A battle on floodplains
THERE are more than 600 flood gates on the Richmond River floodplain and managing all of them is one of the biggest challenges for the county council.
Some of the flood gates are the size of dinner plates, but others measure 3m by 3m.
Richmond River County Council floodplain services manager Michael Wood said most were on private property.
"We try to work closely with the landholders to make sure the flood gates are opened when they need to be," he said.
"Landholders are asked to sign management plans.
"This aims to ensure that flood gates are operated in an efficient and sustainable manner. We train landholders and do risk assessments so they know what to do and why it needs to be done. But they don't have to sign agreements. We can't force them."
Professional fisherman Garry Joblin, of Ballina, said fish kills were the industry's biggest concern.
"We will always have fish kills, but it is the size of the fish kills that worries us," he said. He said one of the easiest ways to reduce the risk would be to get rid of flood gates, or to do more to make sure they were managed effectively.
"A lot of the gates can't even be opened because they are rusted shut or there is too much mud in front of them," he said.
"There is a lot of water lying around at the moment. The only thing missing is the hot temperatures. We don't stand a chance if that changes. The flood gates need to be opened if we know it's going to rain so that they can just let the water run and flush out."
Mr Wood said the county council was the smallest council in NSW and had just six full time employees.
"Nobody wants to see fish kills," he said. "But it is a natural phenomenon and those big ones are things we can't stop. We are always reviewing the flood gates to see if they are still required.''