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Call for review into water management

The threat of more flooding in coming months highlights the need for an overarching review of Australia’s water management.

The community-based Speak Up Campaign says it is time for politicians to stop knee-jerk reactions to a variable Australian climate and look towards long-term, sustainable solutions.

Speak Up Deputy Chair Lloyd Polkinghorne says we must end the politically-driven decision making, influenced by green ideology, that has dictated water policy in the past two decades, and all to the nation’s detriment.

“When the Millennium Drought hit, self-interest groups seized an opportunity, politicians panicked and we were delivered a poorly modelled Murray-Darling Basin Plan that was supposed to save the environment. While a plan was needed, it should have been developed on flexible foundations with in-built adjustments to achieve the required benefit.

“Instead, we got politically motivated volumes with no flexibility, and certainly no acceptance of the climate variability we have in Australia. As a result, along the Murray River we are damaging the very environment we were supposed to protect.”

Mr Polkinghorne said recent floods in eastern Australia, with more predicted along the Murray and its tributaries, highlight the need to take stock of mistakes from the past 15 years and develop water management that is more attuned to our climate and needs. This must include a thorough review of existing water storages and their management, and infrastructure needs into the future.

He said authorities also need to start addressing riverbank erosion.

“We have excessive flows during dry and normal periods that are causing erosion, and now this impacts the bank’s ability to cope with a normal flood event” he said.

“Unfortunately, it seems every time there is mention of a new dam or other major infrastructure solutions, there is instant opposition by green ideology. Without our historic nation building infrastructure the Murray would have run dry in the Millennium drought. Dams have a place, to feed our nation and provide protection to our environment, both private and public, in a highly variable climate.”

“Farmers who have been on the land for many decades are extremely concerned with current water management practices. They have seen floods and droughts; in a bygone era they saw the natural impact on the environment from dry times, and watched it bounce back in wet times. Now, in good times and bad, they watch redgum forests die due to overwatering and see European carp numbers surge to the detriment of native fish because we are providing ideal carp breeding conditions.”

Mr Polkinghorne said dams need to be efficiently managed so we reduce the potential impacts of extreme flood events, while also effectively using the stored water for our environment and food production.

“Quite obviously, we have serious water management problems and an independent, in-depth inquiry to assess the current situation and recommend future solutions is imperative. The new Federal Water Minister says all options are on the table; this needs to include infrastructure.

“Unfortunately, it seems every time there is mention of a new dam or other major infrastructure solutions, the Greens and environmental lobbyists are in uproar. But they can’t have their cake and eat it too; if they want more water for the environment we must increase our storage capacity and water management.

“We must get smarter and stop using water as a political football,” Mr Polkinghorne said.

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