SRI calls for independent review into flood damage

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

A local irrigator group wants an independent review into the damage which has been caused to river environments in the Barmah-Millewa region.

It also wants governments to tell authorities that operational water should never again be allowed to flood into the Barmah-Millewa Forest.

The call has come from Southern Riverina Irrigators, which represents 1800 farm businesses in the NSW Murray region.

Its chairman Chris Brooks said he was incensed by needless water loss over the recent summer months during a time of drought, as well as the environmental damage it has caused.

‘‘River operators know the limits; they know the capacity of the Barmah Choke is now under 8000 megalitres a day.

‘‘So why they would exceed this amount and have water flooding into forests is incomprehensible. And when it happens during a drought, it’s beyond belief.

‘‘My members — hard working Australians who are trying to make a living — are struggling. Some have left their farms in utter frustration. Yet this has been so unnecessary, caused by wasting our precious resource, and must never be allowed to happen again.’’

Mr Brooks said it is imperative that an independent review takes full stock of the environmental damage caused by the summer’s high river flows.

‘‘Sussan Ley’s first priority in her new role as Minister for the Environment should be to protect our environment, which is being destroyed due to the high flows which continue to be pushed through the system.

‘‘Along the Murray River we are seeing erosion and riverbank slumping at what appear to be unprecedented levels. Parts of the riverbank that were once solid and stable are falling apart.

‘‘At the same time, highly-qualified river scientists are expressing concerns at the ideal breeding conditions we have developed for European carp. As their numbers explode, the environmental damage will worsen.

‘‘We are supposed to have a Basin Plan that is protecting the environment, but unfortunately that is not happening.

‘‘I would hope that Minister Ley would lead such an important review to protect our environment.’’

Mr Brooks said parts of the scientific community, as well as politicians with other motives, have used the Ramsar convention to promote their calls for more fresh water to be poured into the once estuarine regions at the end of the Murray-Darling system.

‘‘Perhaps it’s time to look at what the Ramsar convention says about damaging the ecological characteristics of the forests.

‘‘This is another issue that needs to be dealt with in an independent review.’’

Mr Brooks called on the review to be a priority when Water Ministers next meet, and until its results are finalised the Ministers must make a firm directive that protects the river and forests from flooding and excessive flows.