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We will fight for the Lakes

Saturday, 13th October, 2018

Regional Water Minister Niall Blair at yesterday’s media conference. PICTURE: Emily Roberts Regional Water Minister Niall Blair at yesterday’s media conference. PICTURE: Emily Roberts

By Emily Roberts

Now that the pipeline construction is being finalised, the NSW Government has guaranteed they will fight for the Menindee Lakes.

After yesterday’s laying of the pipe, NSW Regional Water Minister Niall Blair said they will now look at the future of the Lakes and that the city doesn’t need to worry because there is water security.

“The beauty about this project is that we will be able to concentrate now on what happens with the future of Menindee Lakes,” Minister Blair said.

“We’ve got the project that we are submitting through to Canberra to recommission those lakes.

“The objective there is to have more water for longer in the system.

“Obviously, we are going to continue to support the communities of Menindee and other communities like Wilcannia. We’re working with those communities to look at other types of engineering solutions as well.”

Mr Blair said they have a proposal which is currently in front of the Federal Government.

“We’ve put a proposal to Canberra to look at the works that are required at Menindee Lakes. That has faced and passed its first hurdle.

“We’re now looking into the detailed consultation stage at what that reengineering project would look like.

“That requires a whole lot of consultation and further investigations.

“We will start to see that project ramping up now. The beauty is that can happen without community of Broken Hill having to worry what’s happening with their water supply.

“We said that we can do both, we can walk and chew gum at the same time.

“We’ve fixed the water security issue for Broken Hill and we’re going to get on and address the water issues at Menindee as well.”

Mr Blair refuted claims of upstream irrigators impacting the situation on the Menindee Lakes.

“In NSW, we have water sharing plans, those water sharing plans cover the whole state,” Minister Blair said.

“They allocate how much water is available for productive use and how much water is available for environmental use.

“We also need to make sure we have water available for critical human needs.

“We get that balance right here in NSW.

“In the Barwon-Darling around six per cent of the water is available for productivity use.

“We also have a state that has been 100 per cent in drought; that’s the issue we are facing here at the moment.

“If anyone wants to question the impact that has had, have a look at the reduction of productivity that six per cent of water that’s available for productive use.

“There’s been no water coming down the system. That is the situation we’re facing at the moment.

“That’s why the pipeline is critical, we are now taking that issue out of the equation.”

Mr Blair said someone needed to make the tough decisions and his government was the one that did that.

“It was tight, that’s why we needed to make a decision,” he said.

“That’s what the people wanting to be critical now forget.

“We didn’t need people to be sitting on the fence for this, we needed decisive action.

“Anyone that wants to criticise a project like this needs to have a better alternative and the means to build it.

“And they would need to have the guts to make those decisions.

“What we’ve got were people willing to be critical that offered no alternatives and that voted against the funding of this project.”

Mr Blair said he wasn’t available to attend the forum on the Murray-Darling Basin held yesterday at the Musicians’ Club.

“Unfortunately I won’t be at that this afternoon, that is being headed up by other agencies,” he said.

“We are certainly concerned right across NSW, in relation to the drought, that’s why we’ve had over $1 billion that we’ve allocated from the NSW Government to assist the community.

“We’ve also switched off the wild dog fence fees, we’ve switched off local land services rates, we’re doing what we can to support all of our farmers and our regional communities.

“But none more so than this community, we’ve now drought-proofed this community with the construction of this pipeline.

“That’s something that no one else has been able to say.

“In fact, in 2007, when this community was looking like it was going to run out of water, the government of the day was talking about an infrastructure program like this, then it rained and they walked away.

“The Labor party in 2007 walked away from the community then.”

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