Lower Darling in ‘mess’

By Country News

Darling River irrigators have been caught between competing interests driving the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, an inquiry into the river system has been told.

Alan Whyte, a member of the Lower Darling Horticulture Group, said he was concerned the basin plan had not taken a ‘‘whole-of-river approach’’.

‘‘Unfortunately, the plan can deliver benefits in some places and costs to other places, and one of those places is the Lower Darling,’’ he told the South Australian Royal Commission into the Murray-Darling Basin at a public hearing in Adelaide on Tuesday last week.

Mr Whyte said it was an ‘‘unfortunate reality’’ the security of water supply to the Lower Darling had reduced dramatically.

‘‘Now that affects us as irrigators, it affects the rivers, it affects the communities along the river,’’ he said.

‘‘Unfortunately the impacts of a lot of the changes under the basin plan are that the water coming into Menindee (Lakes) is used quicker, which in practice means we run out of water sooner and stay drier for longer.’’

Mr Whyte said he also wanted to draw attention to activity on the Lower Darling with the installation of block banks or temporary weirs to pool the small amount of water still flowing through the system.

He said the intention of the banks was to provide for the needs of permanent plantings in the region but they were not the sort of measures being employed anywhere else in the basin.

‘‘The water quality is appalling but, as I made a comment to someone else recently, we have got a choice of muck or nothing and we will choose muck every time and be thankful, I guess,’’ he said.

‘‘But you won’t find those sort of works being necessary anywhere else in the basin.

‘‘Indeed, if someone was suggesting you had to do that on the Murray or in other places, there would be a hell of a racket over it.

‘‘It’s a symptom of the mess that the bottom half of the Darling River has got into.’’