News

Water bombshell dropped at forum

By Southern Riverina News

Water out of the NSW Murray Valley will be used to supply the Wentworth to Broken Hill Pipeline project.

That was the biggest bombshell to come out of the NSW Murray electorate meet the candidates forum on Thursday.

Incumbent Nationals Member for Murray Austin Evans’ confirmation that Murray system water would be used was met with the night’s strongest reaction, with ‘boos’ and jeers coming from a large portion of more than 100 people in attendance.

One exacerbated call from the floor was blunt — ‘‘we can’t even get it (water) in our own town’’.

The admission came just a few questions after Mr Evans vowed the NSW Coalition was doing all it could to have water returned to Murray Valley irrigator accounts.

He said it is calling for a repayment from losses that spilled over the banks when water authorities pushed too much water down the system to South Australia.

Mr Evans was quizzed by Debbie Buller on the government’s decision to create an additional water licence to supply the Broken Hill pipeline.

She advised the crowd that licence had been approved on December 19 last year, and was for 4720 megalitres to supply Broken Hill with water.

‘‘We hear ‘we can’t, we can’t, we can’t’ but apparently, when they want to they can,’’ Ms Buller said, before calling on Mr Evans to confirm where the water was coming from.

Mr Evans — both at the forum and in a follow up interview with the Southern Riverina News — said he believed the deal will eventually lead to more water being available for production.

‘‘That water entitlement has been created. At the moment that’s coming from Murray Valley, that’s absolutely true, to provide critical water to the township,’’ Mr Evans said at the forum.

‘‘The offset of that is the water that comes from the Darling, from Menindee, that doesn’t need to be held there for supplying Broken Hill.’’

Speaking to the Southern Riverina News after the forum, Mr Evans said the pipeline could result in an extra 20,000ML of water in the dams for productive use.

He explained that additional transmission flows that have to be held in reserve to deliver the town supplies would be freed up by the delivery via the pipeline.

‘‘By not having to hold 400,000 megalitres in reserve, we’re effectively keeping an extra 20,000 in the dams,’’ Mr Evans explained.

‘‘If we are holding that amount of water in reserve at Menindee, we see huge losses due to evaporation and other means.

‘‘This (pipeline) should help provide allocations in the long term. But the problem is that we are starting in a dry year.

‘‘The water is coming out of Murray because that is where the pump is, and about 4000 megalitres over a year in terms of the Murray River is a pretty low flow.’’

Six of Murray’s 10 candidates attended the forum, hosted by Speak Up.

In addition to Mr Evans, addressing the larger than expected crowd were One Nation’s Tom Weyrich, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate Helen Dalton, Greens candidate Nivanka De Silva and independents Brian Mills and David Landini.

Not able to attend were Philip Langfield (Christian Democratic Party), Carl Kendall (Sustainable Australia), Alan Purtill (Country Labor) and Liam Davies (Keep Sydney Open).

Speak Up Campaign chair Shelley Scoullar said she was impressed with the turnout, of both candidates and audience members.

‘‘We are all stressed and exhausted and I think it is fairly safe to say this is one of the most important elections in this region,’’ Mrs Scoullar said.

‘‘The interest in the forum was so great we had to get extra chairs and that, in addition to the viewing on Facebook livestream, means people want to be well informed going into the election.

‘‘It shows that people are reeling from the bad decisions made in the past, leaving Murray high and dry.

‘‘Each of the candidates is an individual person who has taken time out of their lives, away from their families, and has taken on a financial cost to stand for Murray and I commend their efforts for wanting to represent our region.’’

The forum continued for two hours, with candidates being given a chance to respond to questions from the floor and give an overview of their reasons for standing.

Questions focused heavily on water policy and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, and also covered health and timber.

A video of the forum is available on the Deniliquin Pastoral Times Facebook page — www.facebook.com/DeniliquinPT — or at www.speakup4water.com.