Water politics in Australia’s $13 billion political plan to save the Murray-Darling Basin is rapidly deteriorating as political drivers rip apart what remains of meaningful engagement, sustainable water industries and communities reliant on a balanced plan.
Despite all the promises and shiny beads, sadly, politics and bureaucracy show little interest in change. Two key issues that highlight the maintaining of the status quo are the federal government’s push for recovering an additional 450GL for the South Australian environment and the NSW Government’s licensing of floodplain harvesting above cap values.
Member for Murray, Helen Dalton, said NSW has cooked the books and manipulated its modelling to ensure a small, but powerful select group of floodplain harvesters in northern NSW can now take water above the legal level every other licensed and metered southern basin irrigator operates under.
“I met with the Environment Minister, James Griffin, along with reps from Southern Riverina Irrigators on Monday to try and get him to delay signing off on these damaging water sharing plans,” said Ms Dalton.
“He assured us he would meet with our experts.”
It appears listening to the full information, though, was not that important, with NSW rushing to pass the Floodplain Harvesting Licences on Friday.
NSWIC CEO Claire Miller said the industry supports regulation to ensure all water take is within sustainable diversion limits and looks forward to licensing and metering now being rolled out in the other three northern valleys.
Floodplain harvesting legislation looks to be heading to court as southern NSW water users plan to fight the detrimental impacts on downstream flows through what they believe is licensing exceeding legal limits.
Southern Riverina Irrigators vice-chairman, Darcy Hare, said too much water had been licensed for the practice, reducing inflows downstream and putting their water security at risk.
“There’s going to be more onus put on all of those southern basin rivers to make up the shortfall for what will no longer be coming down the Darling River,” Mr Hare said.
Downstream Darling communities are also unhappy with the move, stating that their concerns over the minimum Menindee volume trigger of 195GL have been ignored.
For years, their community had requested a minimum water reserve of 390-400GL in the lakes before upstream take could commence to ensure a repeat of the horrific fish kills does not occur.
It appears the Murray will be doing the heavy lifting and it seems to be treated less as a river and more as an irrigation ditch to be dredged and hydraulicly land cleared.
This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 4 August 2022.