Calls to stop ignoring the evidence

By Southern Riverina News

Governments must stop ignoring the mountain of evidence telling us the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is failing.

The ridiculous notion that it’s ‘‘the only plan we have’’ and we have to make the most of it is absurd, according to the Speak Up Campaign.

Its deputy chair Lachlan Marshall said an ABC Landline report this week has again highlighted massive flaws in the Basin Plan which are causing significant environmental damage and at the same time ruining our nation’s key food producing regions.

‘‘Yet we still have politicians, led by federal Water Minister David Littleproud, in denial. It’s ludicrous,’’ Mr Marshall said.

He congratulated Landline on reporting the environmental disaster which is unfolding in the Southern Basin, and urged politicians to stop burying their heads in the sand.

‘‘During summer we saw the ecological disaster associated with no flows coming down the Darling River. But it was accompanied by more man-made damage, caused by trying to force too much water through the fragile Barmah Choke.

‘‘As Speak Up has highlighted numerous times, this not only wasted huge quantities of water but also caused environmental damage.

‘‘While it was somewhat gratifying to see scientist Ian Davidson reinforcing this serious issue, at the same time it is disappointing that governments and their instrumentalities have refused to admit their mistakes, or give firm guarantees that it will never be repeated.’’

Mr Marshall described the flooding and ecological damage to the Choke and other parts of the Murray River system as ‘‘yet another prime example’’ of what happens when governments and bureaucrats fail to engage with local communities.

‘‘The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has continually told our regional community that it will work with us on Basin Plan implementation, but they have always been hollow words with very little action.

‘‘Murray Valley locals have been warning since the Basin Plan was drafted that the Murray River could not physically deliver the volumes of water that it proposed should be poured over the South Australian border. Numerous individuals with decades of experience in managing water emphasised time and again that ‘it just won’t fit’. But they wouldn’t listen.

‘‘As a consequence we’ve had an environmental disaster and lost opportunities for production through water wastage. This has had social and economic consequences for our regional communities and has forced an unprecedented number of family farmers to walk off their land.

‘‘Politicians need to stop procrastinating; stop telling us this plan is ‘the best we’ve got’; admit it is a disaster and do something to fix it.

‘‘In the immediate term they need to find an emergency general security allocation for stressed irrigation communities, especially the New South Wales Murray.

‘‘In the longer term we need to re-set and fix the Basin Plan so it provides the balance that was promised.’’

Mr Marshall encouraged environmental groups to work collaboratively with local communities to force an end to the over-watering that we have seen in recent years.

‘‘Food producers and environmentalists have a lot in common, and in the Southern Basin we do not want to see the Murray environment destroyed from over-watering. We also want the Darling system to be protected, however unless there are changes to the Basin Plan what we saw in the past summer will continue to happen.

‘‘Governments cannot expect the Murray River and its storages to meet 100 per cent of flow targets to the SA border, which is not practical or achievable.

‘‘This is why we need to re-set the Basin Plan, which is what Speak Up has been advocating for several years. We have to address issues in the Northern Basin to take pressure off the Murray, and undertake SA based solutions instead of constantly using Hume and Dartmouth water to solve their problems.

‘‘It’s all achievable. It should not be too hard; but we need buy-in and commitment, instead of denial, from the Federal Government,’’ Mr Marshall said.