Tusked Frog survived pandemic in Mole River ark

Mole River Protection Alliance

MEDIA RELEASE 8th March 2021

“Tusked Frogs and Northern Brown Bandicoots – both are amazing finds I would not have dreamt of” said Phil Spark who has been conducting wildlife surveys for decades. “That’s on top of Spotted-tail Quoll, Rakali, Catfish, Murray Cod and so many other species – it seems the Mole River is an ark of conservation for species that are declining or have already disappeared elsewhere.”

Mr Spark was one of three professional ecologists who spent a weekend surveying the site of a proposed dam 25 km west of Tenterfield near the NSW-Queensland border for the Mole River Protection Alliance.

He explained “This is the first place west of the Dividing Range where Tusked frogs have been found for over four decades. They used to be common in the New England Tablelands or North West Slopes but rapidly disappeared in the 1970s.”

Tusked Frogs were severely affected by a pandemic of chytrid fungus, like many other frog species around the world. The species survived in coastal regions but were feared extinct in this region where any remaining Tusked Frogs were declared an endangered population.

Mole Station owner, David Caldwell, showed the ecologists a dead Bandicoot he had found very close to the Mole River downstream from the dam site. “They were excited because bandicoots are very rare in this area. The Australian Museum advised us that there were no previous specimen-based records of this species from west of Tenterfield. The species is likely to be at the western edge of its range in this area which makes the Mole River population significant” Mr Caldwell said. “I’d not seen one before but my father remembers seeing them here long ago – it is lovely to know Bandicoots still live in our valley.”

“It was great to see a camera-trap photo of the Rakali, proving they had survived our extreme drought. Most people call them Water Rats because they live in rivers, although they are not much like rats. My grandfather told me people around here called them moles and this may be the origin of the Mole River’s name”.

Phil Sparkes shows turtles to Mole River Information Fun Day participants

NSW Fisheries surveys in early 2020 showed at least six fish species had survived the extreme drought in Mole River, including three species threatened by river regulation Murray Cod, Catfish and Purple-spotted Gudgeons.

This brief survey brought the number of fish species re-found to 8 and recorded 11 frog species, 3 kinds of turtle, 42 birds and 16 native mammal species.

Kate Boyd of the Mole River Protection Alliance says “This river valley is an ark in which so much wildlife has survived past land use changes, diseases and introduced predators. The forest on the riverbanks suffered a bit in the drought but it remained as a refuge with habitats these species need. Many thousands of bottlebrush shrubs overhanging the river channel flowered brilliantly last spring when everything was able to reproduce again.

“This is the ark in which these species have a chance of surviving climate change.”

WaterNSW proposes to build a dam that would inundate and permanently destroy about 13 km of the Mole River, plus the side creeks, River Oak forest, woodlands and productive grazing land.

“All of the Mole River downstream would be adversely impacted by greatly changed river flows if funds to build the dam are found.”

$24m of public funds are currently being spent trying to work out a final business case for the dam. Consultants have been paid to look for threatened species in the inundation site but their findings have not been made public. They may be used to calculate part of the money required to “offset” loss of threatened species – a cost to include in the business case along with construction costs and benefits – the dam is primarily to improve reliability for irrigated agriculture.

Kate Boyd says “Water NSW has not looked for threatened species on downstream properties although the impacts and “offset” cost calculations can’t be done properly without this. Mole River Protection Alliance may have to find volunteers to do its own survey of wildlife habitats downstream and indicate how big this hole in the business case could be. 

“The business case may not be made public either, unless the Premier or Treasurer are persuaded to release it before considering expenditure of more funds.

“It is not possible to offset the destruction of this whole endangered population of Tusked Frogs by a dam. These frogs live in creeks, natural rivers and on sheltered riverbanks, not in drowned dead treetops or up hills. No amount of money can create another river with the right habitats for Tusked Frogs and threatened fish to thrive in.”

The Mole River Protection Alliance, of local people and wider community interests, believes careful promotion of the valley for its wonderful wildlife and other values would be a much better future.

Contacts:            

Phil Spark            0427 642245                       

David Caldwell   02 6737 5429

Kate Boyd           0429724026   Kate can’t take calls at work 8am-5.15 Monday-Wednesday:

                                                                so please leave a text message then I will call you back

For more on Tusked Frogs:   https://australian.museum/blog/amri-news/frog-with-tusks-rediscovered/

Rakali on the Mole River
A quoll was seen under this Red Gum on the Mole River

Productivity Commission supports community call for more transparency in water management

MEDIA RELEASE
Thursday 11 February 2021

Inland Rivers Network and Tamworth Water Security Alliance welcome the draft Productivity Commission Report recommendation that all town water supply options should be on the table with a rigorous, consistent and transparent assessment of costs and benefits.
The Productivity Commission draft findings into the review of the National Water Initiative, released on 11 February, includes a chapter on Urban Water Supply. Principles recommended in Advice 11.1 ‘Best Urban System Planning’ includes that:
All supply options are considered and their relative merits subject to a rigorous, consistent and
transparent assessment of costs and benefits. 1
“Tamworth Water Security Alliance (TWSA) has been calling for all water security options to be on the table and fully costed, with an understanding of who will manage the projects, who will benefit most and who will pay,’ said David McKinnon, TWSA representative.
‘It is pleasing to see that the community position is backed up by the Australian Productivity Commission.’
‘The NSW and Federal Governments have promised a considerable amount of public funding to build a new dam at Dungowan, that may not be the best solution to Tamworth’s water security problems. It may also prove to be economically unviable,’ said Bev Smiles, President of Inland Rivers Network.
‘The least the community can expect is that the business case for Dungowan Dam is made available to the public so there is assurance that a rigorous cost-benefits analysis is undertaken.’
‘The people who are paying for this new dam should have access to the business case,’ said Ms Smiles. ‘There are many costs including to the health of the Peel and Namoi Rivers, downstream water users, to native fish populations, platypus and other water dependent species.

Contact: Bev Smiles 0428 817 282
David McKinnon 0417 029 392

210211 Media Release Draft Productivity Commission Report

No improvement in transparency for water ownership & trading

MEDIA RELEASE

Tuesday 2 February 2021

The NSW Government must show they are serious about managing the state’s precious water
resources by providing open public access to all water licence and water trading information.
The Inland Rivers Network submission to the public consultation that closed on 1 February
emphasised the need for a free public single source Water Register.
Like Western Australia, the NSW Water Register should include all details of water
entitlements; water allocations; meter readings; real time water account balance and all trading
activities, as well as any convictions from water theft.
The exposure of seriously poor water management by the ABC Four Corners program
‘Pumped’ in 2017, resulted in recommendations from the independent Matthews Report to
improve transparency around water ownership and trading.
“Public confidence in the State government’s approach to transparency has not improved with
the latest approach out for comment,” said Bev Smiles, President.
‘The proposal is basically business as usual with information spread across numerous
websites and a huge cost to gain access the Water Access Licence information.’
‘If other states can provide free public information from a single source, we have to ask what
is NSW hiding?’
‘The only way to avoid ongoing allegations of water theft and corruption is to be upfront about
who owns what, what they are extracting or trading and how the Government is regulating the
water industry and market,’ said Mel Gray, Healthy Rivers Dubbo
‘This Government has been sprung time after time favouring their big corporate mates at the
expense of everyone else. If they want us to trust them, this is their opportunity to come clean.’

Inland Rivers Network submission is available at:
https://inlandriversnetwork.org/campaigns/submissions/ 
More information at: https://www.industry.nsw.gov.au/water/licensing-trade/trade/have-yoursay
Contact: Bev Smiles 0428 817 282
Mel Gray 0431 471 310

210202 No improvement in transparency for water ownership & trading

 

Water Rorts to be Entrenched.

Inland Rivers Network has slammed the NSW Government initial approach to licencing the
previously illegal capture of flood flows into private farm dams in north-west NSW. The
proposal is to grant a new, free, tradable property right to irrigators, with almost unlimited
permission to capture flood water.
A submission to the proposed licencing and management of flood water capture (known as
Floodplain Harvesting) in the NSW Border Rivers valley has highlighted ongoing favouritism
to the irrigation industry at the expense of river health and downstream communities in a highly
variable river system.
‘The Darling River gets all its water from its tributaries, and the Border Rivers catchment is a
major source,’ said Brian Stevens, Secretary of Inland Rivers Network.
‘The proposed approach of capturing flood flows for private gain in the Border Rivers will rob
water from downstream communities, destroy important cultural heritage values, and
effectively kill native fish and the river communities all the way to Menindee Lakes.’
‘Proposed rules to grant an initial 500% of new licence allocations and to allow 500% carryover
will result in capture of all small and medium sized floods and severely reduce the downstream
benefits of large floods.’
The fact that NSW Government water agencies are making an attempt to regulate Floodplain
Harvesting should be congratulated but this particular approach mirrors the harsh criticism
handed down by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on Friday 27
November.
‘ICAC highlighted the undue focus on irrigators’ interests within water agencies and the lack
of transparency, balance and fairness in consultation processes,’
‘This is exactly what has happened with the assessment of volumes and rules for new
Floodplain Harvesting licences – windfall private property rights for an elite set of irrigators.’
‘New proposed rules will mean business as usual with limited change to flood access and new
exemptions for capture of rainfall runoff. Our northern inland rivers will continue to suffer.’
Inland Rivers Network maintains that the health of the Border and Darling Rivers will not
improve with the proposed regulation of Floodplain Harvesting in the Border Rivers. This is
the first cab off the rank with rules for the other four catchments, Gwydir, Namoi, Macquarie
and Barwon-Darling due out early next year.
Contact: Brian Stevens 0429 903 082
Jonathan Howard 0422 266 023

No reason to fast-track Wyangala dam project

MEDIA RELEASE

No reason to fast-track Wyangala Dam project

Friday 2 October 2020

The NSW Government is commencing preparation work for the construction of an enlarged
storage at Wyangala Dam on the Lachlan River without a business case or planning approvals.
Inland Rivers Network and the Upper Galari Traditional Owners Group condemn the undue
haste when Wyangala Dam is currently over 60% full.

‘There is no need to rush this very large, expensive project that will have significant cultural
heritage, environmental, social and economic impacts in the Lachlan Valley,’ said Bev Smiles,
President of Inland Rivers Network.

‘There is enough water for everyone, with more flowing in.’
The area of the project, Wyangala Dam, is located on Wiradjuri Country.
‘Traditional Owners, elders and the local community from the Upper Bila Galari (Lachlan
River) have always held strong cultural ties to our connection to country and the cultural
significance of our rivers,’ said Isabel Coe, Traditional Owner

‘The plans to ‘fast track this project’ without the culturally appropriate knowledge holders of
the project area is detrimental to our culture and heritage. As Traditional Owners we do not
support the decision by proponents to attempt to engage with interested parties who do not
speak for country. Organisations involved in the cultural heritage assessment report have no
right to allow parties who do not come from Wiradjuri to speak on our behalf,’ said Isabel
Coe.
‘This whole landscape is sacred to the Traditional Owners and clan groups of the Wiradjuri
Nation with over 329 identified sites to be desecrated by the proposed inundation along the
Lachlan River.’

‘The water flow of the Abercrombie and Lachlan river running into Wyangala will be
disrupted with water being pushed back upstream causing major stagnation and water
pollution to the freshwater ecosystem. Downstream of the Lachlan river – the Belubula,
creeks and further down wetlands environmental flow will also be impacted as water and
floods help flush and replenish the waterways,’ said George Coe, Traditional owner.

Both Inland Rivers Network and the Upper Galari Traditional Owners Group are critical of the
poor consultation with community groups in the region.

‘This rush to start work is based on political announcements and National Party promises. It is
without proper assessment or clear communication about the economic impacts, or even the
need for more water to be captured from the Lachlan River,’ said Bev Smiles

Contacts: Isabel Coe 0412 239 256
George Coe 0413 282 464
Bev Smiles 0428 817 282

201002 No reason to fast-track Wyangala Dam project

No drought-proofing from new dams

Media release

12 May 2020

No drought-proofing from new dams

National Party plans to build new dams and expand others will enrich irrigators, degrade river ecosystems and will not protect communities from climate change and drought unless the government changes Water Sharing Plans to reflect our drying climate, environment groups have warned.

“The projects the Nationals outlined today will not provide more water security and drought-proof communities,” Nature Conservation Council CEO Chris Gambian said.

“Bigger dams will just mean more water for irrigation and less for the river and other users.”

Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Water Minister Melinda Pavey announced this week that $245m would be spent building the business case for three dam projects:

  •        raising Wyangala Dam on the Lachlan River
  •        building the Dungowan Dam on the Peel River
  •        building a dam on the Mole River near Tenterfield

The Nationals claim the dams will store water that can sustain communities during dry spells,[1] but water allocations from dams in these river systems will not be based on the most recent drought.[2]

“Time and again, the Nationals have shown their water policy is to provide maximum water to the irrigation industry,” Mr Gambian said.

“This is reflected in the new Water Sharing Plans, due to commence on 1 July, 2020. Bigger dams will mean more water taken from our river systems, not more water stored for drought protection.”

Inland Rivers Network President Bev Smiles said: “The new Water Sharing Plans do not use the most recent drought of record and were bound to over-estimate the volume of water available for irrigation.

“For the Lachlan River, the lowest inflows on record are based on those before July 2004. The Millenium Drought and the current more severe drought are being ignored.”

This issue was confirmed by Water Minister Pavey in Parliament last November where she said:

To include a rule that automatically requires the water supply system to adjust to new record drought would potentially result in significant quantities of water being locked away from productive use.” [3]

 

“The new Water Sharing Plans will cause the same problems to arise with each new drought,” Ms Smiles said.

“In 2016, all NSW dams were full. By the end of 2018 they were empty because all the water had been handed out, not stored for drought protection.

“This is what will happen again with these new projects if we don’t change the Water Sharing Plans to reflect the scarcity of water in our drying climate.

“The Water Sharing Plans need to be changed so the most recent drought is considered when making annual water allocations.

“We don’t need more, bigger dams. We need water sharing rules that provide water security for severe drought conditions.”

MEDIA CONTACT: James Tremain | 0419 272 254

 BACKGROUND TO WATER SHARING PLAN RULES

 Wyangala Dam

Water Sharing Plan for the Lachlan Regulated River Water Source 2020

Part 10 System Operation Requirements

Division 4 General System Operations Rules

58 Maintenance of water supply

(1) In this clause, the period of lowest accumulated inflows to the water source is identified by flow information held by the Department prior to 1 July 2004.

(2) The operator must operate the water supply system in such a way that water would be able to be supplied during a repeat of the period of lowest accumulated inflows to the water source,

 Dungowan Dam

Water Sharing Plan for the Peel Regulated River Water Source 2020

Part 10 System Operation Requirements

Division 2 General System Operations Rules

52 Maintenance of water supply

(1) In this clause, the period of lowest accumulated inflows to the water source is identified by flow information held by the Department prior to 1 July 2010.

(2) The operator must operate the water supply system in such a way that water would be able to be supplied during a repeat of the period of lowest accumulated inflows to the water source

Mole River Dam

Water Sharing Plan for the NSW Border Rivers Regulated River Water Source 2020

Part 10 System Operation Requirements

Division 3 General System Operations Rules

57 Maintenance of water supply

(1) In this clause, the period of lowest accumulated inflows to the water source is identified by flow information held by the Department prior to 1 July 2009.

(2) The operator must operate the water supply system in such a way that water would be able to be supplied during a repeat of the period of lowest accumulated inflows to the water source

[1] Media Release Deputy Premier and Water Minister, 10 May 2020, STAGE 1 BEGINS ON STATE SIGNIFICANT DAMS

[2] See attached briefer: Water Sharing Plan rules are not based on the most recent lowest inflows on record

[3] https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/Hansard/Pages/HansardFull.aspx#/DateDisplay/HANSARD-1820781676-80754/HANSARD-1820781676-80801

 

 

NSW Government opens the floodgates for irrigators to profit

Conservation groups are outraged at the NSW Government’s decision to allow big irrigators to take millions of litres of flood water from the Barwon-Darling river system.

The government on Monday (February 10) temporarily overturned a restriction it placed on the capture of floodwaters just three days before on Friday (February 7).

The move could divert millions of litres of water from towns and the environment into the storages of large irrigators in the north of the basin.

“After such a prolonged drought, the priority for these vital first flows through the Barwon-Darling system must be to replenish town water supplies and revive fish stock and river ecosystems,”

Nature Conservation Council CEO Chris Gambian said. “Over-extraction by big irrigators, aided and abetted by the NSW Government, has made the impact of this drought much worse than it should have been. The drought is not yet over, and the government is at it again.

“The NSW Government’s management of the recent flows has been chaotic and poorly communicated, with three contradictory directions issued over the past week.

“On Friday, it simultaneously imposed a restriction on floodplain harvesting in the northern basin while also authorising landholders use of illegal levies and dams to capture and store overland flows. Then on Monday it announced a three-day free-for-all allowing irrigators to take as much water from the floodplain as they can pump.

“Once again the government appears to be pandering to the interests of big irrigators ahead of communities and the environment.”

Inland Rivers Network spokesperson Bev Smiles said: “These flows are the first ray of hope for the Darling River for years and should be allowed to flow through the system to Menindee Lakes and the Lower Darling.

“They are an important opportunity to reverse the extreme stress suffered by the Darling River and its dependent communities and wildlife.

“Now the government has authorised irrigators to harvest the best part of the flows in Namoi, Gwydir and Barwon rivers. The ad hoc approach to water management in western NSW has caused significant trauma to people, native fish and the riverine environment along the Darling River.

“This opportunity to revive the river system has been squandered at the behest of the powerful upstream irrigation lobby.”

MEDIA CONTACT: James Tremain, 0419 272 254

200212-MR – NSW Government opens the floodgates for irrigators to profit

NSW to ignore dam impacts

Media Release

Sunday 13 October 2019

NSW ignores responsibilities for wetlands, native fish and western communities. Inland Rivers Network has major concerns that the NSW Government is turning its back on native fish, waterbirds, wetlands and downstream communities by proposing new large dams with no impact assessment.

191013 NSW to ignore dam impacts