Around 50 stakeholders took the opportunity to press Bathurst Regional Council and engineering consultants Premise on a proposed environmental assessment [EA] application to amend the licence for Winburndale Dam at a Wednesday night forum.
The forum, held at BMEC, was centred primarily on a proposed amendment, to be presented to the Natural Resource Access Regulator [NRAR], permitting council to release flows from the dam's release valve into the connected rivulet at a rate of 0.78 megalitres per day, with seasonal adjustments.
Winburndale stakeholders believe the change will allow council to operate "business as usual", with the rivulet all but dry in January 2020, at the height of the drought.
This was in spite of council reporting environmental flow releases at an average daily rate of 0.7 megalitres.
The meeting was chaired by former Bathurst mayor Norm Mann, and panellists included council's director of engineering services Darren Sturgiss, water security project manager Garry Styles, local solicitor Paul Crennan and Premise consultants.
Landowner Jeff Pratley, whose family has owned Oakbrook at Peel since 1911, said the proposed environmental flow rate would prove ineffective to prevent the rivulet from drying up in a future drought event.
"We have anecdotal evidence the rivulet's management between 2017 and 2019 was an environmental disaster," Mr Pratley said.
"Council were required to release 20 per cent of inflows into the rivulet, but it was dry, we all witnessed it."
In answer to Mr Pratley's pressing on the condition, Mr Sturgiss said "the 20 per cent is measured based on the inflows recorded at the dam wall", but conceded "he didn't have an answer at hand" regarding the average daily releases between 2017 and 2019.
Fellow stakeholder Charlie Dutton, who's family has lived and farmed on the rivulet since 1824, said the last 20 years in particular have proved detrimental to the rivulet's condition.
"We're not here to stop council from using the rivulet's water, we're here to secure a win-win scenario for both council and stakeholders," Mr Dutton said.
"This amendment has not been modelled against any current licence conditions, rather historical records on a computer, so we propose a joint working party as the ideal outcome."
When Mr Dutton pressed the council on "ignoring" the conditions of their water licence, Mr Styles said "we've put in the EA what we believe is the correct interpretation of the licence requirements, which we've drawn from all conditions dating back to 1930."
Michael Inwood, who first raised the issue with media, said "we cannot have the rivulet destroyed every seven to 10 years when we enter a drought cycle," and "we're at the crossroads tonight with the rivulet's management."
In addition, CSU adjunct professor David Goldney said the rivulet's platypus population had been rendered "extinct" due to its dry state.
Council disputed an "official caution" by NRAR last July in regards to a breach in the licence conditions.
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