The Argus at KellyGang 2/4/1861 (4)

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Water rights

11. That the commission of wardens shall decide in what creeks wheels shall be possessed of exceptional rights, and also what exceptional wheel rights exist in other creeks. The commission to allot a reasonably sufficient supply in such cases in accordance with the bye-laws in force at the time, such exceptions to cease at the expiration of the leases proposed to be granted for existing rights.

12. That when the leases are granted, either to existing or future right-holders, a separate list be kept of those diverting water from such creek (showing the order of their priority) in the office of the warden of the division; and that a board be placed in a convenient position in the vicinity of such creek, having inscribed upon it the order of the rights of that creek. Any prior right holder short of a supply shall first call on the junior right diverting water to cease doing so; and if the supply is still insufficient, then upon the next junior, and so on, in the order of priority; any breach of this to be made penal.

13. By 'prior right' shall be understood a right superior to another in the class to which it belongs, or belonging to a class which is superior to some other class of rights.

14. That the lessee shall have power to convey the water from its natural watershed, subject only to prior rights.

15. That water diverted under a lease may be used for any purpose whatever.

16. That every lease shall specify the quantity of water to which the holder is entitled, unless for springs, in which case the quantity shall not be limited.

17. That every lessee shall have power to transfer the lease, and let or sell the use of the water at any point until it reaches the channel of a creek.

l8. Any lessee diverting water, and not using, storing, letting, or selling the same, shall be liable to a penalty.

19. That where a miner in sinking a shaft comes on water, and lifts the same by mechanical power, he shall be entitled to use it without a lease, but such use shall be restricted to the washing of auriferous earth or quartz obtained from the claim in which such shaft is situated; or if such water is lifted from a depth of 60 feet or more, the owner of the claim shall have the right to use the whole supply with restriction.

20. No rights to divert water shall be held under the miner's right.

The commission are of opinion that any act having any reference to water rights should contain provisions by means of which lessees may be enabled to prevent others from cutting tunnels within a certain distance of the source of their water supply, or taking any means (within a distance to be defined by the mining board) of depriving the lessee of his proper supply.


Though not, strictly speaking, within the limits of the inquiries prescribed to the cormmission in the hon. the Attorney-General's letter of instructions, they feel that their report would be incomplete without some reference to, the important subject of an increased water supply.

The commission are of opinion that this result may be more easily obtained by giving such security to leaseholders and capitalists as is proposed in the resolutions, than by Government stepping in to take the place of private enterprise. Rare cases may occur where, for a great public benefit, the state might guarantee interest upon a fixed amount of capital for a limited time; but the commission are of opinion that, if the Government only afford reasonable facilities to private individuals and companies to undertake works for the supply of water, and hamper them with as few restrictions as possible, applications for such a guarantee are not likely to be very numerous. The careful selection and early appointment of a competent hydraulic engineer cannot be too strongly insisted upon. He should be personally acquainted with the great irrigation works of India and Italy , and should be a first-class man in his profession.

More money is wasted, more labour thrown away, at present for want of knowledge of the subject than would suffice to double the supply of the district. It should be the duty of this officer to act with the local water boards, and to prepare plans, surveys, and estimates of works, under their directions, for the gathering of water, and its conveyance to the localities where most urgently required.

Plans or gathering areas, and the courses of creeks and rivers, should be open to public inspection, but parties wishing access to working plans or estimates should be made to pay an equivalent fee for the privilege. The appointment of such an officer, it is believed, would be of great service to the agricultural as well as the mining portion of the community, and the important nature of the services it would be in his power to render makes his appointment highly desirable. That such an engineer would not engage at a mediocre rate of salary is very clear, but the advantage to be derived from his professional acquirements would far more than counterbalance any outlay of the kind.

Beyond those recommendations the commission do not think their task extends. Any indication of the works most necessary to be executed would come more fitly from the local water board whose establishment has been recommended. The commission, in concluding its labours, would urgently impress upon the Government the necessity for early notion in the water-right question, as every day's delay is injurious, not only to individual interests, but to the public of the Beechworth district generally, owing to the uncertainty and insecurity generally felt.

W. DRUMMOND, Chairman.






Messrs. Donald, Thomson, and Chandler , were in favour of granting leases for 12 years for existing rights.

Mr Donald was in favour of the works reverting to the Crown, being of opinion that the term of lease should be commensurate with the expense necessary for the execution of such works, and that such works should revert to the Crown, with the water, at the termination of the leases.

Messrs. Thomson and Donald were of opinion that the disposal of the water at the expiration of the leases should be regulated as the Government of the day may think most conducive to the public interest."

  • Subject to protest attached.


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