Concern has been raised about a State Government funding cut that will have consequences for aquatic weed control on the Hawkesbury Nepean River, including a potential river lockdown.
In November 2020, $238,000 State funding was withdrawn according to Hawkesbury River County Council (HRCC) Chairman and Hawkesbury City Councillor Nathan Zamprogno, who said has traditionally been the lead agency for weed control on the river.
"This means we will be losing front-line capacity, losing staff, and possibly facing the sale of our unique capital assets ('Weedosaurus' harvester), just after they were repaired at some cost," he said.
"I believe the funding allocation mechanism, through mid-level bureaucrats at Local Land Services (LLS), has failed."
The 'Weedosaurus' harvester was repaired, with assistance from the Federal Government, following damages sustained in January 2020.
"We were ... preparing to resume on-water operations - especially as there are rowers training on the river at Penrith in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics," he said.
Cr Zamprogno said the Board is concerned about rower and community safety, following a recent capsizing of a schoolgirl rowing crew whose oars were caught in weeds.
"The excessive weed could also prevent safety boats from accessing the river, as they also get caught in the weed," he said.
"There is a real risk to our multiple world champion and Paralympian, Erik Horrie capsizing.
"Due to his impairment and boat class, he is strapped into the boat and if he capsized it would really be difficult to get him out of the boat and water.
"There are several areas along with riverbank where young children swim - these areas are now becoming clogged with weed in which they could become entangled."
Cr Zamprogno said that HRCC had State Government operational funding for about 10 years.
"Now that's gone," he said. "We feel that it makes a mockery of the Federal Government providing such generous funding, if the State Government then drops the ball."
Cr Zamprogno predicted a complete river shutdown, like what happened in 2004, was almost inevitable if the weeds were allowed to run wild.
"It probably won't happen this year, but it definitely will happen - it's like any natural event. It's just a matter of time," he said.
"And without the pre-emptive management which we were doing, it's almost guaranteed to happen again in the future."