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Water activists cheer council

Friday, 28th July, 2017

Darling River Action Group members (from left) Kevin Stacey, Darryn Clifton and Mark Hutton burn copies of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s annual report in February last year. Darling River Action Group members (from left) Kevin Stacey, Darryn Clifton and Mark Hutton burn copies of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s annual report in February last year.

By Emily Roberts

City Council has won backing for its stand against the building of the Murray pipeline and to have those responsible for allegedly draining the Lower Darling called to account.

At Wednesday night’s Council meeting, Council called on the NSW Government to place an immediate moratorium on the construction of the $500 million Wentworth to Broken Hill water pipeline.

Councillors also voted to support the calling of a Royal Commission into the abuse of water sharing and for the Compliance Unit that investigates water extraction to be reinstated.

After the council meeting, Vice President of the Broken Hill and Darling River Action Group, Darryn Clifton, commended Council for taking a strong stand.

“It was great to see. They have put a good foot forward,” Mr Clifton said.

“Stopping the pipeline and the alleged happenings that were reported on the Four Corners segment was very important.

“I agree totally with the moratorium on the pipeline until a full investigation has been undertaken.”

Mr Clifton said it was clear that the pipeline was being forced on the city by the State Government.

“Broken Hill had a secure water supply previously,” he said.

“No doubt the water lobbyists were pushing the alternative water supply. It probably had something to do with the storage of water north of Menindee Lakes and the basin.

“It was due to upstream pressure from irrigation lobbyists, who wanted to take the supply in a different direction.

“We had a man-made drought through over-extraction and holding water in large storages north of the Menindee Lakes.

“Then it was decided to forcibly put Broken Hill on an alternate supply.

“It needs to not go ahead and the half a billion dollar upgrade could be used to upgrade the Broken Hill to Menindee pipeline and restore small and medium flows.”

Mr Clifton said the Four Corners report shone welcome a light on the practices of some cotton growers in the basin.

“The segment shows that some irrigators can’t be trusted. There has been no prosecution and no follow-up,” he said.

“It was just the tip of the ice berg. The whole Murray-Darling Basin needs to be investigated. It needs to be a judicial review at a federal level.

“The compliance team should be re-enacted and allowed to investigate the complaints immediately and report back to the federal judiciary.”

The Barkandji native title holders on the Darling River also held a meeting on Wednesday and called on NSW Public Works to stop all work on the pipeline.

“The old pipeline should be restored which lets the Baaka River (Darling River) flow, and allow the Menindee Lakes to hold water,” they said in a statement.

“We stand by all the station people, and all the local people in the townships downstream from Bourke to Wentworth and the people of Broken Hill.

“We support the Darling River Action Group and all the people in Broken Hill who are against the Broken Hill-Wentworth pipeline from going ahead.”

Councillor Tom Kennedy said it was good to see City Council come out strongly, if belatedly.

“It is a good start, but in reality Council should have been pushing this from the start,” Clr Kennedy said.

“Now we are pushing the right direction and we need to take a lead role.

“A Royal Commission would hold people accountable.

“We need to show them what impact it had on the Menindee community through the Lower Darling and the Wilcannia community.

“It cost them dearly in terms of tourism, not having water and health.

“The authorities need to understand what happened.”

Clr Kennedy said the NSW Government had no right to withhold information about the pipeline and what the cost of water would be if it was built.

“The community needs to be made aware of all the facts so they can make an informed decision.”

All but one councillor voted to oppose the pipeline until the full costings were revealed by the Coalition government.

“I think Dave Gallagher as a National Party member has been caught up in the politics of it,” Clr Kennedy said.

“We all need to do what is right for the city.”

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