Tag Archives: Wilcannia

A new downstream weir for Wilcannia a positive step forward, but too long in coming

Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham has welcomed the state and federal governments finally committing $30 million to build a new downstream weir for Wilcannia, but said it had taken too long.

It should not take a tight state and federal election to get action for regional communities on water supplies, he said.

“I was first approached in 2014 by Wilcannia residents about a new weir for Wilcannia and I’ve been pursuing the government about the issue ever since. I’ve raised it in parliament at every opportunity, written to the Premier and the ministers, and educated the community about the great injustice and need for a new weir,” Mr Buckingham said

“A new weir and the weir pool it will create will provide, swimming, fishing, cultural and even small-scale irrigation opportunities for the people of Wilcannia.

“While the Wilcannia weir announcement is a good step forward, it will not solve the systemic problem of a lack of surface flows down the Darling/Barka river due to over allocation to upstream irrigation, mainly cotton.

“The Barkindji people tell me that the Barka is dying. The regular small and medium flows that came down the Darling through Wilcannia have stopped because too much water is being taken up stream.

“While the government is recognising the cultural values of the Darling River, it should facilitate the process to formally recognise the Aboriginal name for the Darling River – the Barka – with a dual naming through the NSW Geographical Names Board.

“The Greens are proud to represent the interests of the people of Wilcannia. They may be far away and isolated from Sydney, but I have made sure that their issues were raised in the parliament time and time again.

“The cynic would note that the government has finally committed money to the project only a few months before both state and federal elections are due. This is exactly why people should vote against the National Party. It’s only when they can’t take the Far West for granted that they pay any attention or grant any funding,” he said.

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.”

Two years on, Wilcannia still waiting for weir report

MEDIA RELEASE – 12 October 2016

Almost two years after it commissioned a feasibility study into building a new weir for Wilcannia, the government still has not released a report. NSW Greens water spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham said today that once again the people of Wilcannia are put last by the government.

“This is turning into a farce. They’ve spent two years on a report and won’t even release it.  They could have built a new downstream weir in that time to help revive the town of Wilcannia,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“The Greens are concerned that the bean counters will find a reason to dud the people of Wilcannia yet again on a cost/benefit analysis.

“Around 80% of Wilcannia residents are of Aboriginal decent.  It has one of the lowest life expectancy and highest social disadvantage in Australia.  To deny the people of Wilcannia basic infrastructure and some secure water in the river as it flows through town would be a shameful decision.

“This government is prepared to spend half a billion on a pipeline from Wentworth to Broken Hill, which it admits is primarily about benefiting wealth northern irrigators, yet it won’t build a new weir for Wilcannia.”
Photos of Jeremy Buckingham at William Bates at Wilcannia weir available here.

Watch Question & Answer on YouTube here.     Download footage here.


11 October 2016

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM ( 16:39 ): My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water. Two years ago, on 30 October 2014, the New South Wales Government committed $189,000 to a feasibility study into an upgrade of the Wilcannia Weir and associated works. When will the Government release this feasibility report? When will the Minister build a new downstream weir for the people of Wilcannia?

The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water) ( 16:40 ): I thank the member for his question. It is an important issue for the people of Wilcannia. I note that the member opposite has jumped straight to the conclusion that he wants the downstream weir completed. However, there are alternatives. Some say that we should be looking at upgrading the existing weir; some are talking about a downstream component; others are saying that we could do both.

Mr Jeremy Buckingham: Two weirs?

The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: There are some who have said that we could build two weirs. One could be addressing the water quality issue and the other could be used for amenity purposes. But the member is not aware of that, he is not aware that there are many variances associated with such projects. The New South Wales Government has engaged consultants to complete a feasibility investigation for a new weir at Wilcannia. The investigation includes a business case and associated scoping study. Department of Primary Industries—Water has received the feasibility investigation reports, including a scoping study and a business case for the Wilcannia Weir.

While there has been criticism of the time taken in completing the study, it must be understood that there are a number of considerations and detailed analyses required. Once the final reports have been reviewed, they will be considered by the Government and future stages of the project can then be discussed. We need to assess the feasibility study and give due consideration to the findings before we know what the next steps are. These reports are important steps to inform the Government about the feasibility and anticipated costs of a possible replacement weir so that the matter can be considered.

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM ( 16:42 ): I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate his answer in relation to the feasibility study? Was a cost benefit analysis conducted within that feasibility study? Can he tell the House what that cost benefit analysis may or may not have said?

The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water) ( 16:42 ): In answer to the first question I spoke about scoping studies and business cases; that has already been covered.

Niall Blair fails to raise Broken Hill water crisis with Barnaby Joyce

MEDIA RELEASE – 9 March 2016

The Greens NSW Water Spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham today said he was shocked that state Water Minister, Niall Blair had not raised the issue of Broken Hill’s water crisis with the federal Water Minister Barnaby Joyce, and questioned whether the National Party was taking the issue seriously, or were simply looking out for their mates in the upstream irrigation industry.

“I asked Niall Blair a very simple question: had he made representations to Barnaby Joyce on the Broken Hill water crisis?  Mr Blair spoke for a few minutes without answering the question – a clear indication he has not raised the issue with Mr Joyce,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“What the hell is Minister Niall Blair doing if he hasn’t even raised the issue of Broken Hill’s water supply with Barnaby Joyce in the six months since Barnaby took on the federal water portfolio?

“Both Mr Blair and Mr Joyce are members of the NSW Nationals.  Surely they should have discussed it?  What is the excuse?  Are they forgetful or do they not care?

“Barnaby Joyce was based in St George in the heart of Queensland’s cotton irrigation belt, and was informally known as the “Member for Cubbie Station”.  I fear that the National Party are looking after their mates in the cotton industry ahead of the people of Broken Hill and others reliant on the Darling River.

“There have been several rain events in Southern Queensland, but the Darling River is dry as a bone.

“We need a water minister who is prepared to stand up and fight for the people reliant on the Darling River, but Mr Blair is failing to even raise the issue with his National Party colleagues.

“The fact is the National Party has sold the people of the far West down the river, just as they sent all the water from the Menindee Lakes down river.”

Hansard Transcript of Question and Answer:


8 March 2016

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: My question is directed to the Minister for Lands and Water. Have formal representations been made on behalf of the people of Broken Hill, Menindee, Wilcannia and Pooncarrie to the Federal Minister for Water, Barnaby Joyce, regarding their water crisis? If so, what has been his response?

The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: I thank the member for his question. Each of those places is different and there are a number of different elements I could run through about a series of projects. Even though they originally come off the Darling system, some of them utilise weirs for their water supply, some have bores and some are looking at bigger projects. In some cases this Government has not needed to go to anyone else for assistance because it has been able to allocate funds. Regarding the short-term and long-term solution for Broken Hill, this Government has funded it through its promise it took to the 2015 election. It does not need to seek extra funding for that project to commence because the funds have been committed. Regarding some other projects, the Department of Primary Industries Water can fund those projects within the commitments that this Government has made.

We cannot talk about issues relating to water security for communities such as Broken Hill, which relies on the Menindee system, without talking to the Federal Government and other States. All those systems are intrinsically linked. The operation and the types of works that we are talking about in places such as Menindee, particularly when there is water in the lakes, falls to the Federal Government. The issue has been raised not only with the Federal Government but also with the Victorian and South Australian governments. Those are the types of things that we have regularly discussed at the ministerial council. More importantly, we have discussed what we are doing with communities up and down the Darling system. What is an issue at Menindee is also an issue for the communities that rely on the irrigation sector further upstream and downstream of Menindee.

Mr Jeremy Buckingham: Point of order: My point of order is relevance. My question asked what formal representations the Minister had made specifically to the Hon. Barnaby Joyce. We are nearly two minutes into his answer and he has not been generally relevant to the question about representations to the Minister.

The PRESIDENT: Order! There is no point of order.

The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: Those issues are regularly discussed with a number of stakeholders, including communities along the Darling system, other States that have involvement with the operating system and other jurisdictions such as the Federal Government. Those issues are discussed quite openly with the Federal Minister at the ministerial council. I have had discussions with the local member, Sussan Ley, about what is happening out there and also about redistribution. The township of Broken Hill and Menindee Lakes will be redistributed into another Federal seat. I am sure there will be another series of conversations with Federal members about what we are planning. The point is that the New South Wales Government is funding this project. It took that issue to the election. Those opposite stood in the way of that funding. This Government is now building on the short-term solutions we have already implemented to create long-term solutions. The operation of Menindee Lakes is regularly discussed with many different stakeholders. [Time expired.]

Greens plan to revive dying Darling River

MEDIA RELEASE – 15 December 2014

The Greens NSW water spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham today launched the Greens’ policy in Broken Hill to revive the Darling River, saying it was in a dire state with people all along the Darling River in towns such as Wilcannia, Menindee and Broken Hill suffering as a result.

“The Darling River is dying with horrific consequences for the towns, farms, communities and environment down the river.  This is not just a natural phenomenon, upstream extraction has severely depleted flows to the point where the river’s future is dire,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“The Greens want to revive the Darling River by returning significant amounts of water to it.  Small to medium rain events should be able to make their way downstream and not end up in irrigators’ dams.  The massive Cubbie Station cotton farm in Queensland is the most egregious example of this and the Greens want the NSW Government to seek to purchase Cubbie Station and return up to 500 gigalitres of water back into the Darling River system.

“Today I visited Wilcannia and heard from the Aboriginal community who grew up along the river about just how important the Darling River is to them and their town.  Currently the Darling River is a sand bed at Wilcannia. The government should commit funds to a new weir to provide a weir pool through the town of Wilcannia.

“Rather than put Broken Hill on to bore water, the Greens support minor and long overdue infrastructure changes to the Menindee Lakes System and management that prioritises Broken Hill’s water supply and includes proper local community consultation.

“For too long the Darling River has been over exploited and forgotten by the politicians in Sydney and Canberra.  All political parties should recognise that the Murray Darling Basin Plan has failed to restore the health of the Darling River, and commit to reviving the Darling River and recognising its importance to the communities that rely on it.”

Contact: Max Phillips – 0419 444 916

NSW Greens Darling River Policy Initiative

1) Return water to the Darling River

The Greens want to see significant amounts of water returned to the Darling River. Small and moderate rain events should be allowed to flow into the river and make their way downstream. Too much irrigation and flood diversion works are occurring upstream, with additional water for mining and coal seam gas a new concern. Restoring water volumes to the river is a more sensible way to provide water security for users than expensive engineering schemes.

The NSW Government should seek to purchase Cubbie Station and return a significant amount of water to Darling System. Cubbie Station uses 200 gigalitres of water per year on average, and can use up to 500 gigalitres in a year. Not only does it divert a significant portion of flows in the Culgoa River, but flood diversion works also divert a large area of
catchment into Cubbie Station’s dams.

The Greens support the NSW Government purchasing Cubbie Station and transitioning it away from cotton with water licences being used to return water to the Darling River to ensure flows down the entire length of the river. We believe such a purchase is an economical way to return flows to the river, improve river health and improve water security for downstream users.

2) A downstream weir for Wilcannia in 2015

The Greens want to see a new downstream weir built for Wilcannia in 2015. The current weir is leaking and upstream of town meaning the river through town is very low or non-existent during dry times. A new downstream weir will provide better water quality for residents of Wilcannia, provide for recreation, swimming, fishing and cultural uses, as well as provide an opportunity for small scale horticultural irrigation for local food supply.

There has been a campaign for a new downstream weir in Wilcannia for at least 20 years. The Greens want to have funds committed, not only for feasibility studies, but to actually construct a new weir with an appropriate fish ladder.

3) Improved management of Menindee Lakes and local consultation

The Greens believe Menindee Lakes are a valuable environmental, economic and recreational resource, as well as an important source of water supply for the city of Broken Hill. Management of the Menindee Lakes should be rebalanced to ensure the well-being of the people of Menindee and Broken Hill is prioritised. This means the Murray Darling Basin Authority and Water NSW should factor in the value of the Lakes to the local population and environment, when considering releases for downstream uses – rather than viewing the Lakes as simply a source of water loss through evaporation.

The Greens support more local involvement in the management of the Menindee Lakes System, this should include revising whether water levels in Lake Menindee and Cawndilla are included in threshold calculations and setting a water volume threshold trigger for increased local consultation in the management of the Menindee Lakes System.

4) Support for the ‘We Want Action’ plan

The Greens support the plan drafted by the ‘We Want Action’ group, including raising the height of weir 32, improving the connection between Lake Pamamaroo and Copi Hollo, and investigating the feasibility of extending the current anabranch pipeline to weir 32.

The Greens share concerns that implementing bore water and associated desalination infrastructure will lead to a de-prioritisation of the health of the Menindee Lakes system and Broken Hill’s water supply within the overall management of the Murray-Darling River system. In particular that it will allow increased water allocations upstream on the Darling River, and allow water from the Menindee Lakes System to be used more frequently to fulfil downstream needs, as either replacement for water from the Murray River, or at the expense of the Menindee Lakes System itself.

5) Reverse recent retrograde changes made by the Water Management Act 2014

The Water Management Bill 2014 made significant retrograde changes to water management in NSW that will be to the detriment of the Darling River and its downstream users. These include:

a) excluding post-2004 data from water management calculations – which effectively excludes the Millennium Drought and a changing climate. This means water storages will be emptied more quickly and recklessly, which will create a more dire situation when drought does strike.

b) legalising illegal flood works and granting flood water rights. This means that significant amounts of water will be diverted or continue to be diverted from the Darling River for private use. The effect will mean that small and medium rain events will not make it to the lower Darling.

c) Making supplementary water licences compensable, increasing the potential liability for tax payers, and additional pressure to provide increased allocations to irrigators and other water users.

These changes will lead to less water in the rivers, increased liabilities for taxpayers, and greater allocations of scare resources leaving little for dry periods which are predicted to become more common with climate change. The Greens voted in parliament against these changes and will work for the changes to be repealed.

6) Restoring the buyback of water in the Murray Darling system to at least 2570 gigalitres

Restoring the buyback of water in the Murray Darling system to, at least the original 2750 gigalitres specified in the 2012 Murray Darling Basin Plan, which was subsequently reduced by the NSW Government to 1,500 gigalitres as a condition of NSW signing up to the plan.

Questions raised on sudden 9% increase to Barwon-Darling water cap

MEDIA RELEASE – 11 December 2014

The Greens NSW water spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham has today called on Water Minister Kevin Humphries to explain a sudden 9% increase in the maximum water available to irrigators in the Barwon-Darling River water source, given that this is an already overstressed river system which is currently in the grip of a serious drought.

“It’s certainly a surprise that in the middle of a serious drought, and in an already over-stressed river system, Kevin Humphries as Minister for Water has suddenly found modelling which suggests that a 9% increase to the water cap is possible,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“The question needs to be asked: Has Kevin Humphries taken a generous interpretation of the modelling for the appropriate level of extraction in the Barwon-Darling River to ensure that irrigators are given more water?

“After 15 years of debate on the level of the cap for this river, Kevin Humphries has today conveniently found in favour of irrigators at the expense of the environment, flood plain graziers and downstream users, such as the towns of Wilcannia, Menindee, Broken Hill and Pooncarie.

“People are questioning whether Kevin Humphries truly has the interests of his entire electorate at heart, or is simply the Minister for his irrigator mates.

“Kevin Humphries needs to come clean with the people of Broken Hill and explain why he has suddenly approved an increase of 16,000 megalitres to the maximum water available to irrigators every year in the Barwon-Darling River, while they are forced onto water restrictions and may have to drink bore water due to the mismanagement of the Menindee Lakes system by his government.

“Broken Hill’s water supply is now threatened by blue-green algae, so not only is this a questionable decision, but the timing is insensitive,” Mr Buckingham said.

Contact: Max Phillips – 9230 2202 or 0419 444 916

Audio: Jeremy Buckingham discusses the Wilcannia Weir and Broken Hill’s water crisis on Radio 2BH – 28/11/14

Listen to Greens water and Western NSW spokesperson, Jeremy Buckingham talk about the need to build a new weir for Wilcannia and Broken Hill’s water crisis on Radio 2BH – 28/11/14

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