Broken Hill pipeline business case a poor excuse for killing the Darling River and Menindee Lakes
MEDIA RELEASE – 23 October 2017
NSW Greens water spokesman Jeremy Buckingham today said the release of the business case for the Wentworth to Broken Hill water pipeline showed the government was again preferencing big cotton irrigators over the health of the Darling River and expecting the residents and businesses of Broken Hill to pay for it.
NSW Greens water spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said:
“This business case is a plan to spend a huge amount on an unnecessary pipeline so that the government can let the Darling River die and kill the Menindee Lakes by bypassing them and emptying them far more rapidly when they do fill.
“It is the brainchild of former Deputy Director-General of DPI Water Gavin Hanlon and his department who are now under investigation by ICAC for allegedly conspiring with a cohort of big cotton irrigators on the Upper Darling.
“The business case was clearly written with the government’s preferred answer in mind – a pipeline that will allow them to run the Menindee Lakes dry and allow more water to be taken out of the Darling River by upstream irrigators.
“The business case objectives fail to consider the environmental, amenity, recreation, tourism and cultural values of a healthy Darling River and Menindee Lakes – issues that should be central to a truly triple-bottom line approach.
“The business case fails to assess the option of a combination of smaller projects to address water security needs, instead opting for the big expensive pipeline option. A combination of other smaller infrastructure and management options, as well as long-term efforts to restore the health of the Darling River was not considered.
“The business case rejects ‘water licence buybacks to secure Menindee Lakes supply’ because it would mean less water for upstream cotton production.
“It is presented as a fait accompli to the people of NSW, without any of the detailed modelling or public debate about the various options. The business case should not have been kept secret and released only after the government has awarded the tender. This is disgraceful governance from Water Minister Niall Blair.
“The pipeline will encumber the residents and businesses of Broken Hill with significant ongoing increases to their water bills. They are being forced to pay for something they don’t want and for the Menindee Lakes to be downgraded to just a temporary storage for South Australian irrigators.
“Water Minister Blair says this pipeline is necessary because water buybacks are unpopular. However, buybacks are only unpopular with his big irrigator mates. Most Australians want to see the water buybacks necessary to restore our major rivers and wetlands to a healthy state.”