Landowner opposite Yatco Lagoon.
Intervierw: 2nd August 2011
Brenton and Trish Schober and their two boys live opposite Yatco Lagoon.
Brenton first became involved in the Yatco Wetland Landcare Group “The Group” in 2007 when he heard from Craig and Sheridan Alm at a CCW Growers Meeting that the Government was considering drying out the lagoon to save water. He immediately saw the opportunity to save water by drying the lagoon, improve the health of the wetland, and shift his pumps to the river.
Brenton and Trish purchased the property in 1983 from Geoff Stocker who had purchased the property from George Scarfe.
Brenton has always enjoyed the river and for many years he and his family have maintained an Easter campsite on the river adjacent to Yatco Lagoon.
His early memories of Yatco Lagoon include water skiing during the 1992/93 floods and trying to avoid the fences. Brenton and Trish’s property was formerly owned by Johnny and Mal Gurr and the original house is now used for rental accommodation.
At the time of purchase there were 2 patches of apricots and citrus that had been established by “Johnny” and Mal. The apricots were retained up until 2000 but their harvest clashed with cereal harvests on Brenton’s property across the highway, and so the apricots were removed and replaced with olives. Brenton regards the olives as a hardy crop well suited to the region. He produces 50% oil and 50% table olives.
Diversification into drying tomatoes was very profitable for a period and helped to pay for the development of their vineyard.
Diversification has been the key in the Schober’s business model.
Irrigation and farm management
In the early 1990’s Brenton undertook the RiverCare Irrigation Management Course and today all of their irrigation properties have been soil surveyed and soil moisture probes are linked to computer based irrigation scheduling systems.
The olives and citrus are watered by under-skirt sprinklers and the vineyard is watered by drippers.
Fruit pest management is supplied by The Fruit Doctors, formerly, Biological Pest Management Services.,
Brenton has always known that a better source of water was critical to his horticultural business.
He has monitored water regularly since living on the channel, and each year the cost of improving flow along the channel is around $500. The recent high rivers have helped to open the channel and improve water quality, however, this will only be temporary as reed growth, sedimentation and dry years will return again leading to increased salinity levels.
The early investigations by John Gransbury at Hydroplan helped to identify a minimum channel flow of 300 litres per second. At times when the flow ceased and the salinity levels rose, Brenton would use his tractor to pump water to create flow through the channel. The flow would then vent into the southern lagoon.
He is now concerned that the lack of openings in the Yatco Lagoon embankment will reduce flow through the channel when there is a southerly wind. Normally when a southerly wind blows, the flow from the south lagoon into the north lagoon draws freshwater from the river into the channel.
Now that the embankment is in place, it is vital to move the channel irrigator’s pumps to the river as quickly as possible.
The benefits of the new embankment and the causeway structures include the ability to manage alternate drying of the lagoons, which will ensure there is a range of habitats and water views most of the time.
At river flows of 30,000 Ml/day the causeway bank cannot control flow because it becomes inundated.
Brenton can see new vegetation growth around the margins of the lagoons and re-greening of the area now that water level draw downs can be managed.
He would like to see a display of interpretive information at the embankment because of the community interest that it has created.
In the longer term there could be boardwalks including floating board walks so that walkers can experience the floods too.