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poor old river Murray « Previous | |Next »
October 2, 2005

Murraymouth.jpgAlthough the SA Rann Government keeps sending out mesages that things are improving with respect to the health of the River Murray, the Chowilla floodplain and the Corrong wetlands, I decided that little would happen over the next few years when I was looking for a new job after June 30th.

The environment, I judged at that point, had been closed down by the Howard Government, and little would happen, apart from a lot of talk and spin. The Nationals were in control, and they are about exploiting natural resources not environmental flows.

So even though the Coorong was in crisis, little would be done about the lack of environmental flows in the River Murray, rising salinity, or deterioriating biodiversity and habitat. Consequently, the Coorong would lose its status as a wetland of international importance whilst the various state Ministers would put out press releases about recent rainfalls increasing flows in the River Murray.

So I took a job in the health.area. Health was more cutting edge in a policy reform sense.

This judgement has been confirmed by Peter Cullen in his op. ed in the Australian Financial Review on Thursday (29 September, 2005, subscription required). In this article, entitled, 'Murray doomed by lack of will', Cullen refers to the 500 gigalitres of water due to be returned to the River Murray by 2009 as environmental flows. He says that the 500 gigalitres:

"..was to be a first step in repairing the health of the Murray, but governments so far have been able to identify infrastructure projects to save only 240 gl of water at a cost of about $280 million...The State agencies do not seem able to identify further projects to return flows to the Murray and there seems little chance of the 500 gl commitment being meet by 2009. Indeed, approved projects won't even get us halfway there. ...There appears to be no further cost-effective infrastructure proposals to create water savings by the state agencies."

All that we get is squabbling around the CoAG table, even though the ground and river waters of the Murray-Darling Basin are overallocated, the state governments have not effectively capped the groundwater extraction that flows into the river, and old river gums across the parched floodplains die in their thousands.

As Cullen points out the environmental damage continues even as irrigators are not even bothering to pick crops of grapes and oranges grown with River Murray water. It's irrational.

Update: 4 Oct. 2005
Another option to make up the difference between the 240 gigalitres promised and the target 500 gigalitre is to buy the difference on the open market. Suprise suprise. Such a move would meet with resistance from the Murray Valley Community of Water Users (in NSW?) They argue that no government should enter the market to buy water entitlements until a comprehensive study on the social and economic consequences of such a move has been done.

And another suprise. Peter McGauran, the federal Minister for Agriculture, is reported as also resisting any such moves to buy up water. He reckons the difference can be found through infrastructure and efficiency measures. Which are? He doesn't say.

So it was no suprise that CoAG did next to nothing.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:34 PM | | Comments (0)