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Do we really want to destroy communities?

Is there any other nation in the world that is prepared to deliberately put its citizens through the trauma of man-made flooding?


This is the question being asked by the community-based Speak Up Campaign, as it assesses the massive flows of water pouring down the river system.


While South Australian engineers have been checking flood levee banks in the hope they will withstand the coming water onslaught, Speak Up Chair Shelley Scoullar says, “perhaps they’d better get used to it”.


Because, as she points out, the 80,000 megalitres a day Murray River flow over the South Australian border, which was last week’s flow volume, is going to be a regular occurrence if the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is implemented in full. And unfortunately, communities in other states will also suffer from the man-made floods this will create.


Mrs Scoullar said there is no question that computer modelling on which the Basin Plan and its recovery volumes were based has proven to be problematic, at best.


Yet despite this, the federal government is barging ahead with its water recovery, with no idea of the flood damage that could be caused in the future by trying to send such massive and unwarranted volumes down the river.


“The Basin Plan recovery target was originally set at 2,750 gigalitres, but then the South Australian Government demanded an extra 450 gigalitres before they would sign up to it. When their communities get flooded – not through a La Nina event but from man-made flows – I suspect a few people will be having second thoughts about whether this was the right decision.


“We have not yet researched exactly how much environmental water is required, or sufficiently studied the beneficial impact of what has already been recovered. What we do know, is that unless we take stock and slow down the pace of recovery, flooding and its devastation will become more regular events. Isn’t it time common-sense prevailed and we reviewed these unrealistic, politically motivated targets?” Mrs Scoullar asked.


“Isn’t it time we put the wellbeing of people and communities ahead of politics?”


She said governments should heed the words of Victorian Farmers Federation water spokesperson Andrew Leahy, who last week stated that Basin Plan volumes had “been dreamt up with no understanding of what impact it will have on local communities” and that “… a manmade flood every five years with something like what we are experiencing is madness”.


“So, is this madness ever going to end?” Mrs Scoullar asked.


“Do we have to get to the point of destroying our river system through the erosion caused by these unnatural flows, plus endure the impact of man-made floods on our farming land, houses and community infrastructure, before anyone in government will take notice?”


Mrs Scoullar repeated statistics published last week which pointed out that you have to send 150,000 ML/day from eastern rivers to achieve the government’s target of 80,000 ML/day at the SA border. And this is what the Basin Plan says it will do every five years.


“Some might call that madness. I think ‘utter lunacy’ is a more apt description. Our communities can only hope that at some point we find politicians who are prepared to stand up on behalf of river communities – in Victoria, NSW and South Australia – and demand an end to our water management failures.”


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