Ready to listen
Saturday, 13th February, 2021
By Emily McInerney
Locals and activists in the region are feeling positive about a recent inquiry meeting into water infrastructure.
The ‘inquiry into the rationale for, and impacts of, new dams and other water infrastructure in NSW’ was self-referred by Portfolio Committee No. 7 - Planning and Environment on August 12, 2020.
The committee travelled to Menindee and Sunset Strip to speak with residents and look at the river system.
They came back into Broken Hill to hear firsthand accounts from those impacted.
The chair of the committee is Greens Member Cate Faehrmann.
Wentworth Councillor Jane McAllister said during the trip to Menindee they were joined by fish ecologists Martin Mallen-Cooper and Lee Baumgartner.
“They spoke to the committee and the fact of the matter is there is too much water extraction,” she said.
“They were really helpful in talking about native fish recruitment and hatching.
“Native fish populate up and down stream - the river system is so important as a fish hatchery.”
Clr McAllister said it was important for the committee to understand that the Lakes system is interconnected like a living wetlakes.
“At the end of the meeting, the committee had a lot of good questions,” she said.
“And the chair said to me that it really opened their eyes to what was happening.”
Tolarno Station’s Rob McBride agreed and said the inquiry and tour went really well.
“It was Cate’s second or third time out here,” he said.
“I think she’s taken on the personal challenge to reinstate the Darling-Baaka.
“Twice floodplain harvesting has tried to be pushed through the upper house and twice it has been blocked.
“If that gets through the upper house, we can say goodbye to the Darling-Baaka, Menindee Lakes and the ecology in it.
“The Liberal/National party members, in the committee, have their eyes open to the greed and corruption in system.
“It’s not just zealot farmers but scientists making these claims from an academic perspective - and you have to respect the science.”
Mr McBride said the more that is spoken about the Lakes system, the more than can be done to save it.
“Decommissioning the Lakes is totally unacceptable - there are more bird species in Menindee Lakes than Kakadu.
“It is critical.
“Everyone spoke passionately.
“It’s opened everyone’s eyes and it’s great that they came out here to see it firsthand.
“The information is starting to get out to the public.”
Sunset Strip resident Ross Leddra said it was positive to see the ball rolling.
“It was absolutely brilliant, we took two scientists (Martin and Lee) up the day before.
“They were absolutely disgusted with the state of things - they joined in with the conversation and spoke with the government officials.
“We told them that without water the lifecycle of fish will be gone.
“That will lead to extinction of golden perch and the death of other river life like shellfish and turtles.
“I feel we were listened too.
“The loss of water is also about the impact, not only on ecology, but mental health of residents, real estate is plummeting.
“We’re pretty well on our knees as it is.
“We picked up some vibes that they got a sense that it was different to what they thought it would be.
“I think they’re attitudes softened by the end. They were more accepting.
“It was a complete wake up call for them.”
Ross was unable to attend the hearing, so DRAG’s Darren Clifton stepped in for him at the hearing.
“The issues we brought up includes floodplain harvesting, river connectivity, water culture, water environment and economy.
“There is not enough water in the Darling Basin system to have continued water irrigation.
“There needs to be water kept in the Menindee Lakes system.
“We don’t want Menindee or Cawndilla Lakes sacrificed for any reason, currently they are being sacrificed for the Northern Basin.”
Mr Clifton said he felt the parliamentary committee had an open ear to their plight.
“They listened and asked a lot of questions, some of the committee hadn’t ventured out this way.
“I think it was well received by all.”
Mr Clifton said the push by the National party to have dam processes pass through government needed to be scrapped.
“We want to ensure that the dam processes get scrapped, there is no business case for it and it hasn’t been costed.
“It’s similar to the Broken Hill pipeline because it was an election promise - they want to go ahead with it.
“It’s not good enough from the government.
“It’s really disheartening to see. It’s amazing that they can govern at all.
“DRAG will keep fighting.”
The report from the inquiry is being released on March 22.