Why do we ignore scientific evidence?

April 10, 2018

What is the value of environmental flows in the Murray-Darling system?

It is a question that has been asked numerous times, but scientists who question the ‘just add water’ approach to environmental management continue to get their views, and even their careers, tarnished.

The value of environmental flows is one of the topics to be discussed at a public water forum in Moama this Friday.

It will include keynote speaker Professor Peter Gell, whose paper ‘Watching the tide roll away – advocacy and obfuscation of evidence,’ was published last week by the CSIRO. Evidence in the paper brings into question using a ‘fresh history’ of the lower lakes to justify environmental flows.

This is an issue that has also been of concern to world-renowned international environmental flows expert Prof John Conallin, who will also be a speaker at the forum.

But how seriously is their research acknowledged, simply because it does not support political, and therefore funding, narratives?

Speak Up Campaign spokesperson Vicki Meyer said it is an issue that needs to be discussed and addressed.

“Ever since the Basin Plan was drafted there have been scientists, academics and locals expressing concern about the misinterpretation or misrepresentation of data, especially in relation to the Coorong and Lower Lakes, and their natural state.

“It would appear there are people in the scientific community who let their ideologies get in the way of objective science. As a result good people, in their attempt to speak the truth, have their names and careers black-listed in some circles.

“We need to listen to all scientists, not just those who fit a political narrative,” Ms Meyer said.

She added it was pleasing that those who believe in objective science are prepared to stand their ground and continue promoting their views.

“We have recovered huge volumes of water for environmental flows in the Murray-Darling Basin, but where is the evidence to say all this environmental water is needed and beneficial? It doesn’t exist.

“Governments are calling for the recovery of more water, but it is more important to focus on environmental flows where it is most needed and that is not currently happening? We need to take this one step at a time, not bulldoze our way forward to suit a political timeframe.”

Ms Meyer said Speak Up, and the water forum, is about honesty and truth. For a long time locals who have raised concerns about the modelling and assumptions of the Basin Plan have been ignored, ostracised and criticised.

“The time has come to listen to all sides of the story, not just the predominantly city-based academics. We care about environmental outcomes, and we also care about rural communities.

“We believe the right balance can be achieved, and it needs to be done based on sound evidence and data with genuine input from local communities.”

Also speaking on Friday will be David McKenzie, a property and water valuer from the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District who has a long and committed history of advocating for rural communities and achieving better outcomes.

Community members, business operators and farmers are urged to attend Friday’s forum to learn more about issues surrounding the Basin Plan, and demand no further destruction of our communities, especially when it is based on false assumptions. It will be held at Moama Bowling Club from 11am.

For more details and RSVP for catering purposes is via the Speak Up website www.speakup4water.com or on its Facebook page.

For further information and interviews: Vicki Meyer Deputy Chair Speak Up Campaign email [email protected] or phone 0409 600 749

David McKenzie email [email protected] or phone 0419887120

Peter Gell email [email protected] or phone 0427 870 280

John Conallin email [email protected] or phone 0499 782 725

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