Channel trees battle looms

REMOVAL. Trees lining an irrigation channel at Wee Wee Rup will be removed.

REMOVAL. Trees lining an irrigation channel at Wee Wee Rup will be removed.

LANDOWNERS along an irrigation channel south-east of Cohuna are mounting a campaign to save a large number of native trees scheduled for removal by Goulburn-Murray Water.

In a letter addressed to GMW managing director Pat Lennon and also sent to the Gannawarra Times, local resident Nerida Dye, whose parents live along the channel, said the plan to remove so many trees was "nothing short of a disgrace". 

A six kilometre stretch of the channel running alongside the Murray Valley Highway at Wee Wee Rup is being lined with clay and plastic as part of GMW's Connections Project. 

The project on the Cohuna Channel Right Branch commenced on Monday, May 15, but no trees have yet been removed. 

Ms Dye said landowners had recently been told informally that 200 trees would be removed, after previously being advised that a "minimum number of trees would be removed". 

"When the residents queried the number of trees to be removed, and brought to the conversation the previous advice regarding the removal of a minimum number of trees, they were told that it wasn't up for negotiation, and that there was nothing that would prevent the works or the removal of these trees from taking place," she said. 

Ms Dye said some of the trees in question were many years old and provided numerous benefits to the environment.

"Established native plants need less water than exotic species, native plants provide food and shelter, native plants can provide a wildlife corridor for animal and plant populations, most importantly native plants are our heritage – we must preserve them," she said. 

"The argument for removing these trees may be rationalised with an offer to replant trees - though to my knowledge this has not been suggested yet - but this is not a satisfactory solution." 

Ms Dye said it was accepted that some trees would need to be removed to facilitate the works, but she called on GMW to "reach a more reasonable and realistic number to allow for the planned works to be undertaken but not at the expense of these magnificent natural plant resources".

Jeff Douglas is a dairy farmer at the western end of the channel, where the great majority of three trees will be removed, including a large portion that he has planted from the mid 1970s to now. 

Mr Douglas said while the channel work was important to prevent seepage, it was disappointing that so many trees would be removed. 

"I wouldn't have thought they would need to take out so many, but they're sticking to their plans," he said. 

"They did the worst part about two years ago and they were able to keep most of the trees.

"They probably could be a bit flexible but I don't think it's going to happen, I don't know that there's anything we can do about it."

Ms Dye's protest follows a similar situation in the Cohuna township in 2015, when close to 50 trees were removed during channel remediation works, despite the objections of local residents.

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