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Water rush brings Menindee to life

Friday, 13th March, 2020

Menindee local Geoff Looney took this shot upstream of Lake Wetherell Outlet earlier this week with residents rejoicing about a flowing Darling/Baaka making it’s way into town. PICTURE: Geoff Looney Menindee local Geoff Looney took this shot upstream of Lake Wetherell Outlet earlier this week with residents rejoicing about a flowing Darling/Baaka making it’s way into town. PICTURE: Geoff Looney

By Callum Marshall

With flows finally making their way into Menindee, residents say they’re starting to see birdlife and tourism return to the town.

With the weir continuing to fill from a flowing Darling/Baaka and WaterNSW now projecting between 250 to 305 gigalitres for Lake Wetherell, there’s a lot of positivity in the township at the moment.

Local Tourism Association President Rob Gregory said more enquiries were starting to come in now that water had returned to the town.

“I’m getting a few more phone calls, particularly from media,” he said. “That’s a good sign that’ll get it out there even further.

“Then we can expect our season to be a lot better than it was last year that’s for sure.

“But certainly there’s a lot of interest and all the locals are going out and having a look.

“You’re sort of seeing a few different vehicles or tourist vehicles in town again (as well.)

“You can tell those four-wheel drives are all dolled up with the city stuff on them.

“There might be a couple of hundred. (There) might (also) be extras floating around the last few days.”

He said the feeling in town was positive at the moment but that people were watching to see what happened next.

“They’re hoping that we see some water into the lakes and that. Make things hopefully a lot better than what it was,” said Mr Gregory.

“We can probably get back out onto Lake Wetherell with the boat in the near future but we’ll just see what they do with the water.

“There’s talk about testing it and that before they go down further and just letting it settle a bit.

“To probably clean it up so it’s good, nice, fresh water that’s going down into the lower part of the Darling.

“We want to see it get down to Pooncarie and those areas where they’ve been suffering for a long time.”

Maidens Hotel publican Arthur Bunney said the uptick in business was massive.

“Previous to (the water arriving) it was very quiet,” he said. “Not many people at all and home meals being served. That’s how bad it’s been.

“Then in the two days that the water was here this week ... it’s come ahead in leaps and bounds. 

“From virtually putting staff off to re-employing them.

“We went from doing one or two meals maybe to 20 meals. That’s how much it’s increased.

“It’s one of those things that you pray for and the more water we get the more tourism we’ll get.”

Seeing birdlife return to the town was also brilliant, he said.

“We’ve had about 1,000 pelicans turn up already, they’re following the water down,” said Mr Bunney.

“That’s a start from no pelicans around the place for the last two years virtually to now plenty of birdlife.

“It just creates all the stuff that people love to see - the birds, the fish and the water.

“Makes the town feel good. Everyone’s walking around with a bit of a smile on their face.

“And it just brings people to the town where before, at 7pm or 8pm at night in winter, you wouldn’t be able to see anyone in the street. It was just that dead.”

For local Karen Page, who was working at the tourist centre yesterday, she said the number of tourists coming in had been quite steady.

“The water’s created a really good interest,” she said. “It just goes to show what water can do for this town.

“And they’re all having a look at the water and seeing how happy the people are around the water.

“So it’s a good vibe. Everybody that has come in today has come in because of the water that has come down.

“And I’ve received phone calls. It’s sparked interest. 

“The Broken Hill people are coming out and having a look. It’s mainly tourists that are coming here into the centre.”

While the waters coming down were definitely welcome, said Mrs Page, what was important to remember was that much more would be needed still to properly fill the lakes.

“People are a little confused because they think we’re getting enough water down to fill all the lakes. That’s not going to happen,” she said.

“What Lake Wetherell itself holds is approximately 300 gigalitres.

“So it’s not going to go anywhere else other than Wetherell, and then it’ll be used to flush and restore the river.

“So it’s anyone’s guess really how long it’s going to be before we’re back in the same situation.

“So we need a huge flow. We need a flood to actually come down the river, not just a flow, for anything to go in any of the lakes.

“We’re still going to only have some water behind the main weir.

“But I’m extremely grateful, and the people in this place are extremely happy, that we’ve actually got that.”

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