No doubt by now you have all seen this photo, and others like it. That’s a Murray cod, like all its relatives it has survived droughts, damming of rivers, irrigation pumping and more. But this summer it died, along with thousands of other fish, because river flows in NSW are so depleted there’s just no oxygen left in the water.
Australians, or most of them, tend to go around with their heads up their bums most of the time, until a disaster grabs their attention for a few minutes. After a brief flurry of outrage and a bit of “they have to do something about this” comment on social media it’s all quickly forgotten. After the five seconds of outrage at least 45% of Australians will keep on voting for the same conservatives who are responsible for the disaster.
The current crisis with the rivers in the eastern states has been developing for a few years now, but until this week’s fish deaths hardly anyone noticed or cared.
I blame it all on Barnaby Joyce, David Littleproud, their water-hoarding cotton-growing mates and above all, on the NSW government.
In this video Menindee resident Dick Arnold and Rob stand in the Darling river above weir 32 each holding a hundred year old fish. These Murray cod have lived through the highs and lows of this system however could not survive this man made disaster.
The NSW “Liberals and Nationals” government decided to reconfigure the Menindee Lakes last year. Part of the process involved the decommissioning of the pipeline that fed Broken Hill from the lakes. Instead of providing water to Broken Hill and Pooncarie, and a thriving irrigation farming industry, the water would be diverted to cotton farmers upstream. Many of those huge, water-guzzling cotton farms are overseas owned.
Others that are Australian-owned have had their CEOs charged with corruption.
The Menindee pipeline was to be replaced by a pipeline carrying water from the Murray River to Broken Hill. A pipeline from an already depleted river, placing more strain on a river already struggling to cope with demands on its flow.
Only a government as incompetent and as corrupt as the Berejiklian government could come up with such a stupid idea.
In 2017 Four Corners ran this program –
Pumped: Who’s benefiting from the billions spent on the Murray-Darling?
As usual with exposes like this there was the usual brief spate of outrage and then everyone – or almost everyone – went back to sleep until this week, when all those images of dead fish were all over the media.
The Australia Institute didn’t go back to sleep. They produced this, in June 2018, on mismanagement of the scheme . Result? Crickets from those in a position to make changes.
The Basin Files
Maladministration of the MurrayDarling Basin Plan: Volume I
“Since allegations of large-scale water theft were aired on Four Corners in 2017, a flood of media reports have shown that the $13bn Murray-Darling Basin Plan is not being well implemented: agency coverups, political and regulatory capture, agencies with cultures of non-compliance, dodgy water deals, alleged fraud and unlawful amendments.”
This file contains a huge amount of relevant links.
The Murray-Darling Basin Plan was yet another Labor initiative destroyed by the ATM government.
Residents of Walgett are living on the banks of a dry river. Water that would normally flow down the Barwon River, even during a drought, has been diverted and hoarded by upstream cotton mega-farms. They are relying for water on a rather dodgy bore that produces water too saline for drinking. The bore was taken out by a lightning strike a week ago and the residents had to go without any water at all for a day. That meant no air conditioning in almost 40 degree heat. Walgett residents use evaporative air coolers, they need water to run. No water = no air conditioning. I’ve lived out west, just under 150 km east of Walgett, , and I can tell you cooling is essential in summer out there. So is drinking water. The situation is so bad in Walgett that private citizens are appealing for funds to buy bottled water which they will drive to Walgett. The NSW government doesn’t want to know and won’t help.
You can’t blame Walgett’s water problems on the drought. You can, however, blame them on corrupt water management and on the interventions over the past five years of Barnaby Joyce, his successor, David Littleproud and the rotten-to-the-core NSW government, with willing help from the Queensland government. Littleproud, until his marriage fell apart, was married to the second cousin of one of the owners of Norman Farms, a cotton-growing mega-company and a very corrupt one. A responsible Prime Minister would never have made a man with such an obvious conflict of interest his Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, but Turnbull did exactly that. Morrison kept him in that position and gave him the added responsibility of Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Drought Preparation and Response. Talk about putting a fox in the henhouse!
Meanwhile, much further south in NSW, the coal-loving NSW government is refusing to admit underground coal mines have been stealing Sydney’s water for years. ‘No place for mining’: coal mines drain water from dams.
Gas drilling companies across NSW and Queensland are still being given unlimited access to water, especially artesian water, and their drilling is damaging the Great Artesian Basin, but our governments, state and federal, just don’t care.
What will it take to make our state and federal governments wake up? When will they realise this is a very dry continent and our water resources are precious,too precious to be frittered away on industries we simply cannot support, industries like cotton growing and gas mining.