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Flows diverted from course

Thursday, 31st March, 2016

An aerial shot of the Darling River at Tulney Point station on the Lower Darling. An aerial shot of the Darling River at Tulney Point station on the Lower Darling.

By Andrew Robertson

A “blatant failure of state policy” allowed cotton growers to pump from three small flows destined for the Darling River, using the lowest form of water licence available, a Lower Darling irrigator claims.

Alan Whyte said the combined flows - all of which originated in different areas of the catchment since January - would have been enough to wet the entire river system. 

He said the Department of Primary Industries recently admitted that had the flows been allowed to travel unimpeded, up to 35,000 megalitres would have entered the Menindee Lakes.

Instead, a fraction of that, somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 megalitres, is now expected to reach the Lakes, according to the DPI.   

Mr Whyte, from Jamesville Station, 60km north of Wentworth, said cotton growers had been allowed to take the rest, using supplementary water licences. 

“For reasons that beggar belief, the current NSW policy is to allow unrestricted use by the lowest priority licences in the system up north,” he said. 

“That has removed the volume of water which would have been enough to wet up the river.

“If there had been embargoes on those low priority licences ... there would now be something like 30 or 35,000 megs of water in Menindee, and we could have the river wet up again now.

“It’s a blatant failure of state policy.”

Mr Whyte said the government’s decision not to put an embargo on pumping the small flows was also out of step with previous years.  

He and some other Lower Darling Horticulture Group members are now relying on a stagnant pool of greenish water being held in part of the river by one of two block banks put in last year.

But others who are above or below the dregs are relying on bore water or, in at least one family’s case, having water trucked in.

“While the water we’ve got here is lousy, it’s wet. We’ve got it better than most,” Mr Whyte said.

“For anyone along the river the only fix to this is fresh water; for the mess that the river is in, the only fix is fresh water.”

Meanwhile, another Lower Darling landowner has taken to YouTube to highlight what he calls the ‘worst man-made disaster’ in Australian history.

Robert McBride, of Tolarno, Peppora and Wyoming livestock stations, is hoping the video of himself standing in a dry river bed will shock the country into action.

“A picture is worth a thousand words ... we in the bush know this disaster is there. The problem is the people in the cities don’t,” McBride said.

“It does affect them, it will affect the next generations.”

In the video, Mr McBride calls on authorities to ensure water is allowed to travel down its natural water courses.

“Don’t allow greedy people to destroy the catchment of the Darling River by cutting off the flows that come into this majestic river.”

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