Anger rises as picnic spot sinks

By Daneka Hill

A beloved picnic grounds is sinking into a swamp and locals are at breaking point after nine years of inaction by Campaspe Shire Council.

Since 2011 the banks of Kow Swamp picnic grounds have been steadily eroding after the park's original barrier wall washed away in the floods.

Ex-Gannawarra Shire councillor and local dairy farmer Neville Goulding has been helping park custodians, the Leitchville Lions Club, secure funding for a new barrier since 2016.

“The park is well utilised but we can’t convince Campaspe it is worthwhile keeping, so obviously their desire is to get rid of the toilets, the barbecue and just let it go to wreck and ruin,” Mr Goulding said.

With help from the community the Lions sourced enough dirt, rock and geo-fabric for a new barrier, but attempts to raise the $43,000 needed to fund the installation were blocked by Council.

Mr Goulding said the Lions had a grant "ready to go" earlier in the year but it was impossible to get approval from Campaspe Council.

More recently Council shut down the toilet block, leaving visitors and the multiple free camping sites nearby to fend for themselves.

“Consequently they locked the toilet doors, consequently somebody decided to take some bolt cutters and cut the chain, so then they shut the water off,” Mr Goulding said.

What followed with a tit-for-tat exchange until Council removed the toilet pans all together.

Campaspe Shire Council regulatory manager Paul McKenzie said the toilets were shut down because of damage to the waste water system.

According to the Lions Club Reid’s Plumbing in Cohuna offered to divert the waste water system from the encroaching banks for free but Council “would not have a bar of it”.

An entirely new toilet block was not an option according to Mr McKenzie "due to the environmental regulations that prohibit waste water systems close to waterways".

Stephen Dye who owns the neighbouring farm agreed with the Lion's to have an environmental toilet constructed on his land away from the water's edge but Council again turned down the idea.

Lion's member Geoff Behrens has been the main caretaker of the park.

“We used to come out here when I was little and it was used way before that to swim, probably two generations before that,” Mr Behrens said of the spot on the southside of the Taylor Creek inlet.

Mr Behrens expressed disbelief a barrier wall has been so hard to install, especially considering the last one was made from wooden posts and poles residents installed themselves.

Campaspe Shire Council said there is a proposed plan to address the erosion in the works by Goulburn Murray Water.