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Purchase 'great outcome'

Friday, 12th September, 2008

The NSW Government's purchase of Toorale station was a "great outcome" for the Murray-Darling river system, the Darling River Action Group (DRAG) said yesterday.

Chairman Mark Hutton said the purchase of the station from Clyde Agriculture for $23.75 million would go some way to restoring the health of the ailing river system.

Getting rid of the Toorale dams on the Warrego, which runs into the Darling about 60 kilometres downstream from Bourke, had been one of the major aims of DRAG since it was first formed in 2002.

"For seven years we've been lobbying politicians and fighting farmers to get rid of dams on the Warrego," a jubilant Mr Hutton told the BDT.

"Unfortunately it's taken a serious drought to highlight the problems ... in the whole Murray-Darling system."

Mr Hutton said Toorale's system of dams had as recently as this year stopped a large amount of water from flowing into the Darling.

"There's been two major flows this year in the Warrego that basically haven't made it to the Darling because of the system of dams on Toorale station.

"So the Darling River has missed out on in excess of 200 gigalitres."

The Federal Government said securing Toorale's water entitlements and floodplain harvesting rights would return an average of 20 gigalitres of water to the Darling each year, and up to 80 gigalitres in flood years.

Mr Hutton said DRAG understood that presently up to 50 gigalitres of water could be held in Toorale's dams.

He said that was enough to provide a good flush for the lower Darling and could even help restore health to South Australia's lower lakes.

He said the water should be released immediately and allowed to flow past the Menindee lakes.

"What it will do, even if it doesn't make it to the lower lakes, it will wet the river. It will certainly help other flows coming down by having the river wet.

"But some years it could save the Darling from drying up. It's a very important tributary of the Darling.

"Although we do realise there will be hardship in Bourke with job losses, the environmental benefits will be felt for many years to come.

"By buying up these big water-hungry farms is certainly a good first step in returning the Murray-Darling Basin to good health."

Mr Hutton said DRAG would now turn its attention to other tributaries of the Darling.

He said 60 per cent of flows into the Darling had traditionally come from the NSW portion of the Murray-Darling system, with the remainder coming from Queensland.

"We get virtually nothing from NSW tributaries any more."Mr Hutton, who was planning to have a celebratory drink last night, also took a swipe at "whinging farmers".

"We're getting sick to death of whinging farmers. It's all me, me, me and nothing about the environment," he said.

"It's about time the farmers realised they weren't the only ones in the country. A lot of other people need the water as well."

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