It stays that way, it flows better and the fish are cleaner,'' she said. ''We used to have huge floods or no floods, there was no in-between. ''Now that the dam's up we still get floods, but they are controlled floods, there's no damage.'' Mr Boon said that before the Meander Dam, the Meander River would flow backwards when it and the Esk River flooded at the same time. ''It's really improved the river out of sight,'' he said. ''Down the river the other day was a fella with an outdoor motor on his boat --- no way in the world you'd ever been able to do that before.'' Tracey said surety of irrigation was vital with the seasons they have experienced in recent years. ''The Meander Valley is going to go forward in leaps and bounds,'' she said. ''We've got that surety now, we might feed the rest of Australia and make a lot of money.'' The Boons will plant fodder crops after harvesting their onions and poppies. Caveside Farm owner Warwick Holmes plans to milk his 450 cows for longer thanks to water from the Caveside Pipeline. The decision to extend the Caveside dairy season was made purely because of the water. ''We've made the decision not to run more cows but to extend our season through the dry part of the season,'' Mr Holmes said. ''What the water is going to do for us is enable us to grow more grass for longer. ''In a bad year we would be almost finished milking by the end of February. Now we might be able to go through to May. ''We always give our cows eight to 12 weeks off, so we will be drying off in June and calving after.'' The 290ha Caveside Farm sits under the Western Tiers. It is one of the most picturesque in the district. Mr Holmes said the years it took to get the Meander Dam built were ''a very, very difficult time''. ''When I bought the farm we had to sign an acceptance that we would have water channels from the proposed Meander Dam coming through the property,'' he said. ''There's been a group working to get this dam built since 1968, they've just being working and working and working at it. ''We just kept beavering away at it and we got the pipelines built.'' Mr Holmes said the Johnson family of Meander were the first to try to get the dam. ''I've just been one of many farmers that have worked with politicians and the Government just hounding and hounding them,'' he said. Meetings were held at people's houses, and farmers met with politicians from all sides of politics. Mr Holmes is blunt about Government involvement in the dam. ''No one was helpful,'' he said. ''They would rather not see it done because it was a pain in the arse. The Federal Government was going to pay for the pipeline, but the State Government wouldn't allow their water to go through it, it was just unbelievable.'' Mr Holmes said everyone in the Meander Valley was very positive. ''Everyone can see it's going to make a huge huge difference to us,'' he said. ''It's going to take some people a while to get used to using the water. ''People have bought it who are not quite sure what they should grow, fat lambs or beef or poppies, so it's going to EXPERTISE: John Gaby checks a turbine. Still waters run deep for JENNIFER CRAWLEY UNIQUE: The picnic area's tables. ONE dam, four pipelines and a valley full of happy farmers --- 40 years after the idea was first proposed, the Meander Irrigation Scheme is up and flowing. Manager John Gaby grew up on a dairy farm at Nabageena. His rural background makes him a popular irrigation scheme manager among the local farming community. Mr Gaby's knowledge and expertise of the Meander Scheme is matched by his respect and admiration for the dam. ''I can only see positives,'' he said. ''There's so much to look forward to for the farmers. This grew out of the community and it's the farmers that pay for it.'' Only passive recreation is allowed on top of the dam. With a top speed limit of five knots, there's not much rushing about, with a handful of boats drifting along in the idyllic setting under the shadows of the Western Tiers. ''I've been so busy with the pipelines I haven't been able to go fishing,'' Mr Gaby said. Farmers fax their water orders through to Mr Gaby on a Friday for the following week. Irrigators pay $28 per megalitre for the water right and $7 a year to use it. Each pipeline has a different pumping cost. ''We work out what's the average I need to release from the dam plus an environ- mental flow,'' Mr Gaby said. The environmental flow changes each month. It is about 207ML a day for six months, then reduces to about 19ML in March. Water is released through the mini- hydro or the irrigation valve. All the farmers have a meter installed on their property. Meters are read via an online Aurora system. ''By law we have to read the meters at the start and at the end of each year to total it up,'' Mr Gaby said. Farmers write their meter readings on their order forms. ''I've had no issues with any farmers,'' Mr Gaby said. ''All the farmers I've dealt with have been fantastic. You won't get a negative from me about the dam because I can only see positives from the dam.''
September 30th 2010
October 14th 2010