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Unanswered questions after Griffith flood meeting

By Moyra Shields and Laurissa Smith, Friday November 16, 2012 - 10:10 EDT

Murrumbidgee Irrigation (MI) maintains it has no liability over the March floods.

The company is still refusing to talk about its role in the floods, despite fronting residents at a public meeting last night in Griffith.

Yenda, Yoogali and Hanwood copped the brunt of flooding and residents have asked why the Mirrool Creek regulator was not opened.

MI's chief executive Raveen Jaduram says the company is working with the council on solutions, but it's not at fault.

Residents of Yenda are still threatening a class action against MI.

Mr Jaduram says the privately owned irrigation company is not liable like the former government owned water business.

"A lot of the farmers who are here, have been here for a very long time and so probably there is confusion that we are," he said.

"And there were people reading out pieces of legislation today that obviously doesn't apply to MI and yet they believe that it does."

The meeting also heard from Griffith's Mayor, the council's General Manager, the Australian Insurance Council and the State Emergency Service (SES).

There were calls from the floor for a better monitoring system for the Mirrool Creek.

Murrumbidgee SES controller James McTavish says it is expensive, but could work.

"The issue I suppose is that where do you put it ?" he said.

"Who maintains it and what results are we actually going to get from that?

"There's perhaps a greater benefit based on the level of risk of doing other things.

"I don't think we should discount it simply because of that cost.

"It's something that needs to be considered."

Murrumbidgee Irrigation says its infrastructure is not able to reduce flood impacts for an event such as the flood in March.

Local residents maintain the blocked East Mirrool Regulator exacerbated flooding and at one stage last night, they booed irrigation boss Mr Jaduram.

Mr Jaduram has defended the company's actions.

"The infrastructure that MI owns has very little capacity to buffer what I would call floods," he said.

"It has some ability to buffer rainfall events, like the rainfall event we had last week, but we have very little capacity to buffer a flood, let alone the floods that came here in March."

Mr McTavish says he realises residents were hoping for more answers last night, but it will take more time.

"I do think most people were fairly satisfied with what they heard in terms of what council's doing in particular to look at drainage issues in Yenda and Yoogali, and what the SES is doing," he said.

"But there's still obviously a number of unanswered questions with other authorities but I think now people have a better understanding of MI's position which is a good way to at least go ahead."

The General Manager of Griffith City Council Brett Stonestreet did not comment on MI's contribution to the meeting, but says council is working to remove water from the flat country when it does flood.

"We need to assist that process by constructing a series of pits and then putting pumps in those pits to pump the water away," he said.

"We've invited all the parties here to have a say in the process.

"I don't think any of us have come out of this totally squeaky clean.

"I think there are things we can all improve on.

"From council's perspective, we want to see what we can do to improve things next time."

Many residents left the meeting feeling disappointed.

One, grape grower Mitch Biancini says it will be deja-vu for Yenda if next March brings another downpour.

"This is a thing that MI can actually deal with and they don't seem to be doing anything, really nothing about it," he said.

"They've done a bit of cleaning around the place, but to address the real problem, no, it's still sitting there.

"But to lose another year of half an income I think nobody wants to go through that again, and if these things can be addressed or fixed, even some assurance, but there's nothing out there at this stage."


- ABC

© ABC 2012

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