DEBATE continues over the management of overgrown drains in West Gippsland.A Victorian Parliamentary inquiry into rural drainage has seen Gippsland growers make themselves heard.
Koo-wee-rup grower Peter Hobson said he and his neighbours were fed up after watching their crops go under water twice this year, and called for a Royal Commission.
What they got was a State Parliamentary inquiry, but they say it will do for now.
Earlier in the year the same growers funded the Condina report on flooding in the Koo Wee Rup-Longwarry Flood Protection District.
The report revealed that if proper maintenance and infrastructure were in place, the drains in the area would adequately service their catchments.
It also found there was significantly restricted flow in the Dalmore Rd drain and in carrier, precept, council and private drains due to vegetation growth and the build-up of silt over the past eight years.
It found that if extensive works were not undertaken, severe and life-threatening flooding was possible.
Koo Wee Rup had just 58mm of rain on June 22, leaving asparagus, broccoli and wheat farms up to 60cm underwater.
This was considered a "normal weather event" by the Bureau of Meteorology.
During that month the area received 132.4mm of rain, which was too much for the overgrown drains to handle.
Growers claim the application of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conversation Act has resulted in cessation or postponement of some work due to environmental concerns.
"Given the history of the district, it is not reasonable to contend that protection of bandicoots or growling grass frogs or other species should extend to constructed drains which are essential for protection of property, livelihood and, potentially, lives," the Condina report said.
But a submission made by the Environment Defenders Office last week called for native vegetation and wildlife to be considered during the inquiry.
"There should not be a general exemption from native vegetation clearing controls for drainage areas," it said.
EDO spokesman Bruce Lindsay said the organisation had recently released a report on Victorian wetlands which included evidence that drainage of wetlands was still occurring and there was a need for catchment management authorities to investigate and report on this activity and its environmental impacts.
Mr Hobson said it was vital the Parliamentary inquiry addressed these issues.
"Farmers and local residents have a common goal with the EDO in protecting our surrounding environment it is our backyard but this must be balanced to obtain the best social and economic outcomes, and most importantly reinstall safety and security for the residents of this region," Mr Hobson said.
"This region is far too important to Victorian food production to just let it return to being a swamp."