Southern Riverina Irrigators in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper
We have seen the destruction of our environment and a reduction in our food producing capabilities.
And now, it appears we have scientists on the water gravy train, profiting from a commodity that is being wasted.
Deputy Chair of Southern Riverina Irrigators, Darcy Hare, described it as a ‘national disgrace’, saying the games being played with the lives of farmers and rural communities for political and private gain need to be called out.
He says calls for a Royal Commission into water management and environmental degradation across the Murray-Darling Basin need to resurface, as it may be the only way to bring those at the centre of the mess to account.
“Last week it was revealed in media reports the chair of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists is a significant shareholder in Duxton Water. This is the organisation that gloats about the investment potential of water, with the price naturally increasing as more is taken from farmers.
“So, we have a situation where the Wentworth Group is calling for more water buybacks, while its chairman is investing successfully in a company that benefits from more buybacks. That is a massive conflict,” Mr Hare said.
He said, for many years community groups in the NSW Murray have demanded a review of the modelling used to design the Basin Plan, amid claims the science used was, at best, questionable.
“In various scientific areas, from the Murray-Darling Basin to the Great Barrier Reef, there has been increasing concern about some of Australia’s scientific community.
“There appear to be times when scientific results are based on the answers being sought by governments to meet political agendas and can be influenced by funding. The credibility of the scientific community is in jeopardy and the latest investment revelations will only exacerbate this situation,” Mr Hare said.
He said numerous flaws in the Basin Plan – as well as the reasons these flaws were allowed to be approved and implemented despite all the evidence – need to be highlighted in a Royal Commission.
“From the start, the Basin Plan was never going to fix the problems of the Darling/Baaka River system, or the health of the Coorong and Lower Lakes. But every effort to highlight these indisputable facts has been ignored.
“Roughly 81 percent of the water recovered under the Basin Plan has come from the Southern Basin, placing once productive communities under significant strain.
“Nothing has been done to address the floodplain harvesting issue, which has seen the take of unmetered water, that is also unlicensed, having increased since the Basin Plan implementation started. At the same time, we have the Murray River collapsing under the weight of being forced to deliver increasing amounts downstream, as it has been turned into little more than a drainage channel.
“The influence of the Wentworth Group and its agenda must come under scrutiny. It has been surprisingly quiet on the destruction of large sections of the Murray. On top of this, it has not supported efforts to limit floodplain harvesting to save the Darling and seems to have been silent on the adverse impacts of the water market. It has not advocated for an effective water register so we know who owns our water and what it is being used for.
“However, it supports water buybacks that take more water from sustainable food and fibre production and make water more profitable for investors. So, is it genuinely concerned about the environment, or is it influenced by investment and politics? This is a question that needs to be answered.
“Only a Royal Commission will get to the bottom of what has really happened with water management over the past 15 years,” Mr Hare said.
This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 12 August 2021.