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Darling River maths should be easy; Barr

Wednesday, 6th November, 2019

NSW Shadow Water Minister, Clayton Barr. NSW Shadow Water Minister, Clayton Barr.

By Craig Brealey

It would be fairly easy to calculate how much water the Darling River needed to keep it flowing and towns alive, according to Clayton Barr, the NSW Shadow Minister for Water.

Mr Barr said government departments would have the figures and that upstream releases could be regulated to set it at five years’ worth of flow for the environment and human needs.

“Critical human needs is supposed to be the first priority,” he said yesterday.

“The volume would be known and then you work out the rate of release. That’s a mathematical equation; it’s not too complex.

“When the good times come back and there’s plenty in the river again, then irrigators can take some more.”

Last week the Labor MP visited Broken Hill, Wilcannia and then Menindee to gather knowledge about the river and the lakes.

He met locals including the Aboriginal Land Council and a grazier who worked on building the original lakes system in the 1950s.

“They have terrific knowledge but could not understand the claims by government and its various levels of decision-making that their plans were helping the river and the lakes rather than killing them off,” Mr Barr said.

He said he noticed a bit of “politician fatigue” in the town but that all MPs should visit  Menindee and Wilcannia to witness the destruction.

“Every politician in New South Wales - State and Federal - should to get out here and walk in the dirt that was the river.

“I’ve read the government reports, the media reports, seen the photos but until you stand there and talk to the locals, you can’t understand the magnitude of this problem.

“The communities downstream totally rely on the Menindee lakes system. There are permanent plantings without water, intergeneration farming families that could be wiped out.”

Mr Barr visited Weir 32, the Main Weir and Copi Hollow which he drove around.

“It is beautiful at the moment, but when I drove over to Sunset Strip I found myself on a dry lake bed. It’s so big, and it’s bone dry.”

The most distressing thing was that the NSW Government seemed determined to keep it that way, Mr Barr said.

“They are delaying changing the Barwon-Darling Water Sharing Plan. This must be changed now so the next time it rains, water will come down the river.

“On top of that, the government is planning to license floodplain harvesting, which will again deprive the river.”

Mr Barr said the Deputy Premier and the Water Minister’s recent criticism of environment flows as ‘water wasted’ on rivers instead of being given to towns in drought showed their ignorance.

“Environmental flows and community flows are the same thing,” he said. “They wet the rivers and the towns can use the water.”

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