Raising the BARR – Week ending 26 July 2019

The Truth is Out – The Mass Fish Kills Were Caused By Humans, Not Drought

Late in 2018 and early in 2019 our news was filled with reports of the mass fish kills out on the Darling River.  Who could forget those incredible images of more than 1 million fish floating on the surface of a river in massive distress?  Some of those fish were more than 50 years old and had survived everything that nature could throw at them, but couldn’t survive the humans.  And don’t lose sight of the fact that a massive number of these fish were an endangered species.

A report issued early last week has revealed that the cause of the massive fish deaths can be directly linked to the current NSW Government plans for water use.  The water use plan, ironically called a water sharing plan, has in every sense allowed the river to be pumped almost completely dry by big irrigators.  The water use plan allows a small number of farmers to use massive pumps, that were previously banned, to take as much water as they can store in their own dams, an activity that was also previously banned, even when the water levels of the river system are incredibly low.

In simple terms, the fish died because the river wasn’t flowing and the river wasn’t flowing because the Government gave the green light for it to be sucked dry.  Now many of you reading this column would say “you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure that out” and you would be 100% correct to be thinking like that.  But, this Government have repeatedly said that the massive fish kills were an act of nature caused by the drought.  Blaming the drought was a lie when it was first used and the many times that it has been used since.

Far less visible, but equally devastated by the decision of Government to allow the river to be pumped dry, are the snails, freshwater mussels and frogs.  In looking to the future and wondering about the ability of the river to recover when rain finally does come, the report released last week is not optimistic.  You see the Government have also made allowances for the majority of natural rainfall to be caught by on-property dams before it even gets to the river.  So a future rain event cannot, by rule and by definition, quickly or easily assist the environment in trying to recover from what has already happened.

It is incredibly important to note that the number of farmers that have benefitted from all of these rule changes is as small as 2-3.  The number of downstream farmers that are being devastated by these rule changes are in the thousands.  And the number of citizens of NSW in small communities along the river affected by this insane new set of rules and water licensing are in the tens of thousands.  The Government actually need to admit that they got it wrong and apologise, but “sorry” and “I was wrong” are 4 words that you far too rarely hear from the mouths of politicians.