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MP lashes “crisis” talk

Tuesday, 10th April, 2012

By Erica Visser

Local MP John Williams has rejected the notion that the Murray-Darling Basin is in crisis. 

His comment came ahead of today’s local consultation with representatives from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) on the Draft Basin Plan.

The Member for Murray-Darling said that those who claim the basin is in crisis were only showing their ignorance.

“We have just experienced the worst drought in 100 years and the ability to manage the flow of water in the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers to the Murray mouth was truly a credit to the States that managed the water sharing plans,” Mr Williams said.

“While there was a recovery in storages and the State’s ability to utilise its environmental allocations, the Murray-Darling Electorate saw a complete restoration of identified wetlands.

“No one in the NSW Government can tell me that more water is actually needed for the environment and most people question where this extra water, if purchased by the Federal Government, will be used.”

Mr Williams said that the Draft Basin Plan posed more questions than answers about the future of the river system.

In the plan the MDBA has proposed returning 2750 gigalitres of water to restore the system’s health.

According to Mr Williams, who has lodged a submission with the MDBA, the plan should be revised to clearly state where the extra water should be used.

“The challenge for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority is to provide a comprehensive plan on how the additional environment water will be utilised. 

“So far we have seen only a total figure and if computer modelling is correct, surely a report on where this water will go should be simple.”

But Darling River Action Group (DRAG) Secretary Brian (Barney) Stevens has criticised Mr Williams for “neglecting” local concerns with the plan.

“John Williams has done nothing so far. He has said nothing about the Darling River and he’s given us no support whatsoever,” Mr Stevens said.

“His comments are supporting the irrigation community but do nothing to help with concerns in Broken Hill.”

Mr Stevens said that DRAG would use this afternoon’s consultation to insist that the MDBA stop neglecting the Darling River.

“Our main concern is improving the health of the Darling River,” he said.

“They’re going to give us excuses. The main excuse is that the Darling River is too irregular for them to plan, which is a very poor excuse, and the other is that it is not a very efficient gutter for transferring water.”

In February DRAG said that if the Basin Plan was approved it would support the South Australian Government in its legal action against the plan.

The consultation will be held between 2.30 and 4pm at the Civic Centre.

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