Those behind a petition on NSW dams have stressed it’s “not fishos versus farmers” in their attempts to keep storages at 20 per cent of capacity.
The recreational anglers say it’s not only about their industry and they just want “to see the entire system managed better to avoid issues like this in the future”.
And they believe they might just have the numbers behind them, one member saying she was “fairly confident [they’d] reach 10,000 signatures quite easily”.
The petitions are in various businesses across the region, set in motion by The Pub Tamworth and Lake Keepit fishing clubs.
They hope to prompt a discussion in parliament, Keepit club president Anne Michie saying many comments had been encouraging.
Keepit club president Anne Michie said they would start collecting copies at the end of the month and many people’s responses had been encouraging.
“One lady said, ‘I don’t even go fishing or anything, but I’m sick to my stomach about what’s going on: how dry it is and watching all these fish die. It’s horrible and it shouldn’t be happening’.”
But there has been criticism from some, including irrigators and supporters on social media, Parkes MP Mark Coulton and Namoi Water chief Jon-Maree Baker.
The latter warned that keeping 20pc in Keepit and Split Rock dams “would decimate Wee Waa; it would mean a loss of $205 million annually out of the local economy of Narrabri, Wee Waa and Gunnedah”.
A spokesperson for WaterNSW, which manages dams and river networks under the NSW government’s rules framework, also warned about the effects.
“[It] would mean that water releases would have ceased entirely 12 months ago to the landholders, communities, environmental assets and vital industries dependent on the river for their water supply.”
Ms Michie said “no one got any benefit from letting that last bit of water out”, to the point no water could flow through, and it had “turned into a lose-lose situation”.
“It hasn’t helped the irrigators that much, it hasn’t helped the environment, some of it wet the river up for a little bit, [but with] 5-10pc in Keepit, we could keep a base flow running through.”
She said: “If water was left in dams, there would be options going into these terribly dry times; I think people are starting to see that.”
Keepit club supporter Andrew King said, “The farmers need to understand we are not against them”.
“If we united rather than arguing, we would be twice as strong and might have more of a chance,” he said.
“They think we want the water left for recreational purposes, [but] that’s not our point here. We want to see the entire system managed better to avoid issues like this in the future.”