The Andrews Labor Government is demanding an explanation on why NSW and Queensland irrigators have been allowed to harvest floodplain waters out of the northern Murray-Darling Basin rivers.
Minister for Water Lisa Neville has written to the Commonwealth Minister asking for the Interim Inspector-General of Murray Darling Basin Water Resources and the Murray Darling Basin Authority to examine this take of water which followed the first decent rain some areas have had for some time.
The northern states made the alarming decision despite extremely dry conditions over recent times that have left communities on the brink of running out of water and some irrigators in the southern Basin with zero allocations. There are also concerns about further serious environmental impacts such as mass fish deaths.
This reckless decision will have significant negative impacts preventing, or threaten to prevent, water reaching critical downstream communities and Menindee Lakes.
Some irrigators in sections and tributaries of the Namoi, the Peel, the Gwydir and the Barwon rivers have been allowed to pump or divert water for three days – and up to a week in Queensland.
With no water currently flowing into the southern Basin from the Darling system, there have been increasing
pressures on the Victorian system to deliver water.
This has resulted in unsustainably high flows in the Goulburn River – causing river bank damage, loss of vegetation and threatening important habitat and species like the Murray River rainbowfish and several species of galaxias.
The Victorian Government has a long history of voicing concerns about the sustainability of Northern Basin floodplain harvesting and the protection of environmental and low flows.
Ms Neville has led discussions at Ministerial Council calling for better transparency and compliance across the Basin and has taken a range of steps in Victoria such as increasing penalties for water theft and on increasing transparency in the water market.
In addition, the Government is concerned about the volume of water being held in large off stream storages in the northern Murray-Darling Basin – and its impact on the river and other water users.
Victorian irrigators and communities have already done the heavy lifting to meet our obligations under the Basin Plan – the Victorian Government will not stand by and allow southern Basin communites to be disadvantaged.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Water Lisa Neville
“I have written to Federal Minister Keith Pitt to make my expectations clear and seek an explanation.”
“We need consistent application of rules across the Basin to get fair outcomes – this includes for irrigators, communities and the environment.”
“The plan is supposed to protect drinking water for towns and improve the health of rivers like the Goulburn – I expect all jurisdictions to do the right thing.”