Chal­lenge is­sued to Went­worth Group

Southern Riverina news - - NEWS -

Come and de­bate the is­sues and show us the back­ground on which your con­clu­sions have been based.

This is the in­vi­ta­tion of­fered by com­mu­nity lead­ers in the NSW Mur­ray Val­ley to the Went­worth Group, fol­low­ing its com­ment this week that it wants even more en­vi­ron­men­tal wa­ter for the Mur­ray River.

The Went­worth Group has claimed the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan is ‘‘doomed to fail’’ with­out ‘‘a com­mon sense ap­proach’’.

South­ern Rive­rina Irrigators chair­man Graeme Pyle de­scribed the claims that more wa­ter is needed as ‘‘lu­di­crous’’ and said it high­lights how out of touch the Went­worth Group is with re­al­ity.

Mr Pyle said it was dis­ap­point­ing that there are ad­vo­cacy groups who have pur­sued an ide­o­log­i­cal ap­proach of ‘just add wa­ter’ to de­ci­sions for the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan.

This is not sus­tain­able for the en­vi­ron­ment, peo­ple or the Mur­ray River, he said.

‘‘Our com­mu­ni­ties have en­dorsed sci­ence-based de­ci­sions for en­vi­ron­men­tal out­comes and in fact in this re­gion alone have in­vested mil­lions and mil­lions of dol­lars over 15 years in achiev­ing this,’’ Mr Pyle said.

‘‘This re­gion has also re­turned sig­nif­i­cant vol­umes of wa­ter for en­vi­ron­men­tal out­comes since the mid-1990s.

‘‘Un­less we move away from emo­tion and this con­tin­ued de­mand on how much more flow can go down the Mur­ray River to South Aus­tralia, poor de­ci­sions will con­tinue to be made.

‘‘We live here . . . we breathe it and know the Mur­ray River from its head­wa­ters to its mouth.

‘‘We want it pro­tected more than any ad­vo­cate who lives in Can­berra or Adelaide be­cause it’s been our home for gen­er­a­tions and we want to keep it that way for gen­er­a­tions to come.’’

Mr Pyle said it is time there was pub­lic recog­ni­tion that some of the in­for­ma­tion and mod­el­ling used to pre­pare the Basin Plan has proved in­cor­rect.

There needs to be an ac­cep­tance there is a limit to the ca­pac­ity of the Mur­ray River in how much wa­ter can be sent down to South Aus­tralia as en­vi­ron­men­tal flows, he said.

‘‘We also need clear sep­a­ra­tion of is­sues on the Dar­ling River from is­sues in the Mur­ray River from the Hume Dam to the South Aus­tralia bor­der.

‘‘To pur­sue higher and higher en­vi­ron­men­tal flows will have detri­men­tal im­pacts and un­in­tended con­se­quences that need to be ad­dressed. This in­cludes sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to river banks from high river flows, as well as huge and in­creas­ing prob­lems from Euro­pean carp — the ‘rab­bits of the river’ — which are ex­plod­ing in num­bers due to ex­cess wa­ter in their key breed­ing ar­eas.

‘‘It is ex­tremely un­for­tu­nate that when some world-renowned sci­en­tists point out these is­sues, they tend to be os­tracised be­cause they are not fol­low­ing the ac­cepted line of think­ing. Per­haps it’s be­cause some peo­ple who rely on the ‘pub­lic purse’ for their in­come feel their fund­ing may be threat­ened.

‘‘We would love the op­por­tu­nity to have a pub­lic de­bate around all these is­sues. Whether it’s salin­ity lev­els — which have re­duced de­spite sci­en­tific mod­el­ling and re­cent claims to the con­trary — or the abil­ity of the sys­tem to carry the vol­umes of wa­ter pro­posed un­der the Basin Plan, or in fact any of the other so-called en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues; we’re happy to dis­cuss them all.

‘‘Per­haps we can even talk about en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist claims when the Basin Plan was be­ing pre­pared that ‘it will never rain again’ . . . that’s two de­cent floods ago now.’’

Mr Pyle con­cluded by say­ing an in­creas­ing num­ber of politi­cians and clear think­ing peo­ple are start­ing to see the folly be­hind some of the Basin Plan’s mod­el­ling and im­ple­men­ta­tion, al­though many in­di­vid­u­als who rely on its fund­ing for their liveli­hood seem more re­luc­tant to ac­knowl­edge there are is­sues which need to be ad­dressed.

‘‘We can have a Basin Plan that cares for the en­vi­ron­ment, sup­ports our ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties and helps us pro­vide clean, green food for Aus­tralians and the rest of the world. But there are a few peo­ple who need to broaden their think­ing be­fore this can be achieved,’’ Mr Pyle said.

Graeme Pyle.

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