Authors of the controversial Wentworth Group report have been challenged to go to the Riverina to debate the issues and demonstrate how their conclusions have been drawn.
Southern Riverina Irrigators chairman Graeme Pyle described the claims that more water was needed as ‘‘ludicrous’’ and said it highlighted how out of touch the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists was with reality.
Mr Pyle said it was disappointing there were advocacy groups who pursued an ideological approach of ‘just add water’ to decisions for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
He said this was not sustainable for the environment, for people or the Murray River.
‘‘Our communities have endorsed science-based decisions for environmental outcomes and in fact in this region alone have invested millions and millions of dollars over 15 years in achieving this,’’ Mr Pyle said.
‘‘This region has also returned significant volumes of water for environmental outcomes since the mid-1990s.
‘‘Unless we move away from emotion and this continued demand on how much more flow can go down the Murray River to South Australia, poor decisions will continue to be made.
‘‘We live here — we breathe it and know the Murray River from its headwaters to its mouth.
‘‘We want it protected more than any advocate who lives in Canberra or Adelaide because it’s been our home for generations and we want to keep it that way for generations to come.’’
Mr Pyle said it was time there was public recognition that some of the information and modelling used to prepare the basin plan had proved incorrect.
He said there needed to be an acceptance there was a limit to the capacity of the Murray River in how much water could be sent to South Australia as environmental flows.
‘‘We also need clear separation of issues on the Darling from issues in the Murray River from the Hume Dam to the South Australia border.
‘‘To pursue higher and higher environmental flows will have detrimental impacts and unintended consequences that need to be addressed.
‘‘This includes significant damage to river banks from high river lows, as well as huge and increasing problems from European carp — the rabbits of the river — which are exploding in numbers due to excess water in their key breeding areas.
‘‘It is extremely unfortunate that when world-renowned scientists point out these issues, they tend to be ostracised because they are not following the accepted line of thinking.
‘‘Perhaps it’s because some people who rely on the public purse for their income feel their funding may be threatened.
‘‘We would love the opportunity to have a public debate around all these issues.
‘‘Whether it’s salinity levels, which have reduced despite scientific modelling and recent claims to the contrary, or the ability of the system to carry the volumes of water proposed under the basin plan — or in fact any of the other so-called environmental issues, we’re happy to discuss them all.’’