Ministers accused of not understanding water management

By Jamie Salter

A water advocacy group is claiming food and fibre production is being threatened by state and federal water ministers, following the Ministerial Council meeting on June 19.

Wakool Rivers Association chair John Lolicato said discussions on constraints in the Barmah Choke at the Ministerial Council meeting highlighted the inability of water ministers to understand complexities around water management.

“Our confidence gets further dented when we read that ‘options for optimising the capacity of the Barmah Choke’ were discussed by water ministers and managers, including the Murray-Darling Basin Authority,” Mr Lolicato said.

“They are making decisions which will significantly impact our livelihoods, yet they have limited knowledge about the choke, its history and its environmental fragility.”

Mr Lolicato said he was concerned Federal Water Minister Keith Pitt would favour infrastructure works to bypass the choke.

“It could again reduce affordability and reliability, allowing more water to leave our region and is again abandoning the promise that our communities would be protected under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan,” he said.

“The Barmah Choke, like the Coorong, is a RAMSAR-listed site with cultural significance to our nation’s First People, yet this significance gets conveniently ignored because the MDBA wants to meet unrealistic volume targets due to an entrenched fixation on delivering volumes, rather than outcomes.”

These concerns come as the discharge of Barmah Choke flows reached a high of 8501 Ml in June — the largest volume in eight months.

Barmah flows have steadily increased over the past two weeks, rising from 3431 Ml a day on June 18, to 6103 Ml a day on July 3, however, flows are forecast to drop down to about 4600 Ml by Saturday, July 11.

The water level at the Barmah Choke currently sits at 2.3 m.