River bank a recipe for disaster, says farmer

RISK: Mark Foy is worried the river bank at his Swan Reach property could wash away in a flood. Picture: Max Mason-HubersFARMER Mark Foy is worried a section of bare dirt along the Hunter River bank at Swan Reach could spark a natural disaster.
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Mr Foy said the dirt would wash away during a flood, causing severe erosion to his property and potentially damaging a rock wall that the government built to stop soil on his land falling into the river.

If that happened, floodwater would quickly inundate several farms and possibly catch landholders unaware and put lives in danger, he said.

‘‘The floodwater would go straight onto the flats and into the path of my neighbour’s shed, and into the path of my house,’’ Mr Foy said.

The government rocked 65metres of the bank this year after 3500 cubic metres of soil fell into the river less than 100metres from Mr Foy’s home.

He lobbied for action, and was happy to let contractors use part of his property for several months to complete the work.

He was told grass had been planted in the dirt, but six months later there were only sporadic weeds and the odd bit of grass, which he said would not stop erosion in a flood.

“If you look at my farm you can see the kikuyu goes right along the levee bank, and then there is the patch of dirt,” Mr Foy said.

“It’s become the weak spot since this work has been done.

“Don’t get me wrong, the contractors have done a wonderful job rocking the bank, but the job needs to be finished properly because otherwise it might be ruined in a flood and cause damage to my land.

“I’d hate to see that happen.”

Mr Foy has requested that the government pay to turf the area, but it has not yet revealed whether it would assist.

An Office of Environment and Heritage spokeswoman told the Newcastle Herald the department was “investigating the matter”.

The spokeswoman did not say if the department thought the dirt area would be a problem in a flood.