Parties prepared to see Lakes down the river
Friday, 13th August, 2010
The loss of Menindee Lakes would be a tragedy for Australia, according to Darling River Action Group Chairman, Mark Hutton.
As the federal election looms, both of the major parties have vowed to spend money to promptly 'fix' the Menindee Lakes, with an eye to saving 200 billion litres of water a year.
Both parties have been light on detail, but proposals gathered by the Darling River Water Savings Project indicate that such a saving would see at least some of the Lakes, including Menindee and Cawndilla, drained.
In the face of such an information drought, Mr Hutton said it reads as if it is the beginning of the end for the lakes.
"I think the major political parties should be ashamed of themselves for using the fears of the people in the Murray-Darling area to buy votes," he said.
"They're promising things without showing the fine print. Voters have to guess what policy they're actually going to follow."
Menindee Lakes had worked perfectly well for 50 years, Mr Hutton said, and needed only a few minor engineering alterations.
"It's quite efficient compared to on-farm storages," he said.
"There's no use fixing something that isn't broken. The city has a secure water supply now."
Mr Hutton suspects the government (whoever it is in a fortnight) will be looking to decommission Cawndilla and Menindee at a minimum.
"I think that would be a tragic loss to Australia. The Menindee Lakes are one of the most beautiful, unpolluted and clean wetlands in Australia," he said.
"They are natural lakes. The people that seem to want them to go are those that want the water further upstream for irrigation.
"I think (politicians) grossly underestimate the recreational and spiritual value of the Menindee Lakes system, especially to the indigenous tribes that have populated it over the last 30,000 years.
"I would hope there would be a serious period of community consultation before any long-term plans were formalised."
DRAG had met with consultants when they began looking at the Lakes, but had not been invited back, Mr Hutton said.
"We told them exactly what they didn't want to hear," he said.
"I can only remember two public meetings that went for about two hours, and that's the only public consultation we've had."
The Government should listen and act on the concerns of those people that will be affected by the changes, Mr Hutton said.
But the community has long told them that the Menindee Lakes isn't a place that needs fixing.
"They just keep harping on. Menindee Lakes is not the problem, it's at the end of the Darling River system. They should start at the top," he said.
"I'm sure if they told Western Sydney that they will now be drinking bore water then governments would topple."