Water reliability needed in NSW Murray, Speak Up tells Minister

By Country News

Urgent action is needed to improve water reliability in the NSW Murray region.

That was the key message delivered to NSW Regional Water Minister Niall Blair by Speak Up during a recent visit to Griffith.

The group told Mr Blair a feasibility study into the proposed Water Security Fund was needed, along with a commitment from the government to provide significant funding from the Snowy Hydro sale.

Speak Up chair Shelley Scoullar and deputy chair Lachlan Marshall met with Mr Blair ahead of next month’s state election.

‘‘People are stressed and concerned with the present situation, and we need urgent action,’’ Mrs Scoullar said.

‘‘From a political perspective, we highlighted to Mr Blair that solutions need to be announced before next month’s state election to give our region confidence that politicians are listening and are prepared to help.’’

Mr Marshall said they also spoke to Mr Blair about the present situation in the Darling River and Menindee Lakes, which have generated national media coverage.

‘‘Historically 39 per cent of South Australian entitlement flows come from the Darling and Menindee, but under the current Murray-Darling agreement NSW and Victoria share the responsibility for meeting all SA entitlement flows,’’ Mr Marshall said.

‘‘Once Menindee is offline it then becomes the responsibility of the Murray River to meet the shortfall.

‘‘We suggested to Mr Blair that if Menindee is offline, SA should not get 100 per cent of its entitlement flows.

‘‘Given they have excess flows and are currently selling entitlements back to NSW and Victoria, this should not be a problem.’’

He said Mr Blair accepted the group’s position and raised it twice during a public forum in Griffith.

Mrs Scoullar said they also asked Mr Blair about the findings of an audit into unintended operational losses in the Murray system during the 2018 spring.

‘‘While farmers are on zero allocation we have seen an estimated 300Gl wasted through losses, which we believe were the result of poor river management.

‘‘Mr Blair assured us this was being followed up, but the state was still waiting for the Commonwealth to provide data.

‘‘It is a huge worry if the Commonwealth cannot quickly account for losses of more than 300Gl.’’

Speak Up hopes to get further information on the government’s commitment to the feasibility study and water fund in coming weeks.