The cherry-picking of history to suit the present day narrative is becoming increasingly frustrating for communities that are trying to resolve issues around poor water management.
Upper Goulburn River Catchment Association spokesperson Jan Beer said the latest claims – in a report released by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority - that gold mining up to 200 years ago was causing constraints issues in the Barmah Choke suggests governments will “do anything” to avoid addressing real problems.
“We have been highlighting constraints and deliverability issues with the Basin Plan for over a decade, but governments and their bureaucracies won’t listen to people in our communities who have lived and breathed the river system for generations.
“Instead, we get reports which provide lame excuses for the failures which are playing out before our eyes,” Mrs Beer said.
She said apart from gold mining, other sources of sediment slug include boating activities, bank erosion due to constant unnatural flows churning water down the rivers, and stock access to river banks. But poor management by water authorities has failed to even attempt to quantify these various causes.
“We need scientific tracing to determine how much is from gold mining over a century ago, and how much is from more recent excessive flows.”
Mrs Beer said a broader input into the Basin Plan from the scientific community is required.
“Eminent scientists who do not support the ‘just add water’ legislated requirement for the Basin Plan get ignored.
“Too often we have the MDBA and other government instrumentalities making statements with insufficient data to back them up, failing to quantify assumptions or undertake peer-reviewed studies. Instead, policy and politics are dominant with taxpayer dollars used to try and reinforce the narrative.”
Mrs Beer said her own research, including discussions with scientists, has made it clear that gold mining in the 19th Century did produce sludge sediment that found its way down the tributaries and into the Murray River. But importantly, it was not the only source of sediment slug.
However, she said it appeared there had been no recent sediment tracing to confirm where the sediment came from.
“Why isn’t the MDBA spending some of its huge pot of money to scientifically trace the sediment and back-up the latest assumptions? Maybe there is a slug comprising a range of sediments that has been moved in recent years by the excessive flows, and in the best interests of our environment these flows need to be reduced.
Mrs Beer said government funded reports appear to consistently support attempts to reinforce a political position on the Basin Plan, which revolves around sending massive quantities of water down the system to South Australia.
“Many well-qualified scientists also have extreme concern that a political approach to the Basin Plan is damaging the very environment it is supposed to protect. But they don’t get funding because they don’t follow the political narrative.
“This latest report reinforces the need for far more rigour around the Basin Plan and its implementation. Too many people are making money at the expense of our river systems and the environment,” Mrs Beer said.