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Long road ahead

Thursday, 23rd March, 2017

By Emily Roberts

Any changes to the management of the Menindee Lakes will have to be agreed by every state government in the Murray-Darling Basin, Federal Water Minister Barnaby Joyce said yesterday.

While local water advocates have strongly backed local MP Kevin Humphries’ plans for the Menindee Lakes, it will not be as easy as just putting the ideas forward.

A spokesman for Mr Joyce, the Minister for Water Resources, said any changes to current agreements will have to be decided by all parties involved.

“Any changes to these arrangements requires the agreement of the Australian Government and all state and territory governments in the Murray-Darling Basin,” the Minister’s spokesman said.

Mr Humphries said on Monday that Stage 1 of the region’s water reform was always about securing an emergency water back-up supply for Broken Hill, with Stage 2 focussed on the long term security of the city’s supply.

With that project now underway with tenders for construction of a pipeline to the Murray at Wentworth being sought, he said it was now time to progress with State 3.

“I have proposed with authorities for some time, Stage 3,” Mr Humphries said at the start of the week. 

“The reconfiguration for the Menindee-Cawndilla system, which will deliver greater security for the local/regional community, based on greater water retention in Lake Menindee.

“I have proposed that funding from the Feds could be used to build a substantial regulator, located at Morton Boolka, controlling flows between Lake Menindee and Lake Cawndilla.”

As well as this Mr Humphries proposed scrapping the 480-640 gigalitre rule - the trigger point at which control over water in the lakes reverts to either the NSW Government or the MDBA.

This drew support from the Darling River We Want Action Group.  

However, Mr Joyce’s office said yesterday they were unable to say if he had been consulted about the use of federal funding for the project.

They also failed to answer whether or not the MDBA could relinquish control of the upper lakes system.

“The Australian Government is committed to working with the New South Wales Government to improve the management of the Menindee Lakes Scheme and has provided funding to NSW to investigate a range of potential infrastructure upgrades and operational changes to the Menindee Lakes Scheme,” the Minister’s spokesman said.

“It is expected that NSW will submit a business case shortly. The Australian Government understands that the NSW Government will be consulting on their proposal with the community in the near future.

“The Menindee Lakes are an important element of the broader River Murray supply system and are managed under collectively agreed arrangements in the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement.”

The MDBA has yet to provide comment on the issue.

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