Farmers forgotten after flood

THE Victorian Farmers Federation is maintaining calls for State Government reimbursement to farmers impacted by the emergency drainage of water from the Yallourn mine, despite one farmer admitting he was “unlikely” to be compensated.

In October, the VFF called for compensation for “artificial flooding” to farmers along the Latrobe River where flood plains downstream of the Yallourn mine have been inundated with water since June.

Yallourn mine operator EnergyAustralia, formerly known as TRUenergy, began pumping water from its open cut into the Latrobe River on 15 June, after the Morwell River diversion breached into the mine a week earlier.

Pearsondale farmer Geoff Gooch, whose 1300-acre beef property adjoining the Latrobe River was still “half underwater” last week, said he had lost confidence of any likelihood of receiving compensation.

The call for compensation was initially argued on the fact the pumping of water from the mine was increasing the flows of the Latrobe River, however an EnergyAustralia spokesperson disputed this was the case.

“To date, the amount of water that has been discharged from the mine combined with the amount of water that has flowed through the diversion has been less than what would have flowed down the Latrobe River if the mine flooding event had not occurred,” the spokesperson said. “

“The mine still holds around 30 gigalitres of additional Morwell River floodwater that would have otherwise made its way down the Latrobe River,” the spokesperson said late last month.

However the floodwater has left thick deposits of black mud over Mr Gooch’s grazing pastures, rendering them useless for the coming season.

“Once this dirty flood lets up, I will need another clean flood to come through to wash this off; l don’t anticipate having any meaningful production on the area this summer,” Mr Gooch said.

Mr Gooch said while he still had 80 acres of unaffected high ground grazing pasture, his 300 Hereford cattle breeders could not access it.

While the Environment Protection Agency, which has allowed the pumping of water into the Latrobe River under an emergency discharge approval, has said turbidity would have no long term impact on the river’s aquatic life, Mr Gooch said the impact on farmers’ floodplains had not been considered.

As a third generation farmer on the property, Mr Gooch said the adverse impacts of the flooding had taken him by complete surprise.

“I’ve seen most of the peculiarity that the river can throw up at us, but this is definitely out of left field,” he said.

State Water Minister Peter Walsh visited the Yallourn mine and Mr Gooch last week for an update the ongoing Yallourn mine flooding situation and its impact on downstream farmers.