Push for councils to make Murray River water decisions

By Geoff Adams

Murray River local government councils are driving a push to have out-of-season river flows cause less damage to the environment.

They are also against further buybacks to generate another 450 Gl of environmental water being taken away from agriculture.

The group of riverine councils — including Edwards River (Deniliquin), Berrigan, Federation, Moira and Greater Shepparton — will put two motions up to the Murray Darling Association annual conference in September.

The councillors are worried at the impact of high summer flows on river banks and the effect of taking a further 450 Gl of water away from rural communities without consideration of the socio-economic impact.

But the councils in northern Victoria and southern Riverina may face opposition from other councils downstream, when it is put to the vote.

The first motion calls on basin governments to ensure the passage of water intended for irrigation use downstream be minimised to flows that do not cause environmental harm to river environs and, in particular, the Barmah Choke on the Murray River and the banks of the heritage-listed Goulburn River.

The second motion opposes further buybacks as a means for acquiring the 450 Gl of water to be recovered for the environment, and recommends if on-farm efficiency programs are to be used to obtain the proposed 450 Gl then any participants to the program must be subject to an independent socio-economic analysis that proves that such transfers do not cause adverse socio-economic issues.

Greater Shepparton councillor Dennis Patterson said the capacity of the Barmah Choke had diminished to 9000 Ml/day and attempts to push more water than this through the section of Murray River was flooding the adjoining forests and killing red gums.

Damage was also being caused to the Goulburn River environs through inter-valley transfers.

Cr Patterson, who serves on the Murray Darling Association and framed the motions, said the loss of a further 450 Gl to productive agriculture would be detrimental to rural towns and communities.

Edward River Mayor Norm Brennan is worried a loss of a further 450 Gl from agriculture would have an enormous impact on irrigated agriculture in the Riverina.

He said he had seen figures demonstrating the impact of the loss of water.

“Our rice and dairy has reduced by 25 to 30 per cent,” Cr Brennan said.

“If we lost another 18 per cent, half of the industry would be out.

“It doesn't make sense to me.”

He said his council supported the motions to be presented to the Murray Darling Association meeting.