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Byron Shire
March 1, 2021

Nationals MLC deflects over river management

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North-coast based Nationals MLC Ben Franklin.

NSW Nationals MLC Ben Franklin has avoided commenting on the Murray Darling water management issues that have plagued his government and instead blames the recent mass fish kills on a natural occurrence.

He also accused  NSW Labor of capitalising on an ‘unfortunate event’.

Franklin also declined to comment on whether he believed water-intensive large-scale cotton irrigation farming is appropriate for the climatic region of regional NSW.

As reported by ABC’s 4 Corners on July 24, 2017, plans to rescue the Murray-Darling Basin river system were undermined amid accusations of illegal water use.

The top bureaucrat in charge of water in NSW, Gavin Hanlon, resigned after the program aired.

Richard Kingsford, the director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of NSW, told the SMH last week it was a disaster that had been many years in the making because too much water had been diverted from the system for agriculture.

The Echo asked Franklin, ‘Do you accept that the Nationals are responsible for this mess? Or was this a bipartisan effort, as you suggested it is for the Richmond River?’

Franklin replied, ‘The recent fish kill in Menindee was caused by severely low water flow owing to drought conditions, coupled with a sudden drop in temperature, resulting in a disruption to the existing algal bloom in the Lower Darling River, killing the algae and depleting the level of oxygen in the water.’

‘There is no denying that what we have seen in the Menindee is an unfortunate event; however, these events are not uncommon and can be result of many factors.

‘In fact, there have been major fish-kill incidents across the state, including in our own Richmond River over the past 20 years, as a result of high rainfall and high temperatures, stripping oxygen from the water.

‘Improving the water quality of the Richmond River is critical for the future of our community.

‘We have already committed funding through the NSW Marine Estate Management Strategy, over ten years, which outlines nine management initiatives to address the major threats to the health of our rivers, especially from pollution and marine litter.’

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