Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Invest in our future, not profits

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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, according to Southern Riverina Irrigators deputy chair Darcy Hare.

Mr 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,’’ Mr Hare said.

‘‘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 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 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 per cent 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.’’

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