The independent review of the 2023 Menindee mass fish kill, conducted by the Office of the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, has unveiled several recommendations. This comes after an April 2023 request by the newly elected State Government to enhance the river system’s health.
Ross Leddra, President of the Darling River Action Group (DRAG), expressed great satisfaction with the recommendations, telling the Truth, “The report was absolutely brilliant, very thorough, and covered everything we needed to know.”
In his summary, the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte, stated that “the 2023 event (was) symptomatic of broader degradation of ecosystem health and consequential long-term pressure on the Darling-Baaka River system. This observation is not new, having been the subject of numerous expert reviews and reports.”
“Data and expert advice provided to this review make clear that without substantive change to our regulatory approach, paired with investment in people, data and infrastructure, there will be further environmental degradation and recurrence of such events,” the Professor Durrant-Whyte added.
Mr Leddra and other DRAG representatives engaged with the report’s authors during all their four visits to Menindee. They supplied data from individuals who had collaborated with DRAG on water issues.
“We were able to give them our figures on the increase of water taken from the northern basin, and the increase of on-site storages in the northern basin,” Mr Leddra said.
He contended this was important because “the data used by the relevant water bodies like DPIE was outdated.”
The report set out four primary recommendations, supported by several secondary ones. These suggest changes to water sharing plans in the northern Basin based on the Connectivity Expert Panel’s findings and introducing triggers for water delivery from the upper lakes to weir 32 weir pool, among others.
“The regulatory framework must be upgraded to include legally enforceable obligations and powers to give effect to environmental protections and whole of catchment ecosystem health, as expressed in the objects of water, environmental and biodiversity legislation,” read one of the primary recommendations.
The recommendation to establish fish passages, argued Mr Leddra, is imperative “so (the fish) can get out of any further problems in the weir pool, between weir 32 and the main weir.”
He mentioned that works to construct fish passages were meant to be done, but they have not been completed and are now overdue.
Resultingly, he added that he was “very worried” about potential fish deaths this Summer, particularly if the expected high temperatures come to pass.
Nonetheless, he hopes this report might be a watershed moment in water politics, saying that “we’re finally getting smiles on our faces after a decade.”
A full copy of the report can be found at https://www.chiefscientist.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/584142/Menindee_Full_Report_FINAL.pdf.