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Wednesday, 7th February, 2018

By Emily Roberts

A petition signed by more than  13,000 people to stop the pipeline failed to draw the attention of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian yesterday.

A delegation from Broken Hill, including Mayor Darriea Turley, grazier Katherine McBride and Barkandji man Badger Bates travelled to Sydney to present a petition signed by 13,308 people to the NSW Premier which called for a moratorium on the proposed $500 million Murray to Broken Hill water pipeline.  

There are continued community concerns that if built the pipeline would be used to justify continued over-extraction of water for irrigation from the Upper Darling at the expense of the health of the Darling River and downstream communities.

While in Sydney yesterday, the delegation also met with representatives from Labor and the Greens.

Other members who joined the delegations included Katharine McBride, from Tolarno Station, Mark Hutton, Chair of the Broken and Darling River Action Group and Kylie Lawrence, spokeswoman for the Watershed Alliance AU.

The group met with Jeremy Buckingham, Greens water spokesperson, and Shadow Water Minister Chris Minns.

They were also informed that Premier Berejiklian wasn’t able to attend the meeting, which Mr Buckingham said was unacceptable.

“I consider it an act of cowardice and bastardry that the premier didn’t have the guts to face the delegations,” he told the BDT yesterday.

“It just shows the utter contempt that the Nationals have for the residents on such a critical issue.

“The premier should have met with the Mayor of Broken Hill and the delegation.

“The Labor and Greens representatives made the time to be there.

“It’s as the Greens have been saying the pipeline will be the final nail in the coffin for the Lower Darling.

“It will destroy the lifeblood in the Far West, tourism and agriculture depend on the Menindee Lakes system.”

Mr Buckingham said Shadow Water Minister Chris Minns will present the petition to the Lower House.

“I will also raise the issue with the Legislative Council again.

“I’ve fought for the Darling since the beginning and I won’t stop.”

Mr Buckingham said the effort to obtain over 13,000 signatures and then bring them to Sydney was commendable.

“It was an enormous pleasure to meet with the mayor, a traditional owner of the land, and other water activists.

“They had gone to great effort to gather the signatures.”

Mayor Turley said all the representatives had been snubbed by the premier.

“It was not only Kylie Lawrence, but Broken Hill Council, representatives from the Far West and the Barkindji nation who were snubbed.

“As we were meeting, the premier was calling a press conference on another issue.

“However, we were able to share our concerns with the Mr Minns and Mr Buckingham.

“Kylie asked why there can’t be a moratorium to ensure this won’t be a man-made drought.

“Our enquiries and concerns need to be addressed.”

Tolarno Station’s Katharine McBride said they had approached the premier’s office to set up the meeting many months ago.

“The office only got back to us on Friday to say the premier couldn’t meet with us.

“We had a great contingent with a very diverse group.

“The strength was in our voices coming together for the Far West.

“We received a really good response from the Opposition Leader and the Shadow Water Minister.

“They have gone through a considerable effort to understand the issue and are prepared to stand alongside us.”

The petition was delivered to the premier’s office.

Opposition water spokesman Chris Minns said the government has to cough up a business case to justify the project’s half a billion dollar price tag.

“No other project of this scale would be allowed to continue without a business case,” Mr Minns said in a statement on Sunday.

“The only explanation for the secrecy behind this development is that it doesn’t add up, and the NSW government might just have a $500 million  

blunder on their hands.”

A spokeswoman for Water Minister Niall Blair says the pipeline has been identified as the best solution for the current problem.

“Projections show there is enough water to sustain Broken Hill without significant inflows until April 2019, and the more Labor and the Greens delay, the more likely it is that Broken Hill will run out of water,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.

The premier was contacted for comment.-BDT/AAP

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