The fight for the Darling River continues

The Darling River, and in particular the Menindee Lakes system, is the meat in the sandwich between the NSW State government and the Federal Government.

Wilcannia, Menindee, Pooncarie and Broken Hill people do not have to be told of the travesty that has been the management of the Darling River over the last ten years.

Over allocation of water upriver confirmed on the “Pigs in the trough” Four Corners story, the forcing of Broken Hill people onto a pipeline from the Murray River that we are being threatened to pay even though it benefits agribusiness up river, the massive fish kill and the sacrilegious running of the Darling River dry in 2019.

Before the NSW government went on their winter break they also submitted for the fourth time new water regulations.

Each time the regulation has been disallowed in the upper house and on the third instance, licences were issued in the Gwydir and Border River Valleys before the upper house had the chance to disallow the legislation.

Those licences are still being used.

On July 1, the regulation was raised for a fourth time just before winter break.

The NSW Minister for Lands and Water, Kevin Anderson, will have six weeks to issue licences to the remaining three valleys before parliament can disallow it again.

This will mean less water down the Darling River.

Recently there has been a suggestion that the Menindee Lakes and the lower Darling River could manage on 200 gigalitres for 18 months (see Barrier Truth July 23). The councils including Broken Hill, Central Darling Shire Council and Wentworth Shire Council have submitted a report to the NSW governments Western Regional Water Strategy rebuking this claim and asking for the 480 gigalitres usually stored when it comes under NSW control.

It seems left to NSW interests Menindee Lakes would rarely be full.

The State of Australia’s Environment report released last week by the Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek pointed out the major failure of the Morrison government to deliver the Murray Darling Basin Plan (MDBA).

The MDBA plan was designed by the previous Labor government.

“It’s a good plan. Labor made it. Labor delivered it. It saved the river system from dying in 2019 but it’s yet to be fully implemented. By the time the Morrison Government left office, they had only delivered two of the promised 450 gigalitres of environmental water and they had no plan to find the extra 448 gigalitres by 2024, when it’s due,” she reported.

The Morrison government also promised to deliver 40 million dollars in Indigenous water and has delivered none according to Ms Plibersek.

For nine years, the previous government oversaw a broken, barely regulated national water market according to the Minister.

In the 2020 MDBA report the reporting of water use in different ways from each state and the different methods of buying water metres including state owned, part ownership or having to buy and maintain metres themselves caused problems.

According to various water users understanding when and where you can take water out is also claimed to be hard to understand or easily understood depending on where you are from.

The Border Rivers Food & Fibre submission, for example, argued that water users generally are aware of technologies that monitor compliance and understand the repercussions for non-compliance.

The NSW Irrigators’ Council made a similar argument that irrigation farmers generally have ‘a high-level of understanding about their obligations,’ while recommending that clear communication from governments on changes to conditions is essential to facilitating good compliance in the community.

Meanwhile Cotton Australia argued that it can be challenging for some water entitlement holders to find information about and understand their compliance obligations.

Ms Plibersek reported “the ACCC found, it was market with no rules against insider trading.

With no requirements to keep proper records.

This led to widespread distrust in the system.

Worse than that, they inflicted wilful damage as well.

From Tony Abbott to Scott Morrison, from Barnaby Joyce to Matt Canavan.”

Ms Plibersek has promised to address these issues. On the same day the 2012 NSW Minister for Water Melinda Jayne again said she had told the Federal Minister, Tony Burke at the time that it would be extremely hard to do that because we need that water for irrigation purposes.
She again claimed that the 450 gigalitres that Mr Burke stated at the time, and The Federal Minister for Water Tanya Plibersek promised to deliver, that there is no legal requirement to actually deliver that.

Thus, the Darling River is again caught between NSW state government and the Federal governments plans to deliver water back to the environment.

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