Our role in the death of a river

It’s almost 12 months since that astonishing ABC Four Corners reportPumped. 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”.


EARTH FIRST: Water-saving Basin projects hang in the balance

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.”


Partial recovery of key Murray-Darling Basin sites stirs debate

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.”


WaterNSW boss told cotton grower of bid to keep his usage data from being released

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.



WaterNSW took almost a year to act on water theft accusations: EDO

…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.


SMH – Murray Darling Basin’s future in the balance – Peter Hannam

Genuine science and comprehensive evidence provide balance in the debate over the Murray-Darling Basin in this article in the Sydney Morning Herald 15th Feb 18.

We hear from Mal Peters (former Chair of the Northern Basin Advisory Committee), Maryanne Slattery (former MDBA staffer), Bill Johnson (formerly a NSW environmental water manager and staffer with the MDBA) and Fiona Paton (environmental engineer with the University of Adelaide).


Legal Opinion on the Northern Basin disallowance

By: Dr Emma Carmody | Senior Policy and Law Reform Solicitor | EDO NSW

16 February 2018

On 14 February 2018, the Australian Parliament voted to disallow a proposed amendment to the Basin Plan to – amongst other things – take 70 GL (or 70 billion litres) away from the environment in the northern Murray-Darling Basin (MDB). The proposed amendment was based on work undertaken by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) as part of the Northern Basin Review (NBR).

Since our national Parliament exercised its right to reject this amendment, the State of New South Wales has intimated in an official media release that it will walk away from the Basin Plan, claiming that the NBR ‘was always part of the Basin Plan package’ and that ‘[t]his move makes the Basin Plan untenable for NSW.’

We have received a number of inquiries from clients about the meaning of these statements, and their possible implications for the ongoing management of scarce water resources in our largest – and most important – river system. The following analysis is designed to separate fact from fiction.

Click below for the full opinion


The Murray Darling Declaration

There is no time to waste. The Basin remains in a poor state.

The Murray-Darling Declaration was signed on 5 February 2018 by 12 leading experts on the Basin. The Declaration is about how to fix what is going wrong in the Murray-Darling Basin.  It is not about politics or playing the ‘blame game’. The signatories have come together to make the Declaration to highlight their real concerns and to offer solutions.