From The Australian
‘‘Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder David Papps urged South Australia not to defer sending water to the Coorong and Lower Lakes between December 2015 and March 2016, warning it would affect critical water flows between the lakes at the end of the River Murray and the Great Australian Bight.
‘‘The federal agency agreed to pump an extra 150Gl of Commonwealth environmental water into the region because of low water flows. But South Australia would not use 45Gl of its own water to help relieve low lake levels because it wanted to ensure it had supply for human drinking as well as irrigators.
‘‘South Australia did not break any laws and its water deferral was approved by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.’’
From the irrigators
The time has arrived for South Australia to be held accountable as a joint partner in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
Since the plan’s inception, South Australia has been the recalcitrant state, always demanding more from other contributors while refusing to address its own issues.
It has had the Federal Government kow-towing to its every demand, generally at the expense of communities in Victoria and NSW.
That must stop. Immediately.
The selfish, greedy SA Government must be held to account, with the Federal Government stepping in to ensure we deliver a fair and balanced basin plan.
There are numerous problems in the basin plan and working constructively together would allow significant improvements for the environment, taxpayers and communities.
Revelations this week that SA has deferred using 45Gl of environmental water, in doing so contravening a request from the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, has to be the rogue state’s final straw.
For far too long SA has ruled the roost in the water debate, criticising and intimidating NSW and Victoria for standing up for their communities and trying to achieve a balanced basin plan.
Meanwhile, SA plays its own game. It has constantly refused to consider any basin plan proposal other than send us more water — it won’t consider alternative solutions other than fresh water for the Lower Lakes, despite the end-of-system being traditionally estuarine; it won’t undertake engineering works to improve operations of the man-made barrages; it wont look at real SA reasons for the Coorong’s decline; it won’t even generate some of its own domestic water needs by turning on its desalination plant.
Has there ever been a more stark example of one state’s selfishness in Australia’s history?
What SA has been able to achieve is pulling the wool over the eyes of ill-informed Canberra politicians, to the detriment of other states.
As a result, it has a guaranteed minimum water flow through entitlements before anyone else is allocated water.
It has demanded huge flows of environmental water to the social and economic detriment of rural communities in Victoria and NSW, despite mounting evidence that the flows are creating their own environmental damage along the way.
Yet SA is still prepared to hold its own environmental water in the bank for domestic and irrigator needs, in direct defiance of a Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder request.
This occurred at a time when communities along the Lower Darling had run out of water, and food and fibre producers in the southern NSW Murray were on a meagre 23 per cent allocation.
It now appears SA has adopted a policy to defer as much of its entitlement as possible, at the same time as it spruiks the need for the Coorong and Murray Mouth to get more water.
So is SA committed to the basin plan, or does it just want to rip all the water it can out of the system while other states suffer?
When the Hume and Dartmouth dams were built they were opposed by the SA Government, yet without them the Murray River would have run dry during the millennium drought.
SA must accept that we have a managed system with dams, weirs and barrages. The precious supplies of water must be shared in a responsible and sensible manner for the benefit of all Australians.
Who will take action and hold SA to account if they will not come to the table with a genuine desire to deliver a fair and balanced basin plan?
—Southern Riverina Irrigators, Murray Valley Private Diverters, Mid-Murrumbidgee Landholders Group and Upper Goulburn Catchment Association