Water bureaucrats are grasping at straws to cover up failings in policy implementation, according to a community water advocate.
Speak Up Campaign Chair Shelley Scoullar said nothing surprised her any more in the water space, but for New South Wales water officials to say it is “impractical” to undertake compliance action over misreported trades a new all time low has been hit.
On Thursday ABC’s 7.30 Report revealed they had obtained emails between the Murray Darling Basin Authority and NSW Water staff, revealing the NSW government had no process in place to ensure the accuracy of water trades.
“Labelling something as impractical, when it has actually been legislated since 2004 really takes the cake, and further exemplifies why people in the Southern Connected System, especially in the Murray Valley, are fed up with the NSW Government,” Mrs Scoullar said.
She said the National Water Initiative (2004), the Water Act 2007, the Murray Darling Basin Plan (2012) and subsequent Water Sharing Plans all have legislation built into them for the establishment of trading zones, to protect the environment and farming communities.
“In layman’s terms these documents set out fundamentals of how the Basin Plan and the Murray Darling Agreement would interact.
“In a nutshell there is meant to be a zero net trade of water from below the Barmah Choke in the temporary market, so what is traded below the choke must have the equivalent traded up again in any given year. Trades above and below must be net zero in the same year.
“From our investigations a net trade of zero above and below the Barmah Choke has not occurred since 2007, despite the tagging of water and Intervalley Trade Limits being in place,” Mrs Scoullar said.
In fact net trades over the SA border were over 700 gigalitres this year, meaning the equivalent of nearly one and a half Sydney Harbours has been traded from above the Barmah Choke to below, without equal volume being traded back up.
Mrs Scoullar believes it is not the job of water officials, either at state or federal level, to gauge the practicality of monitoring water trades, it is their job to implement the policy which governments have mandated them to deliver.
“This is an appalling excuse and while the implementation of policy remains idle, because bureaucrats have determined it to be impractical, multigenerational family farmers are underwriting downstream water use by corporations, and foreign investors.
“Meanwhile our iconic rivers are been destroyed through constant high flows causing bank erosion, not to mention the massive socioeconomic consequences, such has towns shrinking by up to fifty percent and employment in irrigated agriculture dropping by seventy-one percent in some regions,” she said.
Mrs Scoullar urged the major media outlets to continue exposing the incompetency in water policy and management until the Prime Minister is forced to act.