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Proposal full of holes: Butler

Wednesday, 12th December, 2018

By Callum Marshall

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate for Barwon, Roy Butler, has shot down local MP Kevin Humphries’ proposal for the Menindee Lakes Water Saving Project.

Discussed by Mr Humphries at the last City Council meeting on November 28, Option 7 would see Lake Cawndilla come under Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) control, while the rest of the lakes would be the responsibility of the NSW Government.

Its aim would be to provide greater water certainty for locals in Menindee as well as downstream via Cawndilla. 

However, Mr Butler has questioned Option 7’s feasibility given the very likely prospect that other states would not sign up to it. 

“So Kevin Humphries, just prior to the end of his term, has come out with this magical option in which ‘everyone wins’, according to an interview he gave on the ABC,” said Mr Butler.

“But there are so many unanswered questions (around) the other states.

“If they’re denied liability of water, particularly the Murray water users in South Australia, why would they agree to it?  

“Given this is a Federal agreement between four states, why would any of the other states, if they’re denied any reliability of water, agree?”

Mr Butler also questioned the proposal to reverse the direction of the Penellco Channel and enlarge it to send water from Lake Cawndilla to the Lower Darling.

“Mr Humphries hasn’t talked about what sort of arrangement we’d be looking at with the use of the Penellco Channel,” he said.

“This is a channel that’s privately owned so presumably the private owner would be seeking some kind of compensation if we’re going to take it over. 

“So there’s just too many unanswered questions and I suppose none of them are going to be answered before the 23rd of March, which is when we go to the polls. 

“I’m a bit disappointed that something like this would be dangled out in front of people as an option when I can’t see how, either from a time frame perspective or a reality perspective, it’s going to deliver what he says it will.”

Mr Butler’s comments follow The Australia Institute’s report in yesterday’s BDT, which examined Mr Humphries proposal and found it could not be achieved. 

The report raised concerns about the changes that would need to be made to the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to make the proposal work, and the unlikelihood of other states signing up to that.

In spite of these concerns, Mr Butler sympathised with locals who’ve viewed the proposal favourably, but he said Option 7 still wouldn’t cut it alongside the other proposals for the ‘Menindee Lakes Water Saving Project.’

“This is the first bone these people have been thrown for a long time,” he said. 

“All they’ve seen is dry lakes and dwindling water supplies, so to have any kind of possibility of a positive outcome, it’s human nature you’d grab it and say, ‘well that’s better than what we’ve got, I’d like to have that.’

“But when you look at the administrative barriers to doing it, in terms of getting agreement from the other states (it’s not feasible.)

“I’ve spoken to some people who say that you may be able to do it just by reconfiguring the lakes but that’s different to what Mr Humphries has put forward.

“So I’m disappointed and I don’t think it’s a genuine attempt to resolve the issues of Menindee and the Lower Darling.”

Mr Humphries has been invited to comment. 

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