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Irrigators, Yatco Wetland Landcare Group.

Interview:  25th May 2012

 

Merv Shulz was farming in the dry country west of Moorook when he purchased his first property at Yatco from Norm Tschirpig in 1969. The property came with a 168 megalitre water licence which still supports irrigation activities today.

 

He first grew onions and pumpkins, then tomatoes, and today Merv and his son Shane grow lucerne for premium chaff to supply key markets and support their cattle grazing activities on their Mallee properties.

 

The property provides an ideal place to live overlooking the river valley, and as a youngster, Shane enjoyed boating and yabbying on the lagoon.

 

Their irrigation activities serve to value add all their other operations in the dry country. There are no permanent plantings.

 

A second property was purchased from Terry Kassulke in 2000 overlooking Yatco Lagoon. Plans to develop this property were put on hold during the drought and will not be finalised until the pipeline to the river has been completed.

 

Currently, the property is cropped with cereals and in future the 168 Ml water licence can be shared between the two properties.

 

The drought

 

During the drought, irrigation shifts were reduced from 12 hours to 7 hours on the lucerne to manage through the imposed water restrictions, and only in 2008 when restrictions were as low as 18% of allocation did they need to lease in more water.

 

Yatco Lagoon project

 

Merv and Shane were keen to be involved in the Yatco Lagoon Landcare Group because the lagoons are part of their property and they wanted to help improve the environment.

 

They have always been aware of changes in the lagoon, including germination of box trees during the drought, and the improvements in birdlife since the first complete drying in 2008 and the high rivers of 2010, 2011 and 2012.

 

Challenges

 

The delays in installing the new pipeline to the river and new pumps have meant that costs have escalated which has been frustrating, however, the benefits of fresher irrigation water and improved lagoon health are still considered worthwhile.

 

Vision

 

Merv and Shane can see a time when the wetland will be a very natural environment, and trails and board walks will be part of an education program.

 

For now though, Shane’s kids are enjoying boating in the creeks and fishing which is important so that the next generation can carry on the vision of a healthy lagoon and sustainable farming activities around the lagoon.