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Parliamentary rivers inquiry coming to town

Wednesday, 15th December, 2010

By Gina Wilson

A Parliamentary Committee inquiring into the Murray-Darling Basin Authority's proposed plan will arrive in the city tomorrow for a two-day tour of the region.

The House of Representatives Standing Committee is headed up by Independent MP Tony Windsor and local MP Sussan Ley is also a member.

The 12-person committee has been tasked with looking into the social and economic impacts of the controversial Basin plan, particularly in country communities.

The Basin plan seeks to return between 3,000 and 4,000 megalitres, or 29 per cent of the water used, back to the system in an effort to restore its health.

But many of the farming towns that rely on the water reacted angrily to the plan, saying it would destroy them. Ms Ley said while there was much information that had to be sought out she was confident the Committee could strike a balance between river and community health.

"There have been lots of questions and not many satisfactory answers with this Plan so far," she said. "The Committee's task is to come up with solutions to balance the needs of the rivers and its people with equal regard.

"I have no doubt we'll be about to do just that." The tour will include a detailed inspection of the Menindee Lakes as well as meetings with key local groups and irrigators.

The committee will also meet City Council on Friday morning.

The plan, if implemented as is, would see as much as 35 per cent of the water in the Lower Darling Region, which takes in Broken Hill and Menindee,no longer available for use and would equate to a reduction of between 39 and 45 gigalitres per year.

While the Far West is the first stop, the committee will travel to another nine places along the Murray River in January before undertaking tours of northern NSW and Queensland in February and March prior to making their findings into the Basin plan known.

The inquiry report is due in mid-2011. 

The Committee members also include deputy chair Sid Sidebottom (ALP, TAS), Steve Gibbons (ALP, VIC), Kirsten Livermore (ALP, QLD), Michael McCormack (NATs, NSW), Rob Mitchell (ALP, VIC), Dr Sharman Stone (LIB, VIC), Patrick Secker (LIB, SA), Dan Tehan (LIB, VIC), Craig Thomson (ALP, NSW) and Tony Zappia (ALP, SA). 

Written submissions about the social and economic impacts of the proposed changes close on Monday.

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