Raising the BARR – Week ending 11 January 2019

Fish deaths in Murray Darling is greedy preventable madness

The sight of millions of dead fish out near Broken Hill has been a shocking sight for all of us.  But worse than that, gradually, as we learn more about the issue and think about the cause, we realise that it was all preventable and for many of us the anger builds.  These dead fish are yet another sign of a very unhealthy waterway.

In July 2017 the ABC television program “Four Corners” did an amazing episode called ‘Pumped’.  Essentially, this program showed several cotton farmers taking massive amounts of water out of the river system.  We are talking about millions and millions and millions of litres – water equal to the amount found in Sydney Harbour or Lake Macquarie.

That same program also told us that Department officials that we’re trying to investigate we’re re-tasked to other duties.  A classic case of “nothing to see here”; which is always a sign that there is plenty to see that you don’t want us to see.

Now we have found out that in 2012 the NSW Government and Minister responsible were told that they should not allow water to be pumped below certain levels or else they would risk starving the river system of flowing water, thus leading to blue green algae growth, thus starving the water of oxygen.  Massive fish deaths would be one of the consequence of all of this, the Minister was told.  The Minister chose to remove pumping restriction, thus allowing the water to be pumped out until it was dry sand.

Meanwhile billions of taxpayer dollars have been used to buy the water allowances from other farmers to try to return flow to the river.  It’s like giving matches to the firebugs at one end and then paying the fire brigade to put out the fire at the other end, while the Minister responsible changes the rules to allow the firebugs to light as many fires as they want, without consequences.  But the “matches” in this case are the tax dollars that you and I have paid.

The dead fish are the obvious, in your face, sign that all is not well in the Murray-Darling River system.  The much talked about Murray-Darling Plan is the political equivalent of the dead fish.  Meanwhile the elephant in the room is the various decisions of Government Ministers.  Just a few days ago, the current Minister told us that fish deaths would continue.  Sorry, what was that?