Senator for South Australia and Manager of Greens business in the Senate, Sarah Hanson-Young’s portfolios include Environment & Water, landing her in Broken Hill this week on her way to Menindee to catch up with locals for an update about the current condition of the Darling (Baaka) River, arming her with information from the frontline needed to inspire government reforms to the failing Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
When we met Senator Hanson-Young at the airport on Thursday (October 5) she was keen to get on the road to meet with Menindee residents and to see the Darling River for herself.
“I’ve been here a number of times over the years to keep an eye on what’s going on with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan’s roll out, but the community here knows first-hand the plan hasn’t been working because we’ve seen the fish kills and we’ve seen the Darling-Barker running dry, and we know about the greed of the big corporates and how the political players upstream have kept the water from coming down. And that’s just not right,” said the Senator.
“It’s quite clear that if we don’t look after the environment, then we’re all buggered,” said Ms Hanson-Young.
“What I’m here today to do is to see the river and talk to the locals. I want to hear directly from them – particularly from those who rely on the river and have had guardianship of the river for a long time – so, we’ll be listening to the First Nations people from all along the river system.
“The fact is, we’ve got to find a way forward together. The environment deserves its fair share of water, and it still doesn’t have it. There’s a strong connection between what the community in Menindee feel about the treatment of the river and what South Australians feel when you’re at the mercy of upstream greed.
“Whether it’s here in Broken Hill, in Menindee, whether it’s in South Australia, or in the Lower Lakes, if you don’t look after the environment, then there’s no river for anyone.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the Darling today. I was the first politician on the ground when the first fish kills occurred and that was devastating. We don’t want to go back to that. We need to get some more flows. That’s what I’m going to be fighting for in the parliament, so I’ll talk to people today and I want to make it very clear to them that I don’t intend to rubber stamp this piece of legislation for the government. I want guarantees that we’re going to have more environmental flow.
“We really have to get back to why the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was put in place in the first place and return water to the river in order to keep it alive, and not just in the good times,” says Ms Hanson-Young.
“The whole point of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was to give the river a fighting chance in the worst times. And what’s devastating is that we’re now heading back into an El Nino – back into a drying period – and at the same time, we’re being told that the plan hasn’t delivered the water it was meant to, that the environment is still suffering and it’s fragile. I think the next big drought will be tough for the river and for river communities.