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Wednesday, 9th January, 2019

Independent NSW MP Jeremy Buckingham labelled the continued demise of the river system “utter bullshit” and added that national media attention about it was insubstantial.

A shocking mass fish death in the Menindee Lakes region of the Darling River is a sign of a river in crisis and the urgent need for action by the NSW Government, Mr Buckingham said yesterday.

“My view is that it is an international disgrace; there has been Australia-wide mismanagement thanks to the Murray Darling Basin Authority,” he said.

“The Darling River is dying before our eyes.

“This shocking mass death of huge Murray Cod in the Darling is a consequence of years of mismanagement by the Liberal/Nationals and a Murray Darling Basin Plan that favours big irrigation over the environment and downstream communities.

“The huge extraction of water for big irrigators is literally choking the life out of the system downriver and leaving stagnant, blue-green algae infested dregs for everyone else.”

Mr Buckingham said recent national media attention had come too late after months of cries from water advocates, locals and property owners.

“It is also a disgrace that only now people outside the Far West are paying attention.

“It’s pathetic that mainstream media are only paying attention now ... it is too late.”

He said water should have remained in the system to prepare for times like this.

“It is immensely frustrating and for it to get to this situation is utter bullshit.

“This is a man-made catastrophe; if the Menindee Lakes system had been allow to retain water we would not have had this situation.

“If there had been embargoed flows from the Northern Basin, we would also not be in this situation.

“What is the point of regulators and weirs if in times like this, you can’t bring the flows down.

“The government’s decision to build the Broken Hill pipeline and change the management of the Menindee Lakes system by draining it faster will make tragic events like this fish kill more common. 

“Both the NSW Government and the Murray Darling Basin Authority have chosen in recent years to drain the Menindee Lakes system rapidly in order to spare upstream irrigators from contributing more water for the environment. This leaves no water available in the Menindee Lakes to flush out this section of the Darling River in dry years, resulting in blue-green algae outbreaks and fish kills like this one.”

However, NSW Water Minister, Niall Blair stated that mistruths were being spread about the situation.

“The hundreds of thousands of fish killed at the Menindee Lakes earlier this week is devastating,” he posted on his Facebook page.

“As Minister for Regional Water and Fisheries this kind of ecological disaster is the last thing I want to see.

“However, the mistruths being spread by those who are using this as a campaign tool for the March election are disgusting.”

Minister Blair said any disregard of the impact of drought showed no understanding into the situation.

“To completely dismiss the impacts of drought while making deliberately misleading comments around water management, clearly show a misunderstanding of the Murray Darling Basin Plan and the role of NSW. 

“Menindee water releases were controlled by Canberra and the irony is these Environmental releases out of Menindee have sent water to South Australia to ensure their artificial lakes remain fresh water rather than natural salt water. 

“This has been championed by environmental groups who are now shouting the loudest that there is no water left in Menindee. 

“Additionally, if anyone can identify anyone who is taking water they are not entitled to, please report it to NRAR.”

Minister Blair said he had put protections in place to ensure there was water for stock and agriculture needs.

“Locals are also well aware that last year I ordered WaterNSW to build block banks in the Lower Darling so that the remaining water could be put to best use for stock and permanent planting needs.

“We must address this issue with facts not ignorant scaremongering.”

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