News

NVIC wants permanent ban on inter-valley transfers

By Rodney Woods

Northern Victorian Irrigation Communities supports comments by retiring Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority chief executive officer Chris Norman (Country News, January 28) about unseasonal high summer flows through our river systems.

We also share his “extreme frustration” in trying to get the problem recognised.

The Victorian Government has done the right thing by the Goulburn River in stopping inter-valley transfers for this season, hopefully they will make this ban on IVTs permanent.

Unfortunately the same decision has not been made to save the Murray River at the Barmah Choke.

This has resulted in damage to both the Murray River and the RAMSAR-listed Barmah National Park.

In our discussions with government bureaucrats and politicians, they claim that there is little that can be done, as the carriage of water down the Murray River is controlled by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

It is simple to see that the Murray River is over-committed.

The capacity of the Murray River at Barmah Choke is diminishing at an alarming rate.

High summer flows are causing considerable environmental damage including bank erosion, causing silt deposits and trees falling into the river.

It is clear that the unseasonal flooding has led to a decreased level of biodiversity in the RAMSAR wetlands of Barmah National Park.

This unseasonal flooding is threatening this RAMSAR-listed wetlands function for endangered migratory birds and endangered Australian plants and animals.

This unseasonal flooding breaches the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The “extreme frustration” that NVIC has experienced in failing to have these issues acknowledged with government, and government agencies has led NVIC to seek legal advice.

As well as more conventional legal challenges in Australia, NVIC is exploring diplomatic channels with other nations whose migratory water birds are threatened by the MDBA’s inappropriate water management of the Murray River at Barmah National Park.

Caring for biodiversity is at the heart of RAMSAR wetland treaty sites; the inappropriate water management of the Murray River at Barmah National Park has the potential to go to the international Court of Justice, with Australia as the defendant, according to our experts’ opinion.

It is that serious.

NVIC has reassembled the legal/scientific team which is specialist in flood management works.

Our legal case will be based upon scientific fact from trusted experts.

This case takes us into new and uncharted waters in international environmental law and diplomacy.

Chris Bourke

Northern Victorian Irrigation Communities