The day of the dam busters

AS SHE recalls the moment, an excited smile crosses Elisabeth Berry's face.

She had asked permission to take five minutes out of her job at Mary Ryan's bookshop in Hervey Bay to hear the news as it broke.

“I went out to the car park to listen to it on the radio in my car and I just burst into tears,” she says as she remembers the moment Peter Garrett put an end to Anna Bligh's plan to build a mega-dam at Traveston Crossing.

“I can't believe it's 12 months. It was a Remembrance Day to remember.

“It was another fight, another battle. People couldn't believe we had that victory.”

Mr Garrett, then federal environment minister, vetoed the dam proposal saying it could not go ahead without “unacceptable impacts on matters of national environmental significance”.

The fight had raged for three- and-a-half years after Ms Bligh's predecessor Peter Beattie unveiled the dam plan to consolidate the water supply to the south-east corner in April 2006.

Fears for the future of the Mary River's eco-system downstream and the ecological habitat of the Ramsar-listed Great Sandy Strait had forged the Greater Mary Association.

The Fraser Coast group was set up with the express intention of fighting the $1.8 billion dam plan.

“Our mission statement will be up for discussion at our AGM later this month,” Ms Berry said yesterday.

“We have to look at our raison d'etre.

“But we are still concerned about the general health and sustainable management of the river and its estuary.

“Post campaign that long-term health was of ultimate interest.

“There is a lot more to be done, for people to get involved.

“They shouldn't feel that because the dam was canned there is no work to be done. There is always work to be done with the environment.”

The GMA will host a forum next March to showcase the river and its estuary.

The association is presently considering plans for an innovative river-keeper program to be developed for the Mary River, while its members are also monitoring issues like water allocation and coal mines.

“A lot of members were jaded by the anti-dam campaign and were asking ‘What more can we do?' when it ended. They got a little lost afterwards.

“They had been addicted to the fight.

“It was pretty exciting. It was draining. But it was well worth the effort.

“I miss it but most of us are looking at new projects now. Projects are afoot.”

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