Groups slam govt. strat­egy

Southern Riverina news - - RURAL OUTLOOK -

The NSW Gov­ern­ment’s strat­egy to man­age ir­ri­ga­tors’ use of flood­wa­ters has been slammed in a joint sub­mis­sion by re­searchers, ir­ri­ga­tors, gra­ziers and a Dar­ling River com­mu­nity group.

South­ern Rive­rina Ir­ri­ga­tor Darcy Hare said it is ‘‘aghast at the draft strat­egy’’.

‘‘In the South­ern Rive­rina ev­ery drop of wa­ter is mea­sured with up to date tech­nol­ogy and our mem­bers are com­mit­ted to ir­ri­ga­tion that is trans­par­ent, ac­count­able and sus­tain­able.

‘‘The con­trast with this pro­posal could not be more stark. The flood­plain har­vest­ing strat­egy needs a ma­jor re­write to pro­tect the wider rep­u­ta­tion of the ir­ri­ga­tion in­dus­try.

The di­verse groups called on the NSW Gov­ern­ment to with­draw its draft strat­egy as it fails to ad­dress the prob­lem of mas­sive vol­umes of wa­ter be­ing di­verted into pri­vate stor­ages.

‘‘Flood­plain har­vest­ing in north­ern NSW has huge en­vi­ron­men­tal and eco­nomic im­pacts across the Basin,’’ Se­nior Wa­ter Re­searcher at The Aus­tralia In­sti­tute Maryanne Slat­tery said.

‘‘This prac­tice con­trib­uted to the Dar­ling River fish kills that have shocked the coun­try, but it also has costs for ir­ri­ga­tors and gra­ziers in other parts of the Basin, Indige­nous and other com­mu­ni­ties.

‘‘De­spite the 13 bil­lion tax­payer dol­lars put towards the Basin Plan, the NSW Gov­ern­ment strat­egy for mon­i­tor­ing huge vol­umes of wa­ter is for self-re­port­ing by ir­ri­ga­tors us­ing ‘gauge boards’ which are lit­tle more than glo­ri­fied rulers or dip­sticks.

‘‘This is try­ing to reg­u­late 21st cen­tury agribusi­ness with me­dieval tech­nol­ogy.

‘‘The strat­egy ap­pears in­con­sis­tent with the Fed­eral Wa­ter Act, the NSW Wa­ter Man­age­ment Act, Basin Com­pli­ance Com­pact and the aims of the Nat­u­ral Re­source Ac­cess Reg­u­la­tor.

‘‘Un­less NSW goes back to the draw­ing board, this could end up as a lawyers’ picnic.’’

Dar­ling River Ac­tion Group mem­ber Mark Hut­ton added that the Dar­ling River and Menindee Lakes ‘‘need more flows to get back to a state that fish can live in’’

‘‘Both (the Dar­ling River and Menindee Lakes) need more flows so our com­mu­ni­ties can re­build from,’’ said Mark Hut­ton of Dar­ling River Ac­tion Group.

‘‘We are now fa­mous for a river of dead fish and this strat­egy does noth­ing to help our sit­u­a­tion.’’

To­larno Sta­tion owner Rob McBride also dis­cussed his thoughts on the strat­egy.

‘‘The health of the river and flood­plains is cru­cial for gra­ziers all across the Basin, and floods are es­sen­tial to this. This has been for­got­ten by Basin man­agers, bring­ing this strat­egy into ques­tion,’’ he said.

‘‘Small floods are part of the basin ecosys­tem and have an im­por­tant part to play for gra­ziers’ pro­duc­tiv­ity, but it is ex­actly th­ese flows that are cap­tured by flood­plain har­vest­ing, to the detri­ment of the Dar­ling.’’

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