National Irrigators’ Council CEO, Steve Whan, says the Australian Academy of Science’s expert committee (requested by Labor) failed to provide balance in its hasty review of Basin Plan implementation issues.

Steve Whan said “it is unrealistic to think that well researched conclusions, about a Basin Plan that has been years in the making (and has only recently had a comprehensive five-year review by the Productivity Commission), can be made in a space of a few weeks.

“This largely self-nominated group rightly went to Menindee to talk to locals, but then makes a range of conclusions affecting Northern NSW and Southern Queensland – without talking to a single representative of those communities.

“It is disappointing to see this group reject detailed community by community analysis that proves the negative impact of removing water from production. It beggars belief that this group of intelligent people can think that there would be no impact on country towns if you shut down businesses that employ hundreds of locals.

“How can a committee tasked with exploring fish deaths (albeit missing a fish scientist) recommend ditching measures that will protect low flows, environmental flows and improve connectivity of the river system for native fish? All these things are a part of the Northern Basin amendment, that this group, says should be thrown out.

“The panel does acknowledge the impact of drought and management of Menindee lakes. But, it seems to miss the fact that the Darling’s NSW tributaries have experienced the lowest inflows in recorded history.
“For the last 6 months of 2018 the NSW Northern Basin rivers received inflows less than 1% of the average for the 10 years prior. We also know that for the 10 years prior 80% of the inflows into those rivers stayed in the river and were not extracted. No irrigator has pumped anything on the Barwon Darling for more than a year.

“It is pleasing to see a somewhat more sensible view on changes to Menindee Lakes. We would also agree with a number of the comments on better indigenous engagement.

“There is sensible confirmation that there simply isn’t enough water in the system, right now, to improve the conditions for fish at Menindee via a flush of water. Very simply, as the report acknowledges, rain is desperately needed.

“NIC notes a number of issues are already being addressed. That includes bringing floodplain harvesting under regulatory control; protecting low and environmental flows; ensuring integrity of compliance; and measuring all take. Irrigators are working with Government on all these – a point this group might have known if it had spoken to any.”

Media Contact: Steve Whan 0429 780 883
Monday 18 February 2019