By Kirra Grimes

THE owners of a small acreage at Loch are considering legal action as local authorities refuse to take responsibility for a problematic drain on public land.
Maryann and Andrew McTaggart have been trying, for the past year, to get the South Gippsland Shire Council to do something about a drain running along the boundary of their property, which has been “flooding” their paddocks with the town’s stormwater run-off.
Concerned that the water may be harming the Shetland ponies kept in the paddocks, at a significant cost to Maryann’s breeding business, the McTaggarts say a “proper” channel needs to be dug to prevent it from pooling on the property.
But there’s been no help forthcoming, with Council passing the buck to the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority, who then passed it on to Melbourne Water, who finally referred the McTaggarts back to Council.
With the response from Council’s projects coordinator Jareth Goss that, “there is no apparent way that Council can help resolve this issue,” Maryann has almost come to her wit’s end.
“I feel like I’m being fobbed off,” she told the Sentinel-Times.
“I went to Council a year ago and said, ‘I want you to come and have a look at it’.
“I said, ‘I’ve got no issue with the water coming down onto our property, as long as it goes out the other side, like it’s supposed to. But I want you to do something about a channel to take it from where it’s flooding our property.’
“They didn’t want to hear it.
“All they said was they’d have to have a look at the plans and that they were very old plans, so they’d have to look into their archives and get back to me. But they never did.”
But the McTaggarts aren’t giving up the fight without first exploring their legal options, as Maryann believes the drain water may have contributed to the recent deaths of three of her foals, valued at $5000 each.
“Legal action will be our next step, to get something happening,” Maryann said.
“We’d love for whoever’s responsible to at least do a test, so we know what the heck is in that water.
“The ponies are up to their necks in it, and it could have anything in it; chemicals, oil…”
“I can’t put any mares in foal in those paddocks anymore; it’s just too much of a risk, so that’s about half of the property I
can’t use.
“But we’re just hitting walls. No one wants to claim it.”
In response to the Sentinel-Times’ enquiries, South Gippsland Shire Council said: “Council is responsible for the drainage within the road reserve only and is not responsible for the drain within private property.
“In the absence of any guidance or claims of ownership from the catchment management authority, the responsibility for the maintenance of the flow path falls to the property owner.
“Responsibility notwithstanding, any works on the waterway in the property may require a Consent for Minor Waterway Work from Melbourne Water as it is within their boundary.”
Melbourne Water told the Sentinel-Times: “Melbourne Water doesn’t have any assets in the area.
“Previously, we’ve spoken to the property owner and referred them to Council as it is responsible for the management of the drain in question.”
The West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority said: “The township of Loch is outside the WGCMA catchment boundary.
“Any drainage issues within the town should be referred to the shire and any waterway issues should be referred to Melbourne Water.”