Minister must explain water scandal and refer to ICAC

MEDIA RELEASE 25 July 2017

NSW Greens water spokesman Jeremy Buckingham called on NSW water minister Niall Blair to explain why investigations into water stealing were cancelled and why senior bureaucrats were conspiring with large irrigators to give them access to key documents to undermine the Murray Darling Basin Plan, after revelations by Four Corners last night.

He also called on Minister Blair to explain why the NSW Government has just introduced regulations that legalise all illegal flood diversion works built in the Barwon-Darling Valley Flood Plain.

“The NSW Government has been caught red-handed undermining the Murray Darling Basin Plan for the benefit of a few of their big irrigator mates. The NSW Greens support calls for a Royal Commission into water management,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“Water minister Niall Blair needs to explain why his department has been complicit, or conspired to steal water for cotton irrigation that should be flowing down the Barwon and Darling Rivers.

“Did his predecessor as water minister, Kevin Humphries give irrigators in the North West permission to pump water out of the river when an official embargo was in place?

“Why has the government gazetted the Floodplain Management Plan for the Barwon-Darling Valley Floodplain 2017 that effectively makes legal, illegally built works to divert flood waters away from natural waterways and into irrigation dams?

“This is a minister hell bent on wasting $500 million to build a pipeline from the Murray to Broken Hill so that he and his irrigator mates can suck the Darling River system dry to grow yet more cotton.

“This is a minister that allows big irrigation companies to steal tens of millions worth of water but can’t find a few dollars to build a new weir to provide higher quality drinking water and a weir pool for recreation and cultural purposes for the Aboriginal people of Wilcannia.

“The truth is the Darling River is dying.  For years I have been working with the community in the Lower Darling to highlight the mismanagement of the Darling System.  The only long-term solution is to restore surface flows to the river, which means reducing the amount of water sucked out of the river for irrigation.

“Today I will write to Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) referring the allegations made in the Four Corners program.  I urge the NSW Government to make its own reference to ICAC,” he said.

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