This is ‘lu­nacy’

Wa­ter shar­ing im­bal­ance af­fects farm­ers and en­vi­ron­ment

Southern Riverina news - - NEWS -

How can a civilised na­tion al­low wa­ter to flood over river banks, while pad­docks which nor­mally grow vi­tal food sup­plies for do­mes­tic and world mar­kets are left bar­ren at the same time un­nat­u­ral flood­wa­ters are killing vi­tal food re­sources for for­est wildlife?

That is the ques­tion be­ing asked by South­ern Rive­rina Ir­ri­ga­tors chair­man Chris Brooks, who con­tin­ues to be frus­trated by what he con­sid­ers to be ‘‘political and bu­reau­cratic lu­nacy’’.

‘‘This is a lu­di­crous sit­u­a­tion that should never have been al­lowed to hap­pen and must be called out for its ut­ter stu­pid­ity,’’ he said.

Mr Brooks em­pha­sised his con­cerns are broader than the dev­as­ta­tion felt by his mem­bers — who can­not grow their usual quan­ti­ties of food and fi­bre be­cause they have a zero al­lo­ca­tion, while at the same time as the Murray River is un­nat­u­rally flood­ing ad­ja­cent forests.

He said the flood dam­age is also killing wildlife and mak­ing a dif­fi­cult sea­son even worse, as feed for an­i­mals is ru­ined by flood­wa­ters.

A video pro­duced this month shows the Murray lap­ping at the banks in the Barmah For­est and flood­ing into ad­ja­cent lakes and be­yond into part of the thou­sands of hectares in Na­tional Parks as the Murray River is pushed be­yond ca­pac­ity.

Mr Brooks said this is oc­cur­ring be­cause the Murray-Dar­ling Basin Au­thor­ity is try­ing to force huge quan­ti­ties of wa­ter through the sys­tem.

‘‘Farm­ers in the NSW Murray are wear­ing the bur­den of the MDBA’s at­tempts to force un­de­liv­er­able vol­umes to Lake Vic­to­ria, which is 80 per cent full, to store wa­ter for South Aus­tralia,’’ Mr Brooks said.

‘‘And while drought crip­ples the eastern states, three bar­rages in the Lower Lakes re­main open to the sea, with these lakes at 97 per cent ca­pac­ity.’’

Fur­ther frus­trat­ing food and fi­bre pro­duc­ers is the re­fusal of South Aus­tralia to use its de­sali­na­tion plant, built with the help of mil­lions in Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment money, to help ease the drought prob­lems.

Mr Brooks added he can­not un­der­stand why there is not greater outrage about the sense­less de­struc­tion oc­cur­ring in our flooded forests.

‘‘Imag­ine the ben­e­fits to the en­tire na­tion if the (de­sali­na­tion) plant was turned on and pro­duced its ca­pac­ity of 10,000 me­gal­itres a year, and in ad­di­tion in­stead of los­ing 2000 me­gal­itres a day be­cause it won’t fit down the river, this wa­ter went to our farm­ers to pro­duce food and cre­ate eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and na­tional wealth,’’ Mr Brooks said.

‘‘That would be com­mon sense de­ci­sion mak­ing.

‘‘Many peo­ple, in­clud­ing Save The Brumbies rep­re­sen­ta­tives, are fu­ri­ous at the flood dam­age. It is killing red gums and dec­i­mat­ing Moira grass­lands, which are a key part of the food chain for kan­ga­roos, brumbies and other an­i­mals.

‘‘This is about more than ir­ri­gation and grow­ing food. We sim­ply have to get bet­ter with our wa­ter man­age­ment to pro­tect com­mu­ni­ties, forests, an­i­mals . . . ev­ery­thing that re­lies on this pre­cious re­source.

‘‘We’re wast­ing huge quan­ti­ties be­cause of poor man­age­ment when there are sen­si­ble op­tions avail­able.

‘‘I was gob­s­macked when Phillip Glyde, the MDBA’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, ac­tu­ally lec­tured us about mak­ing tough de­ci­sions on the land. Where are the tough de­ci­sions to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment, our an­i­mals and our com­mu­ni­ties? The re­al­ity is, they’re non-ex­is­tent.

‘‘Ev­ery­one can see that out­dated wa­ter de­liv­ery ar­range­ments with South Aus­tralia have crip­pled the NSW Murray. These, in con­junc­tion with the Basin Plan, will shut down the very sys­tem de­signed to drought proof this na­tion if some tough de­ci­sions are not made very soon by our politi­cians in Can­berra.

‘‘Our na­tional lead­ers must take ac­tion. We’re killing an­i­mals and killing com­mu­ni­ties, all be­cause of a flawed plan be­ing im­ple­mented by an or­gan­i­sa­tion that re­fuses to op­er­ate with the flex­i­bil­ity in wa­ter man­age­ment that we were promised.

‘‘We are also stop­ping the pro­duc­tion of clean, green food that ev­ery Aus­tralian fam­ily re­lies on.’’.

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