The efforts of Victorian and NSW Water Ministers to protect their rural communities must be highlighted and recognised.
At last month’s ministerial council meeting Lisa Neville (Victoria) and Niall Blair (NSW) refused to be intimidated by the political grandstanding that we have come to expect from the South Australian Government, and in particular its Water Minister Ian Hunter.
There are good reasons for the combined Victoria and NSW stand, which is quite unusual as they are on opposite sides of the political fence.
Firstly, it has been reported in metropolitan media that South Australia wants an extra 450GL of water bought from farmers for the environment. In fact, as written in legislation, under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan this 450GL of what is termed ‘up water’ only comes into play if there is no negative socio-economic impact on rural communities.
Numerous reports show it will cause significant socio-economic damage, which is a point the South Australians conveniently want to ignore. How South Australia can continue to claim it can be taken from farmers without hurting towns is beyond belief.
If South Australia is genuine in its desire to improve the health of the Murray system, rather than simply taking every drop of water it can get without making an attempt to be part of the solutions, there are several areas it could address including:
* Using infrastructure money available under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to improve management of the Lower Lakes and reduce water loss through salinity, including modernisation works to the barrages.
Review the impact of the south-east drainage scheme and take necessary remedial action.
* Halt housing developments, including those with intricate man-made channel systems taking water directly from the Murray River.
* Investigate more effective use of its desalination plant.
* Use its environmental water effectively, as instructed by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.
Perhaps it is time for the architect of the Water Act 2007, Malcolm Turnbull, to step in and try to pull SA into line. After all, it’s this poorly written legislation which instigated the mess we now have.
Speak Up campaign