New water report on basin
In his five-year report of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, Murray-Darling Basin Authority chair Neil Andrew refers to improved environmental health.
Given the improved climatic conditions in the five years post the worst 10 years of drought in recorded history I am not surprised there are positive outcomes.
I also find it difficult to validate these claims when the House of Representatives’ Interim Report into the Living Murray (2004) concluded that our rivers were in quite good health and not in decline, and that no water should be taken from production as the science was not there to justify such action.
The MDBA has also claimed responsibility for the growth in the basin economy.
Again, this growth for the non irrigation sector of the basin is not surprising given the more favourable seasons, following the crippling drought coupled with improved commodity prices for cattle, wool, fat lambs and harvestable grain crops.
However, no-one is keen to take responsibility for the adverse impact on industries and commodities with the massive depletion of water for productive use, or the adverse impact on industries and commodities, which is profound and ongoing.
Unfortunately, some applaud the trading of water to high value crops and the opportunity for large profits of corporate developments of horticulture, while ignoring the misery inflicted on communities in the process.
Does anyone realise a small oversupply of high value crops very quickly becomes low value or no value crops?
The Howard Government has achieved what it set out to do — we must recognise the 2007 Water Act was written despite national and international reports from experts confirming the Murray was not in decline and over-allocated.
The separation of land and water allowed cash-strapped farmers with banks at their doors to ‘willingly’ (unwillingly if you speak to them) sell their water to the government to survive.
The reality is that we now have a basin plan that aims to deliver an additional 3000 Gl of water to the South Australian Lower Lakes (which were once estuarine) to provide a so-called freshwater solution to a historically saltwater system.
In the process, as we push water from the start to the end of the system, one third the capacity of Hume Dam is evaporated each year.
The 2007 Water Act was never about the environment, it was to gain votes in South Australian key electoral seats, usurping the fundamental rights of states over their water (clearly written into the Constitution) and thus sacrificing the basin’s irrigation industry developed over the previous century, as the major food bowl of our nation.
It is past time the leaders of this country (both federal and state) and agricultural and irrigation representative bodies admitted the massive mistake that has been inflicted on our nation.
Furthermore, they should advocate the following but necessary steps to reverse this disaster inflicted upon the food bowl of this great nation of ours: ■ Re-draft the 2007 Water Act. ■ Restructure the MDBA and make it accountable. ■ Build a weir at Wellington. ■ Instigate a dam-building policy (no dams have been built in 40 years). — Neil Eagle Barham, NSW