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Pipeline finished but battle goes on

Thursday, 28th February, 2019

By Callum Marshall

Nationals and Labor have escalated their conflict over the costings of the Wentworth to Broken Hill pipeline and the management of water problems.

It follows Tuesday’s official turning on of the pipeline by Deputy Premier John Barilaro at the Mica Street Treatment Plant.

After the event, Shadow Water Minister Chris Minns said the government still needed to release its business case for the pipeline and reveal what its overall cost was to ease local concerns about water bills.

Mr Barilaro responded by saying that Labor’s Barwon candidate, Darriea Turley, had previously written in support of the government’s waiving of fees for the pipelines’ first four years.

“The position of the NSW Liberals & Nationals is clear - water bills will not go up for the next four years because of the pipeline and that is an ironclad guarantee,” said Mr Barilaro.

“It’s clear Labor did not even run this criticism past their local candidate, who in October 2018 wrote to the NSW Government saying the announcement of price support was ‘excellent news’.”

Yesterday, Ms Turley replied that that the government’s four-year guarantee was not enough and that she had sought the permanent removal of the pipeline’s cost to locals.

“The Nationals ‘price guarantee’ is nothing but a short-term reprieve on an unpopular project to get them through this election,” she said. 

“After that, Broken Hill water bills will be jacked up and we will see the full price of this pipeline - higher prices and the end of the Menindee Lakes.

“We have yet to see a real business case from the Nationals. 

“Their plan is to avoid dealing with the endemic problems of over-extraction and mismanagement of the river system. Our communities want a long term solution, not this irresponsible short term fix.”

On Tuesday, Mr Barilaro refuted claims that the project was part of a larger state government agenda to decommission Menindee Lakes and do what they want with the Darling River.

“There’s been a lot of debate about Menindee Lakes but we will never decommission them,” he said.

“A lot of people have a lot to say in this space but we want a healthy river system.”

Mr Barilaro also said that Labor had no plan for water security in the Far West and it was time for them to ‘put up or shut up.’

“What’s also clear is that NSW Labor doesn’t have a plan for water security in far western NSW, nor have they said what they will do for Broken Hill prices if they win next month’s election.

“After having done nothing when they were in government, and then opposing our plans while in Opposition, it’s time for NSW Labor to put up a plan or shut up.”

On that claim, Ms Turley pointed to her party’s five-point plan which Opposition Leader Michael Daley outlined during his visit last month.

That included a special commission of inquiry into mismanagement of the river system, reinstating the Cease to Pump rule and ensuring inspectors do compliance checks on irrigators.

The other two points were increasing the number of outreach officers from Fisheries NSW and a having a community consultative committee for the management of the lakes and river.

“Labor has the only real plan on the table, one that addresses the mismanagement of the entire Barwon-Darling system,” said Ms Turley.

“We will hold a special commission of inquiry, restore low and medium water flows and reinstate the Cease to pump rule. 

“The Nationals have not committed to any of these vital actions.”

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