A Wedderburn couple is concerned about the potential damage to native flora and fauna as a result of the construction of the South West Loddon Pipeline.
Belinda Roberts and John Zoitas said the section of pipeline which will cut through about 500 metres of their property - which lies between two conservation reserves - will have a detrimental effect on native plant species like the dainty phebalium and birds species like the Malleefowl.
The couple want GWMWater to divert the pipeline around their property but have been told the cost of the work would be "astronomical".
“We accept the pipeline and we accept that it is a wonderful thing for the area,” Mr Zoitas said. “But all we ask is recognise our site for what it is before you make any assessments.”
The new pipeline, which is scheduled to be completed by the middle of this year, will deliver security of water supply to communities and farmers in the areas including Skinners Flat, Arnold, Wedderburn and Bridgewater.
Ms Roberts and Mr Zoitas said they have been in contact with GWMWater about the pipeline since mid-September, when the company sent a map outlining the proposed run of the line.
GWMWater said an ecologist inspected the site during development of the project design in November, 2017, to assess vegetation.
The company said the ecologist assessed the site and provided a report in accordance with Victoria’s Native Vegetation Permitted Clearing Regulations.
But the couple questioned where the assessment took place on the site.
Ms Roberts and Mr Zoitas organised a separate ecological survey, which found four plant species listed as rare and threatened in Victoria within the alignment of the proposed pipeline: the bent-leaf wattle (acacia flexifolia), small-flower grevillea (grevillea micrantha), rayless daisy-bush (olearia tubuliflora) and the dainty phebalium (phebalium festivum).
The report to the couple suggested the only way to avoid or minimise the loss of high-quality native vegetation, and rare and threatened plant species, would be to place the pipeline along the roadside.
But Ms Roberts and Mr Zoitas said they were told GWMWater would not use that route due to “astronomical costs” and the need to remove trees along the road.
“We are asking them to take three steps back and do it properly,” Mr Zoitas said. “They’ve decided that the best way to do this is to smash ground covers and avoid trees because it adds to their cost.”
“How can you put a dollar on rare and endangered species?” Ms Roberts said.
A GWMWater spokesman said the organisation was still reviewing options for the pipeline route.
“GWMWater and its contractors are working closely with the land owner to ensure that care is taken to minimise any damage to native vegetation, while ensuring at the same time that this important water supply project is completed as quickly as possible”.
Mr Zoitas said they just wanted to make sure the construction process was correct.
“Our first concern is to make sure that if the vegetation on this property is destroyed, it’s destroyed in the most respectful manner and the most accurate manner based on assessments,” he said.
Mr Zoitas and Ms Roberts, who moved from Melbourne to the Wedderburn address five years ago in search of an easier life, said their health was deteriorating from the stress of the situation.
“I have to watch my health and try and fight for something that doesn’t have a voice,” Ms Roberts said. “It’s like no one cares.”
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