14 November 2017
Community group takes legal action to enforce water laws because the Coalition government has not
The Inland Rivers Network is taking legal action to force Peter Harris, a big irrigator in the state’s northwest and a Nationals Party donor, to return more than five billion litres of water he took, allegedly illegally, from the Barwon-Darling River. 
“It should not fall to community groups to enforce our water laws, but the Berejiklian’s government’s inaction has left the Inland Rivers Network no option,” said Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski.
Full Details at the EDO NSW website: IRN v Harris and Another
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.
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).