When Travis Kirkham's Year 9 environment class was asked to produce a presentation on one of the world's rivers, most students chose well-known waterways such as the Amazon, Nile and Murray.
But Travis turned his back on the obvious and popular choices, deciding instead to focus on the Murrindindi River; the Yea River’s main tributary and the one he can see and hear from his backdoor. It’s the modest little river he has grown up with and the bubbling, unassuming friend he spends every weekend sitting beside.
“The river borders our property and I’m always down there on the weekends fishing for brown trout, rainbow trout, river blackfish and spiny freshwater crayfish,’’ Travis says.
“I love being in the area and looking at the landscape. You’re not around people and cars all the time and it’s quiet. I would like to come back here in retirement’’.
At just 14, Travis is an astute observer of nature, noting sightings of platypus and tortoises. While professing not to be a “greenie’’ the Murrindindi farm boy has spent all his life with one eye on his backyard river, keenly studying the effects of environmental mistakes made by earlier generations. He has taken part in walks with the local Landcare group to decide on areas of the river to fence off from farms. “But I also do it to scope out the good fishing spots,’’ he laughs.
His parent’s 640 acre property is bookended by two trout farms that Travis says have muddied the Murrindindi’s formerly clear water. “The water used to be icy cold and clear but now it’s much warmer because of the oxygenation, and there’s moss and sediment in it,’’ he says.
“We used to pump the water directly to the house for drinking water but we had to stop that.” “I also noticed that when the trout farm and other people began irrigating above us the water level dropped about 30cm and that’s a lot for a pretty shallow river. Some of the native weed got damaged because it was above the surface and it dried out’’.
Travis has helped build bat boxes for the Yea wetlands with other students from Yea High School and will help construct tables for the area later in the year. “Where the Murrindindi meets the Yea you can see how half the river is clean and half of it is really dirty. It’s quite amazing to see the stark difference and how much worse the condition of the Yea is.
We have realised the impacts that we have caused on natural rivers and we can learn to use water wiser so it remans healthy and clean’’.
Travis says he will never forget the first time he caught a fish on his property.
“That first fish sticks out as a special moment because it was about 40cm long. The biggest I’ve caught was 45cm but they don’t come that size anymore”. “It’s great living here’’. After a short pause he adds: “I wouldn’t want to move to the city’’.
Written by Daniel Clarke, Environment Victoria, July 2008