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Everyone urged to back lakes probe

Thursday, 24th March, 2016

After meeting with Far West residents in November last year, Shadow Minister for Western NSW Mick Veitch said he would get an inquiry into water management in the region. He made good on his promise in Parliament yesterday. After meeting with Far West residents in November last year, Shadow Minister for Western NSW Mick Veitch said he would get an inquiry into water management in the region. He made good on his promise in Parliament yesterday.

By Darrin Manuel

Kevin Humphries recently advised locals to “move on” from the controversial draining of the Menindee Lakes, but the MP is unlikely to get his wish after an inquiry into the lakes got the go-ahead yesterday.

The upper house inquiry will be carried out by a committee chaired by Robert Brown MLC, who yesterday said that the inquiry would have “particular regard to water management practices in the Menindee Lakes”.

Shadow Minister for Western NSW, Mick Veitch, said that now opened the door for locals to formally demand answers about why the lakes were drained in 2013.

Residents have for years questioned the motivation for the draining of the lakes, a move which drew harsh criticism from Shadow Environment Minister, Penny Sharpe, when she visited Menindee in November.

At the time, Ms Sharpe lamented the environmental damage caused by emptying the lakes, and said it was “never adequately explained or justified”, and was left to “slip out of the political limelight”.

Mr Veitch said locals now had an opportunity to return the issue to the forefront of political discussion by contributing to the upcoming inquiry.

“The important thing now is we need everyone who was involved - everyone who was affected by that drawdown, to put a submission into the inquiry, because then the inquiry will have it all in writing,” he said.

Mr Veitch also encouraged locals to inundate the committee with submissions and questions regarding the drawdown and other water-related matters to reflect the issues’ importance, and force the committee to hold a public hearing in Broken Hill.

Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham said he too would work to push the case for the Far West by demanding Broken Hill and Darling River towns be the first areas to be considered by the committee.

“The Greens worked with Labor to get this inquiry up and ... our first order of business will be for that area to be up front, it can’t be left off in the never-never,” he said.

“We want to see early recommendations and interim reports to be delivered because that region up there needs the assistance.

“Niall Blair has turned out to be an even worse water minister than the last bloke, which is a real achievement.

“He’s allowing Broken Hill to go to the wall, and we want answers.”

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