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‘Just add water’ is just adding carp

Communities continue to be frustrated by a ‘just add water’ approach to so-called environmental management, which is damaging the very environment it is supposed to protect.

Further evidence of environmental degradation from too much water is being seen with the current proliferation of European carp breeding.

The community-based Speak Up Campaign is one of several organisations which have called for greater focus on carp control, but it continues to be ignored.

“Six years ago we called for a comprehensive review of basin-wide water use, following a carp breeding explosion and native fish kills from hypoxic blackwater during the 2016 floods,” said Speak Up deputy chair Lloyd Polkinghorne.

“In the current flooding event there are again extreme concerns about the damage being caused by millions of carp, and again we have lost native fish through hypoxic blackwater. Yet we do not get the action needed to address these issues. Instead, the focus continues to be around recovering more water which is only going to exacerbate an already dire situation.

“We need to take a more common-sense approach and review the flaws in water management, which have again been obvious during recent floods,” Mr Polkinghorne said.

The NSW Irrigators Council has this month called on authorities to “act promptly”, saying “carp control is essential to avoid these floods leaving a lasting legacy of ecological degradation for years to come”. It points out that federal authorities describe carp as ‘one of the worst introduced pest species in Australia’ due to their degradation of our waterways and that “the number of carp spawning is jaw-dropping”.

The Speak Up Campaign has supported the NSW IC calls for the Basin Council to look past the simplistic ‘just add water’ approach when it considers the next steps for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Speak Up also supports the views of world-leading river scientist Dr John Conallin, who after flood events in 2010-11 and 2016 warned that without a concerted effort to reduce carp numbers we would never get rid of them and “never meet the native fish based outcomes under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan”.

He described carp as “one of the biggest threats we have to native fish recovery because they steal all the food of natives, bully, eat and live where natives should live. They mess up the water quality for native fish.”

Mr Polkinghorne said Speak Up is again calling for a review of water management and the damage caused by excessive water flows, both during flood and non-flood situations. It must include whether more water needs to be recovered, as proposed under the Basin Plan, amid growing concerns that excessive water delivery will continue to cause more damage, both through carp breeding and further riverbank erosion.

“After more than 10 years of implementation we have seen some positive aspects to the Basin Plan, but there have also been negative unintended consequences which authorities have been reluctant to acknowledge. In 2023 we should take off the blinkers and look at the plan in a more holistic way; one that protects our environment and our communities.

“Let’s deliver the best possible plan, not one that achieves political agendas or supports those who want to jump on the funding gravy-train,” Mr Polkinghorne said.

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