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Emu disaster

Thursday, 5th July, 2018

Jodie Pearce uses a rake to drag a dead emu out of the house tank on Sunnydale Station. PICTURE: Supplied Jodie Pearce uses a rake to drag a dead emu out of the house tank on Sunnydale Station. PICTURE: Supplied

By Craig Brealey

A “stuff-up” in the planning of the pipeline to Broken Hill had caused the death of scores of emus on the Silver City Highway, according to a local grazier.  

Water NSW, which has charge of the project, said it was aware of the problem and had measures in place to deal with it.

The dead and dying birds had turned the Silver City Highway into a “carpet of feathers” for about four kilometres, said Jodie Pearce of Sunnydale Station, about 45km south of Broken Hill.

Mrs Pearce said emus and kangaroos were being killed because the pipeline had  fenced them in.

“Water NSW laid out the pipes along the Silver City Highway months in advance of them being put in the ground,” she told the BDT yesterday.

“They did not leave gaps in between the sections of pipe to let wildlife get through.

“This has seen large mobs of emus in search of water cross the road and, faced with miles of continuous pipe, swing back in a panic and run into oncoming trucks and unsuspecting tourists.

“From Pine Creek back towards Broken Hill we estimate hundreds of emus have been killed. The road for four kilometres is like a carpet of feathers on both sides.”

Mrs Pearce said that yesterday morning she had counted 120 dead emus, and kangaroos, in that short stretch.

“They’re not old carcasses. Some are on the road, injured, just sitting up waiting for a truck to hit them,” she told the BDT.

“I knew it was bad because we’d counted some before, but today I was shocked.”

Mrs Pearce said the animals were dying in the drought and some of the emus that she had found in the homestead’s dam died there.

“When some skin and bones emus do find a way to get over the pipe they go straight to our house tank, gorge themselves and collapse because they’re exhausted.

“It’s my job each day to drag away the dead ones. It’s nothing to pick them up because they’re so lightweight, the poor things.”

The house tank was also the homestead’s water supply, said Mrs Pearce.

“We shower in this water.”

The pipeline is being run 270 kilometres from Wentworth to Broken Hill and Mrs Pearce said the managers of the project seemed to have little knowledge of the bush.

“This is a major stuff-up by Water NSW,” she said.

“The head boss lives in Sydney and I don’t think they have any idea about the things unique to the outback. They are just pushing on regardless.”

A spokesman for Water NSW’s local “W2BH” project said it had now made space between the pipes for fauna.

“Gaps have been created in the mounds of wind row topsoil to allow space for emus and kangaroos to pass and at all pipeline route turnouts.

“The team’s observation to date is that roos and emus have generally stayed well clear of works, given the noise and activity, but in recent weeks there has been an observed increase in kangaroos and emus in search of water along the highway.”

All W2BH employees had also been briefed about emus and kangaroos on the highway and how to avoid them, the spokesman said.

“There have been eight fauna strikes involving project vehicles since construction started in January.

“Fauna handlers and traffic controllers are on-site and attend to any incidents. The fauna handlers check if an animal needs to be euthanised on site, taken into care or has young.” 

Broken Hill’s Rescue and Rehabilitation of Australian Native Animals (RRANA) had also been brought in to take injured animals to its shelter, the spokesman said.

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