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Heated lakes debate

Friday, 19th October, 2018

By Craig Brealey

A Labor MP has been booted out of NSW Parliament during a heated debate about the Menindee Lakes.

The Opposition was grilling the water minister about the government’s case for re-engineering the lakes which an independent review has found to be undetailed, disorganised and unpersuasive.

Nonetheless, in parliament on Wednesday, Regional Water Minister, Niall Blair, said the government was going ahead with its plans.

While Mr Blair was being questioned, the Opposition’s Walter Secord, Shadow Minister for Health, interjected and was ordered to be silent.

“What about water theft?” he asked, “you did nothing.”

When Mr Secord spoke up again he was expelled from the chamber.

The independent consultant’s report into the “business case” for the Menindee Lakes Configuration had been withheld from the public by the Federal Government for almost a year but was given to the BDT which published it last week.

It revealed that the lakes would be partially decommissioned but that the cost and benefits of the project were not properly considered. 

On Wednesday in parliament, Labor’s Duty MLC for Barwon, Daniel Mookhey, asked Mr Blair:

“What is the Government’s response to community concerns regarding the business case for the reconfiguration of the Menindee Lakes, including the concerns of Jacobs Engineering, an international technical services group commissioned by the Commonwealth Government, which concluded that the Minister’s plan did not represent an organised, comprehensive, consistent or persuasive case for the project and was found seriously wanting?”

Mr Blair replied that it was “early stages” but that the government was proceeding through “state-based approval processes”.  

Yesterday Mr Mookhey described the Jacobs’ report as “extraordinary”. 

“It says the NSW Government will decommission parts of the Menindee Lakes but they haven’t considered how this will hurt local communities,” he said.

“The Minister was given the opportunity to rebuke the secret consultant report and defend his project. 

“Instead he said they were proceeding to the next stages of the planning and approval process.

“He won’t respond to the most basic community concern - what will be left of the lakes if this ‘reconfiguration’ goes ahead?”

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