This line of inquiry prompts more questions: why is the federal government going to so much trouble – and risking having the High Court rule once and for all that the states can compel the Commonwealth all they like – to stop a handful of officials appearing and some documents being handed over?
John Clements, a former adviser to the independent MP Tony Windsor, said he had reflected on his experience on the Northern Basin Advisory Committee (NBAC), which ran from 2012 to 2016 and concluded it was used “to rubber-stamp the ambitions of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority” to deliver a major cut to the 390GL environmental water target.
In scathing evidence to the South Australian royal commission into the Murray-Darling river system, Clements said the committee formed the view the MDBA’s modelling and data was deficient.
Yet he said the authority consistently refused to acknowledge the failings of its hydrological modelling, which did not take account of climate change, natural losses in the system and was informed by limited data on what was really happening in the river.
The former head of water policy in New South Wales, David Harriss, says he was “moved on” from his job after clashing with the water minister, Kevin Humphries, over plans to increase compliance levels among irrigators.
Harriss, who worked in the office of water for 25 years, also claimed cotton interests in the Barwon-Darling were extremely influential in determining water policy in NSW and that he struggled to get NSW water ministers to take steps to protect environmental flows in the Barwon-Darling.
He said there was often lobbying to lift embargoes on pumping water when the rivers were low.
In one particularly dry year cotton farmers in the Gwydir and Namoi valleys had needed extra water to finish growing a crop, but preferred not to go to the water market to buy it, he said. Instead they lobbied the minister for access to environmental water.
Northern irrigators said, ‘don’t invest the $50m in our area on meters because the water we’d be giving back is far too great’,”
The South Australian Royal Commission into the Murray Darling Basin continues to unearth serious problems in the MDBA’s implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
“A summary of the evidence so far would be that the basin authority’s alleged science is, in fact, not science,” Mr Beasley told commissioner Bret Walker on Thursday.
“It is open to find that they know that. It is open to find that they have supplanted policy or a political position for scientific evidence.
“It’s certainly open to find that their science and economic analysis just does not stack up.”
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.”