The awful sight of hundreds of dead fish rotting in the sun around Ballina Quays.
The awful sight of hundreds of dead fish rotting in the sun around Ballina Quays.

Farmer denies cane drains to blame for fish kill

By PATRIZIA REIMER patrizia.reimer@northernstar.com.au AFTER a life farming the cane fields of South Ballina, Noel Carr is adamant he is not responsible for the fish kill in the Richmond River.

He said daily monitoring has shown the drains around his 500 acres of farms to have more oxygen than the water along the southern bank of the river surrounding his crops.

Some claim, however, that local agriculture is largely responsible for depleting the Richmond of oxygen leading to thousands of fish dying.

"My drains are perfect, they say they're supposed to be contaminated but they're perfect," Mr Carr said.

"I think it's the land that's low lying causing the rotting vegetation. Upriver, whether there's farmers there or not the water's going to cover the land and rot the vegetation."

State Member Ian Cohen disagrees and said 'poorly regulated 1960s style farming' on the Richmond River floodplain has greatly contributed to the fish kill.

"It's great to see the NSW Government working on marine parks to assist recovery of marine life on our coasts," he said.

"But if rivers like the Richmond continue to be treated like an agricultural stormwater drain then massive fish kills are set to continue and the industries that rely on a healthy river will suffer."

Lennox Head man Matt Landos is vice president of the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists, Aquatic Animal Health Chapter and he wants farming practices to improve.

Viable but costly solutions include shallowing out cane farm drains, fencing off waterways on grazing land and planting all banks with flood resistant natives instead of weak weeds which die and contribute to rot.

"Farmers are in a very difficult position, they are the custodians of river health but they need a lot of resources to be able to assist them to work on their own properties," he said.

He said money raised through a bed tax could be used in partnership with organisations like Wetland Care Australia, Landcare and private landowners to reduce the impact of their farms on the river system.

The NSW Farmers Association didn't comment, referring the matter to the Department of Primary Industries.



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