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Call for urgent river action

Friday, 28th September, 2018

By Craig Brealey

Help promised by the NSW Government to station owners on the dwindling Darling River has not been given and a catastrophe is looming, a local grazier said yesterday.

Rob McBride, of Tolarno Station, 45 kilometres south of the town, said the NSW Water Minister, Niall Blair, gave landholders a commitment one year ago to build two block banks between Menindee and Pooncarie to hold water for them before the river expired.

Water NSW said this week the Menindee Lakes will be dry by December.

“Twelve months ago Niall Blair gave us a commitment to build the banks. For eight months nothing was done, four months ago they agreed and still no work.

“It will take two or three months to even get the necessary approvals and the river will be dry in December.

“It’s just pathetic.”

Mr McBride sought an explanation from Water NSW which replied this week that it had been identifying the best sites for the weir pools, consultants had been engaged to arrange approval of those sites and a construction contract had been let.

However, the work might not begin until the middle or end of October, said the Executive Manager of Water NSW, Adrian Langdon.

Mr Langdon wrote that the timing of the work had been “established, rightly or wrongly, to allow for summer rainfall in the north to provide replenishing flows to the lakes” which had not eventuated.

He said Water NSW expected there would be enough water left to the fill banks but “high temperatures might impact the final levels.”

Yesterday in the NSW Parliament the Greens party presented a notice of motion to have the block banks built as a matter of urgency.

“The dire state of the Lower Darling River,” said the motion, “is partially due to the rapid draining of the Menindee Lakes by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and the NSW Government.”

Greens water spokesman, Jeremy Buckingham, told the BDT they had won a commitment from the government to have the banks built.

“Mr Blair said he was committed to do so but it had better be soon otherwise this government will have an environmental catastrophe occurring on their watch,” said Mr Buckingham.

“But we will have to wait until the next parliamentary sitting day - in two weeks’ time - to see if the government agrees,” he said.

“This is a government that also gave a commitment to build a new weir at Wilcannia, which it hasn’t done. Mr Blair promised to release the business case for the Wentworth to Broken Hill pipeline, which we still haven’t seen, and it said it would look after the Darling River.

“That’s a history of water management that you cannot trust.”

Water NSW also said yesterday that two block banks built for landholders below Pooncarie were half full, and that 10,000 megalitres was being transferred from Lake Pamamaroo to Copi Hollow for Broken Hill’s town supply.

This was occurring at a rate of up to 300 megalitres per day and would continue into November to extend the city’s supply until “at least mid-March” without any more inflows to the lakes, it said.


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