Duncan Dey, Main Arm
Ben Franklin is the National Party candidate asking electors of this area to vote Nationals in the state election in March this year. This is so that he can add a seat to the Liberal/National coalition currently governing NSW.
His weak and dismissive party hack response on the crisis in the Darling River (Echo January 16) and on most other waterways of our once-healthy landscape is pathetic. Blaming the crisis on the weather is both wrong and insulting, to our rivers and to us voters.
State-owned and -operated dams (like Copeton on the Gwydir River, Keepit on the Namoi, Burrendong on the Macquarie, Hume on the Murray) capture inland NSW water that should make the many-months-long journey to South Australia.
For over a century the NSW government has sold river and ground water to anyone who asked (at almost no cost). The inland dams were built last century to expand that supply, but without recognising the impacts of modifying (mostly reducing) river flows. Now 50 years later, we watch on in horror.
About 2000 the new Water Act in NSW unlinked the water licences from land ownership, creating an active market for water extraction from rivers and from the groundwater basins connected to them. Many ‘sleeper’ licences became active.
Also in about 2000, the NSW government tried to determine ‘environmental flows’ that should be left in the rivers. There is no confidence, however, that these flow allocations are adequate and pressure continues, especially from corporations such as those producing cotton (a thirsty crop) in dry regions.
What’s worse, state licensing officers were exposed in 2018 for colluding with extractors to find ways of taking more water than the licence system allowed.
Governments of both persuasions continue the licensing system. Blaming the environment for its own woes is a joke. The Greens have published water policy on how to restore river health. We invite the other parties to do the same – they are currently both mute on the matter.