Keith Duncan, Pimlico
When John Howard’s $10 billion Murray/Darling National Water Initiative was implemented in 2004, even Howard’s detractors must have applauded his foresight in attempting to resolve the longstanding mis-management of this vital western river system. At long last action to address decades of over-allocation of irrigation licences by successive state governments.
In 2007 the Rudd/Gillard government continued with a policy of buying back those over-allocated irrigation licences to ensure better environmental flows for the river system; again we were applauding the great leap forward in river restoration.
In 2011 the coalition was elected in NSW and immediately trashed native vegetation clearing laws, allowing massive land clearing in northern NSW. In 2012 Nationals minister Katrina Hodgkinson changed the Howard government’s river management rules to allow irrigators access to 30 per cent more water, against scientific advice.
The Liberal/National NSW government has a current plan to permanently drain part of the Menindee Lakes to free up more water for irrigators at the expense of the environment, also against scientific advice.
It is yet to be determined what role ex-Nationals minister for agriculture Barnaby Joyce played in the illegal removal of massive amounts of water in the Northern Basin; only a royal commission can do that.
If lessons are to be learned from the current man-made disaster unfolding in the Darling River, one is that the National party cannot be trusted to properly manage Australia’s limited water resources; it’s like putting Dracula in charge of the bloodbank.