BASIN COMMUNITIES IGNORED
Two years ago I railed against the Murray-Darling Basin Authority for its poor river management, when we had an unnecessary, catastrophic flood and a range of unacceptable environmental consequences.
Now, we have the opportunity to question its ability to manage the resource and the river during a dry time.
The one thing that remains clear is the MDBA seems unable to fulfil its responsibilities and we are left with disgruntled and angry communities and environmental disasters. The MDBA needs to start taking proactive steps to address the damage that has been caused in the past decade, instead of blaming everything else.
Leadership is about accepting responsibility and providing unity and cohesive solutions in difficult times.
In a recent interview, MDBA chief executive Phillip Glyde said the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was “trying to correct 100 years of over-allocation”.
The recent fish kills should be telling authorities that their management of the water resource during the past decade is making the system worse, not better.
In 94 of the 100 years that the system was supposedly ‘over-allocated’ there were recordings of fish kill deaths but none were of the magnitude of those we’ve seen recently, including the devastating event at Menindee, NSW.
Blackwater events have also increased.
Since 2009 there have been four major hypoxic blackwater events in the Edward and Wakool River systems, killing hundreds of thousands of native fish. The authorities first used flooding as their excuse, now drought is their excuse.
The only major change in the past 10 years, compared with the rest of the past century, has been the Water Act 2007 and the fact the major owner of water is the Commonwealth government.
This has led to a major change in the management of the river systems. It used to be run by the states but today is under the control of the Commonwealth and MDBA.
The question needs to be asked, where has all the water gone? In late 2016, we had floods and most of the basin was at 100 per cent capacity, with Menindee Lakes at 96.5pc.
Slightly more than two years later, these lakes are nearly empty and we have what is being termed a ‘natural’ disaster on a global scale. But it’s not a ‘natural’ disaster, it’s a man-made disaster. The trouble is, those responsible refuse to admit it.
The damage being caused to both the environment and rural communities could have been avoided if the MDBA had listened to the rural communities that live in the basin.
It’s time they stepped up, so we can refocus our efforts and develop a plan that works. This needs to be done alongside communities, instead of continually working against them.
TRIPLE BOTTOM LINE REMAINS
Never forget that Murray-Darling concerns originally saw proposals for thousands more gigalitres of water to be ‘returned’ to the river system. Farmers and river-reliant communities would have been sacrificed to achieve that, and that’s why farmers burned early drafts of the Basin Plan.
States furiously negotiated but ultimately handed their powers to the Commonwealth to lock in a Basin Plan balancing the ‘triple bottom line’ of social, economic and environmental needs.
Water buyback decimated river communities and the constitutional power the commonwealth laws rely upon is a treaty power, founded solely on environmental treaties. The Basin Plan will now be attacked by radical environmentalists, who only see a river, not farms, communities or pipelines to Adelaide and SA’s regional centres.
Don’t let radicals throw the baby out with the river water – we're smarter than that.