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Tuesday, 24th May, 2016

Jeremy Buckingham and Richard Di Natale on the dry bed of the Darling River at Tolarno Station, Menindee. PICTURE: Supplied Jeremy Buckingham and Richard Di Natale on the dry bed of the Darling River at Tolarno Station, Menindee. PICTURE: Supplied

By Darrin Manuel

Greens leader Richard Di Natale has labelled the state of the Lower Darling an “environmental and social catastrophe” after touring Menindee and Broken Hill yesterday.


Mr Di Natale accepted an invitation from Greens energy spokesman Jeremy Buckingham to tour the region, and told a water meeting last night that he was shocked to see the scale of deterioration in the Menindee Lakes and the Darling.


“I’d heard about it, but I didn’t really understand until I stood there,” he said.


Mr Buckingham had previously stated that the Lower Darling crisis would be a key component of the Greens’ election campaign, and the party appears set to make good on the promise.

Mr Di Natale gave the meeting a commitment that he would draw attention to the plight in the Senate, and investigate the possibility of a federal inquiry.

In the meantime he hopes to spark water minister Barnaby Joyce into action by embarrassing him over his handling of the issue, and said he will have an ideal opportunity to do so tomorrow night when the two take part in a televised debate on the ABC.

Mr Di Natale said the river’s parlous state was not due to drought, climate change, or other environmental issues, but basic mismanagement by the Coalition government.

“Clearly what we’ve got is an environmental, social, and an economic tragedy,” he said.

“While there’s no stronger advocate for action on climate change than I am, this is actually the consequence of gross mismanagement by State and Federal Governments.

“The issues in the Lower Darling, the lack of flow since December, is because water’s not coming here... it’s being used for other purposes.

“I’m looking forward to highlighting this issue and doing what I can to ensure we get a much stronger focus from federal politicians.”

Mr Buckingham backed his leader to help raise the profile of the Lower Darling, and said he had been eager to learn about the issue and offer assistance.

“When I told him about the situation, and that it’s a matter of national significance, he wanted to come up and make it part of his election campaign,” said Mr Buckingham.

“It was very easy to get him on board and he’s a man of his word - he’ll raise it in the Senate.”

While the duo conceded the Greens had no chance of winning the seat of Parkes in the upcoming election, they hoped their visit and willingness to fight for the river would improve the party’s standing in the Far West in the long term.

The party may have already won some votes in the short term however, with Mr Di Natale and Mr Buckingham receiving warm applause and plenty of handshakes at the conclusion of the meeting.

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