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River advocates rise

Friday, 11th January, 2019

(From right) NSW Independent MP Jeremy Buckingham at the airport with local Darling River activist Chris Rawlins. PICTURE: Myles Burt (From right) NSW Independent MP Jeremy Buckingham at the airport with local Darling River activist Chris Rawlins. PICTURE: Myles Burt

By Myles Burt

More politicians have hit Menindee after hundreds of thousands of native fish perished in a toxic Darling River last weekend.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young flew into Broken Hill and then travelled to Menindee yesterday for a boat tour down the river to see the devastation.

She was also planning to meet with Menindee locals and listen to their concerns about the poor state of the river.

“So far people are pretty angry,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“Pretty pissed off that politicians are just pointing fingers at each other and not doing anything to fix it, we have to cut through that.

“We need something, we can’t just say alright well the Lower Darling’s dead let’s forget about it.

“That’s effectively what the National-Liberal Party are doing at the moment and it’s not on.”

Senator Hanson-Young said it’s about time the government starts “listening to the science on this”.

“Frankly, for far too long corporate cotton growers have been given the upper hand at the expense of the community and the environment, and this is now the river biting back,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“Scientists warned about this, people have been warning for quite some time that something like this would happen.

“The National Party and the Liberals have never been very good at listening to the scientists.

“Sadly, I’ve heard from some scientists this morning that they think another fish kill is on the way in a matter of weeks.

“If that’s true, that is just heartbreaking.”

As a result of the Menindee fish kill, NSW MP Niall Blair had asked for the Department of Primary Industries to begin restocking preparations in the Menindee area when conditions improve. A move which Senator Hanson-Young has criticised, saying that Mr Blair has his “head in the sand” over the situation.

“He’s out of his depth,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“The problem is a lack of water for the environment to keep the river alive, that’s the problem here.

“The environment and the community have been put at the bottom of the agenda at the expense of big corporates who have been sucking out more water than they should.

“He’s scrambling to blame somebody and you know, sadly we’ve now got a war of words between him and the Federal Water Minister, the Federal Water Minister blaming NSW, and NSW blaming everybody else.

“Both of them wanting to say it’s just the drought.

“We’ll this isn’t just the drought, this is a result of cotton, corruption and climate change.

“Until we get that clear and until we have politicians willing to accept that I can’t see what the long term solution really is.”

Independent NSW MP Jeremy Buckingham has been meeting with Menindee locals over the past couple of days.

“It’s tragic,” Mr Buckingham said yesterday.

“It’s truly appalling to see what should be one of the greatest rivers in the world reduced to an ecological catastrophe.

“It’s very, very sad to see such important and endangered animals destroyed in such huge numbers.

“It’s something that a lot of people have long warned about.

“They are unanimous saying this is not a drought issue, this is a man-made catastrophe brought about by long term mismanagement of the river.

“We’ve failed to allocated enough water to the river, the Lakes have been drained twice in the last four years and that has meant we’re in a situation where what’s left is just a stagnant mess.

“To see it and feel it yesterday was truly upsetting and I really feel for the river and the people that depend upon it.”

Mr Buckingham also took aim at Mr Blair’s plans to restock the Menindee stretch, saying the main priority should be on bringing water back into the Darling River.

“You can’t restock a dead river,’ Mr Buckingham said.

“It is completely and utterly dead, why waste money on restocking when you’ve got millions of fish that were perfectly healthy dying before your eyes.

“The key thing we need to do is to get water out of the irrigator’s hands and back into the river.”

 Mr Buckingham said the Darling River “toxic soup” may create big problems for fish, graziers and native animals further downstream.

“If you were depending on that for stock, domestic or irrigation supplies in the Lower Darling well that’s an enormous concern,” Mr Buckingham said.

“The quality of the water is abysmal.

“I’ve picked up one of those dead Murray Cod yesterday, it was absolutely appalling, one of the most terrible stinks I’ve ever experienced.”

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