13 dead cows: River a 'disgusting mess'
WHAT was meant to be a leisurely trip along the Wilson River soon turned to a horrific experience for local boaters after discovering the river and its banks riddled with decomposing cow carcasses.
South Gundurimba resident Phill Terry's property backs on to the river, which he described as "a disgusting mess" after finding at least 13 carcasses and possibly up to 20, within a three kilometre stretch on the weekend.
He said upon going to a spot along the river near Coraki for lunch it was so off-putting they left and said the smell was still in his nose days later.
He said the "event" of dead carcasses was "not a one-off thing" and said it was "happening all the time".
Mr Terry is a member of the Richmond Rivers Rescue Inc - Action Group, and said the group wants to see the river "cleaned up" as well as vegetation up to Ballina, and fencing along farming property to prevent cows from reaching the river.
"There's nothing left - for 100 years its basically dead...the river doesn't have another 20 years," he said.
"We want farmers to be given fencing and water troughs to look after their river banks and to fence off the river banks.
"Politicians need to stop turning a blind a eye to the health of this river. They just keep passing the buck.
"I'd be happy to take any politician out on the river any time so they can see the devastation the weeds and the cows are doing."
Monaltrie resident Peter Richard said for him the boat trip down the Wilson river from Wyrallah to Coraki started with excitement, but soon turned to dismay then to anger.
What he discovered was an "environmental catastrophe".
"The river banks are severely eroded and covered in weeds. So many dead trees - such a wasteland. The odour of the rotting carcasses is still with me."
He said the said the fact children were swimming in the river "unaware... 300 metres away was a bloated carcass of a dead cow floating by" was "third world stuff".
"(It's) certainly not the clean green environmentally responsible image Lismore Council keeps trying to portray to us. Lismore certainly doesn't "heart" it's river.
"Why is the local council not making it law for farmers to fence off the riverbanks and stop their cattle grazing to the waters edge? Surely they need to do something to protect and restore the damage that has been done? Damage that is clearly still being done.
"You or I could be fined if we so much as throw a half eaten sandwich into the river. Farmers, who through their own negligence, allow their cattle to die on the riverbanks should be tracked down and prosecuted for pollution.
"The stench of the rotting and dying Northern Rivers seems to be the norm for now. The pollution will most likely continue. The erosion will definitely continue and the river will slowly fill with silt, becoming shallower and shallower and floods in Lismore."
On a Facebook thread in Richmond Rivers Rescue Action Group Asren Pugh - Labor for Ballina said the state of the river was "absolutely disgusting".
"This river is the lifeblood of our region and it is dying. We need action, now," he said.
A spokesperson from the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) said the matter was Lismore City Council's responsibility.
But mayor Isaac Smith said "waterway control and management mainly sits with the state government" and advised Mr Richard to "pass (his) concerns to the state member".
"We don't have the power to make people undertake fencing on private land. Though we have been doing it through our RLI, which has been a great project," Cr Smith said in an email.
"The Northern Rivers Joint Organisation is also prioritising river and catchment health, so hopefully this will also be a good step forward."