Robyn Grant | Environment Victoria

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Robyn Grant: Says no to damming 

In 1999 Robyn Grant helped formed the Mitchell River Investigation Group to stop the proposal to dam the Mitchell River. As damming talks stir once again 10 years on, Robyn is still just as passionate and determined not to let one of Victoria’s last wild rivers be touched by the heavy hand of man.

For the past 23 years Robyn has lived and worked on her property located at the edge of the Mitchell River National Park. She loves the area for its remoteness and natural diversity and spends much of her spare time involved with environmental issues including campaigning for a healthy Mitchell River.

One mention of the word dam and Robyn is quick to give her opinion. “I believe there are other water saving measures that people in urban areas and government can take first before looking at damming the Mitchell.

“A dam would just be another death knell for the Gippsland Lakes through lack of water flow.

“I think a lack of flows through damming would be devastating for tourism. I’ve seen an algal bloom in the Lakes in the late 80s when it was just like pea soup and it just stunk like mad when it washed up on the shore. Paynesville was just a ghost town and that was in the middle of summer, its peak period."

"The Mitchell will always be under threat from damming but I think there are enough people passionate enough to stop it again.”

She smiles cunningly, “I know I would be joining the campaign again.”

In the late 1980s Robyn also helped formed a group called the Mitchell River Safety Awareness Group that looked at chemical use on farms on the Mitchell River flats. The group worked on the campaign for about six years and achieved wins for both the river and the community.

“We got a lot of things happening…aerial spraying was stopped because large amounts of chemicals were going into the Mitchell River and consequently the Lakes, and there were health issues for farmers and a school and pre-school in the area.

“A lot of the chemicals we were concerned about, which were not only affecting health but the environment and that we had been told were completely safe, were banned within a year of the group making a lot of noise.

Robyn sees clear-fell logging in the Mitchell River catchment as one of the greatest threats to river health, with silt runoff and reduced flows into rivers having a devastating effect on the river ecology.
She has also spent the last few years trying to convince authorities to reconsider how they approach fuel-reduction burning in the Mitchell River catchment area.

“Fuel-reduction burning is a big issue. We’re seeing burns right to the creek’s edge when they’re supposed to leave a 40 metre buffer which doesn’t happen. I feel it’s a big threat because they usually do the burns when it’s quite dry and then we have floods or heavy rains and it washes all the ash into the creeks, rivers and gullies.”

Despite her current struggles to change fuel-reduction burning practices, Robyn is happy with what she has achieved over the last two decades and is hopeful for the future.

“We’ve had a few wins and we’ll keep going, that’s for sure.

Story by Sacha Myers, Environment Victoria, February 2009

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