New wa­ter re­port on basin

Shepparton News - Country News - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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