Meeting no joy for irrigators

By Country News

A meeting with Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s head of river operations in Deniliquin has left irrigators and locals fuming, stating they were left with no confidence the Murray River is being run efficiently.

MDBA’s Andrew Reynolds fronted the meeting of about 30 local representatives last week, but Speak Up campaign spokesperson Shelley Scoullar said the acknowledgement of more than 624Gl in conveyance losses between June 30, 2018 and January 1, 2019 did little to give confidence to the attendees.

‘‘We estimate due to running the river above capacity about 300Gl ran out into the (Barmah) forest during spring and summer. That is equivalent to ... 1.8billion serves of rice (valued at $150million farm gate) or 2.6million tonnes of corn silage (valued at $216million farm gate) for starving animals battling drought and floods,’’ Mrs Scoullar said.

She said the frustration for community leaders was plain to see at the meeting, but it became increasingly obvious this was not an issue for MDBA.

‘‘South Australia has outsmarted the eastern states through the entire basin plan process, so good luck to them. There is no doubt the waste of water that occurs when you send such huge quantities to SA, or prioritising a boating regatta over food production, is not an issue for the MDBA bureaucrats. Their role is to follow the basin plan guidelines, regardless of the consequences,’’ she said.

‘‘Andrew Reynolds agreed with us that the Murray River was wearing the pain as a result of water policy and consequences around water sharing plans, but his job is to send water down the river; he is not responsible for adverse impacts. The trouble is, there doesn’t seem to be anyone who wants to be accountable for the damage the flows are causing.’’

She said it was ‘‘unfathomable’’ that fresh water from the upper reaches of a river was being sent more than 2000km to fill up formerly estuarine lakes.

‘‘Man-made intervention has blocked out the seawater, but they want fresh water for the huge housing developments,’’ she said.

‘‘What other country in the world would be comfortable wrecking a natural environment to support an unnatural one?

‘‘It is unbelievable that our politicians are prepared to sacrifice the nation’s food bowl to accommodate these SA demands, but it shows the power you can have when marginal electoral seats are in play.’’