Tag Archives: broken hill

Cover Up King Blair fails transparency test

MEDIA RELEASE - 22 November 2017

The NSW Greens have accused water minister Niall Blair of covering up maladministration of water compliance and enforcement after the government used its numbers in parliament to block 18 votes to 15 votes, the public release of three separate ombudsman reports.

In his latest interim report the NSW Ombudsman says:

 “The concerns raised in earlier investigations continue to be a strong theme in the current investigation, and are summarised in this progress report.”

The Ombudsman has produced three separate reports on water compliance and enforcement in 2009, 2012 and 2013.  None of these reports have been made public by the minister.

NSW Greens water spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said:

“This was a test to see whether water minister Niall Blair was fair dinkum about transparency, and he has flunked it badly.

“The Ombudsman made it clear in his interim report that many of the issues now causing scandal were raised in a series of reports dating back as far as 2009.

“It is important to see what information and recommendations the Ombudsman made in previous reports, and whether successive NSW Government took the conclusions of these report seriously or enacted the recommendations.

“Next time water minister Niall Blair says he is not acting to cover up this scandal, remember that he voted to block the public from reading what was in these three ombudsman reports.

“The National Party should be stripped of the water portfolio and there should be a Royal Commission in to the administration of the Murray Darling Basin.”

A test to see whether water minister Niall Blair is fair dinkum or covering up?

MEDIA RELEASE - 21 November 2017

NSW water minister Niall Blair faces a test to see whether he is fair dinkum about cleaning up corruption and mismanagement in water or whether he is covering up.

The NSW Ombudsman has produced three separate reports on water compliance and enforcement in 2009, 2012 and 2013.  None of these reports have been made public by the minister.

The Greens will move tomorrow for these reports to be tabled in parliament through the powerful Standing Order 52, which, if passed, will require the documents to be produced within 14 days.

NSW Greens water spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said:

“For too long minister Blair has been dodging and weaving pretending he is about transparency on the water scandal, but moving to cover things up.

“Here is a simple test for the minister:  will he support the public release of these three past ombudsman reports, or will he try to use the numbers in the parliament block their release and keep the public in the dark?

“Last week the NSW Ombudsman took the unusual step of directly tabling a damning interim report on water compliance and enforcement which noted that similar issues had been reported in three previous reports, but little had been done to deal with the issues for a decade.

“If the government blocks the release of these three reports, then you can be certain they are not interested in transparency, they are only interested in covering up.”

The following motion will be moved by formal business in the Legislative Council on Wednesday 22 November 2017.

  1. Mr Buckingham to move—

That, under standing order 52, there be laid upon the table of the House within 14 days of the date of

passing of this resolution the following documents in the possession, custody or control of the

Department of Industry and the Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and

Minister for Trade and Industry:

(a) the first second and third NSW Ombudsman’s reports of 2009, 2012 and 2013 referred to at

pages 9, 10 and 11 of the “Investigation into water compliance and enforcement 2007-17: A

special report to Parliament under section 31 of the Ombudsman Act 1974,” dated November

2017, and

(b) any legal or other advice regarding the scope or validity of this order of the House created as a

result of this order of the House.

Ombudsman’s report exposes water compliance as rotten to the core

MEDIA RELEASE - 15 Nov 2017

A special report to the NSW Parliament by the NSW Ombudsman exposes that water compliance and enforcement has been rotten to the core for almost a decade and the government has failed to act despite repeated and detailed warning by the Ombudsman.  Previous Ombudsman reports in 2009, 2012 and 2013 told the government of the serious issues with compliance and enforcement, yet the government has failed to act and refused to publicly release those three Ombudsman reports.

NSW Greens water spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said:

“It’s clear that enforcement of water law does not function in NSW and is rotten to the core.  Some of these revelations are worse than 4 Corners or the Matthews Report.

“The government has been repeatedly warned by the Ombudsman that water compliance and enforcement is rotten, yet has turned a blind eye and deliberately hid previous Ombudsman reports from the public.

“It is only because the Ombudsman used his powers to go around the water minister and have this interim report tabled in parliament that we now know just how rotten things are in Water NSW.

“We need a broad ranging Royal Commission to investigate water in NSW so that all the issues and allegations that are out there are thoroughly investigated independently.

“Water minister Niall Blair must have known about the serious compliance and enforcement issues, but has done nothing but stonewall and cover up.  Enforcement actions have plunged under Minister Blair from 820 in 2014/15, to 200 in 2016/17.

“The Natural Resource Access Regulator Bill currently before parliament is a case in point.  The Bill fails to properly implement the recommendations of the Matthews Inquiry that compliance and Enforcement be controlled by an independent body.  The bill leaves responsibility with the Minister and the Department of Primary Industries, thus failing to deal with the conflict of interest identified by Ken Matthews and the Ombudsman.

“The Nationals must be stripped of the water portfolio or it will remain an area of maladministration and ripe for corruption.”

Some highlights from the Investigation into water compliance and enforcement 2007-2017:

  • The Ombudsman initiated his investigation in July 2016. He referred one matter to ICAC in April 2017.
  • Previous Ombudsman reports in 2009, 2012 and 2013 warned about serious issues – were kept secret by the government.
  • Compliance officers were ‘press ganged’ into the role without proper training or skills.
  • Water NSW staff allege they were directed not to investigate or had their delegations removed.
  • No enforcement action had been taken on unlicensed dams that contained large volumes of water and were being used for irrigation purposes without the required water access licences or water allocations in a water sharing plan area.
  • The transfer of some compliance and enforcement functions to Water NSW under the Transformation was having a debilitating effect on the conduct of enforcement activities across the State.
  • There were systemic failures by senior management, in both past and current regimes, to take action on water compliance matters.
  • Expenditure on compliance between 2012 and 2016 was $10 million less than recommended by IPART.
  • Excessive delays in completing investigations and taking enforcement and prosecution action and of matters that were not being sufficiently prepared before the relevant statute of limitation periods expired.

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.”

Government shuts down debate on water theft scandal

MEDIA RELEASE - 13 September 2017

NSW Greens water spokesman Jeremy Buckingham today criticised the Berejiklian Government for voting against a Matter of Public Importance debate on the growing water theft scandal, after the Matthews Inquiry released a scathing interim report that raises more questions than it answers.

The Greens moved to have a Matter of Public Importance debate on the Matthews Inquiry interim report, but the government used their numbers in the Upper House to defeat the motion 20 - 16.

“It’s increasingly obvious that Water Minister Niall Blair is engaged in a cover up of this water scandal.  His government has failed to initiate an independent judicial inquiry, they have blocked parliamentary motions calling for documents to be presented, and now they’ve voted down the parliament debating the issue as a ‘Matter of Public Importance’,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“The people of NSW have lost confidence in the ability of the National Party to administer the water portfolio for the public good, rather than in favour of their irrigator mates and political donors.

“The Matthews Inquiry interim report raises more questions than it answers.

“Why did the Secretary of the Department prevent Mr Matthews from reporting on the conduct of other DPI Water Staff?  And what other ‘separate process’ is the Secretary and minister considering to investigate these other staff?

“Who is investigating former minister Kevin Humphries?  Is it ICAC?  Is it Mr Matthews?  Is anyone?

“Why did the Commonwealth pull its funding for compliance staff at DPI Water?

“What role did the restructure of water by this government have in undermining compliance and enforcement?

“Why have two audits into NSW Water compliance by the NSW Ombudsman in 2009 and 2014 been kept secret, despite attempts by the parliament and under Freedom of Information to have the audits released?”

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.

Abolishing Western Lands Commissioner putting Western NSW at risk

MEDIA RELEASE - 10 November 2016

The passage of the Crown Land Management Bill at 3:30am Wednesday morning will allow the NSW Government to sell off our crown lands and gut environmental protections for the western half of NSW.  The Bill abolishes the Western Lands Commissioner, removes some environmental protections and allows the conversion of leasehold land to freehold.

NSW Greens Western NSW spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham said:

“The Greens are concerned this will lead to overgrazing of these fragile lands and the spread of weeds and pest animals if a dedicated Western Lands Commissioner is abolished.

“Without an independent Commissioner with appropriate powers to manage the environment as a whole, the Greens have no faith that this fragile environment will be protected from poor farming practices.  While most farmers do the right thing, it only takes a few poor land managers to have serious impacts because of the nature of the region with limited water and poor soil quality.

“Placing the Minister in charge of Western Lands instead of a dedicated and independent Commissioner means 42% of the state may face neglect and means decisions will be more open to lobbying from vested interests.

“Allowing leases to be converted to freehold will lead to the fragmentation of the Western Division, making management of this vast area more difficult and creating a funding death spiral by driving down the rent base available to resource environmental management.

“The removal of the ability to direct leaseholders to ‘preserve trees, scrub and vegetative cover on the land’ is very concerning and could lead to substantial loss of vegetation.

“This is the government essentially abdicating responsibility for managing 42% of the state.  Parts will be sold off to freehold, and the rest will suffer fragmentation and a lack of dedicated resources to manage the environment.

“The Greens moved amendments to retain the independent office of the Western Lands Commissioner, retain environmental safeguards and to prevent any increased sale of Western Lands leases. “

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