Listowel Banner editorial
People always say there are two sides to every story, which is something journalists hear time and time again through the course of their career. The story of Listowel’s dam on the Maitland River has also been told time and time again, but it would be unfair to say there are only two sides to the story.
There’s the historical side from people who believe the dam is the centrepiece of Listowel Memorial Park’s tribute to those who served during the First and Second World Wars, and fits with the rest of the history in the area as a piece of the town’s heritage. These people feel that ripping out the dam would be like ripping out a piece of Listowel’s history.
These people are often closely associated with residents who see the nostalgic side of the story and remember growing up with the dam. They recall childhood memories of swimming in the Maitland River, fishing along the banks or catching frogs among the rocks in the stream. Unfortunately you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would set foot in the river during summer these days, let alone swim in it.
Then there’s the side of residents living along the Maitland River who enjoy having a nice view from their window, and would hate to see the dam gone. They see the river as an extension of their backyard, and would rather see money spent to make the river look presentable than remove the dam and risk losing that picturesque setting.
Finally, there’s the environmental side of the story. The Maitland Valley Conservation Authority has been clear on where they stand on the removal of the dam. A recent report to North Perth council from the MVCA states that the dam adds to the deterioration of the river’s water quality, slowing the flow and warming the water. Add to this the high nutrient levels being deposited to the river, and it makes for perfect algae growing conditions and a layer of scum covering the river in warm weather. The MVCA report also makes it clear that the Listowel dam has no function for flood control or ice reduction, in response to a question from council back in October. Although the MVCA has committed to work with council no matter which option is selected, their recommendation is to proceed with a full removal of the dam and restoration of the site to a free flowing river system.
The MVCA is not alone either. The report includes comments made by the Ministry of Natural Resources in 2006 that they would support the municipality and encourage permanent removal of the dam. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans also encourages removal of the Listowel dam, also from comments made in 2006. It’s hard to ignore the weight of those recommendations to improve the health of the Maitland River against the opinions of people who think the river makes for good scenery.
The last time North Perth council voted on the future of the Listowel dam, it ended in a tie vote of 5-5 in May last year, illustrating how divisive the debate on Listowel’s dam truly is. It will be interesting to see how council votes on the future of Listowel’s dam when the matter returns, but it’s clear that only one side will be made happy by the final decision.