The $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin plan is “a fraud on the environment” that may be unlawful, the South Australian royal commission into the basin has heard on its first day of hearings.
“The whole point of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was to restore the health of the dying river by taking some of the overallocated water away from irrigators and putting some of the water back in the system.”
Irrigators in New South Wales are set to receive vast new licences to take water from the Murray-Darling Basin, handed out for free under a state proposal that some say will undermine the national $13 billion plan to save the country’s most important river system.
http://Irrigators in New South Wales are set to receive vast new licences to take water from the Murray-Darling Basin, handed out for free under a state proposal that some say will undermine the national $13 billion plan to save the country’s most important river system.
It’s almost 12 months since that astonishing ABC Four Corners report, Pumped. It alleged that, despite five years of the $13 billion Murray-Darling water-buyback plan that was meant to “fix” the river, “billions of litres of water purchased by Australian taxpayers to save Australia’s inland rivers are instead being harvested by some irrigators to boost cotton-growing operations”.
Bev Smiles, President of the Inland Rivers Network, was critical of the reduction of environmental flow, saying “Inland Rivers Network is very disappointed that the Macquarie Marshes, Menindee Lakes and the Darling River below Bourke have been sacrificed in a poor Basin plan that will not deliver the required ecological outcomes for native fish, red gum forests, wetlands and downstream communities.
“The very risky compromise decision signed off by the Coalition and the ALP on Monday, does nothing to improve water quality or support internationally significant natural areas in the Murray-Darling Basin,” she said.
“The opportunity to improve drought resilience for native species has been lost.”
Several key ecological Murray-Darling Basin sites are showing positive responses to extra water, stirring debate about whether planned cuts to environmental flows should proceed.
“We know that artificial watering, particularly using works, is not at all the same thing as natural flooding and produces different ecological responses,” Mr Bell said.
“The notion that you don’t need more water but somehow more concrete’s going to do the job seems to me pretty hard to swallow.”
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has delivered a scathing assessment of a project New South Wales is relying on to find water savings for the environment: a plan to reduce the size of the Menindee Lakes.
A letter from the head of WaterNSW to cotton grower Peter Harris, saying he was exploring an exemption from the state’s freedom of information laws so it would not be required to release water usage records in future.
…the subsequent lack of action by WaterNSW – even after the widespread publicity and public inquiries prompted by the Four Corner program – prompted EDO NSW to initiate civil enforcement action on behalf of the Inland Rivers Network.
“We took on this case to protect the health of the Murray-Darling Basin river system, which relies on proper compliance with the law,” Elaine Johnson, EDO’s principal solicitor, said.
Photo Ross Lake
“The report is derived from data which belongs to the public, was prepared for public purpose by servants of the public using taxpayers’ money, and should have been made available to the public,” Rex Patrick, the Nick Xenophon Team senator, said, adding the information was “highly relevant to the Northern Basin Review debate”.
“That it wasn’t made available for Parliament’s consideration is nothing short of a treachery,” Senator Patrick said.