WORKING together as a nation, having one governing body and the power to bypass politics were issues voiced by concerned River Murray users during the first Royal Commission public consultation, held at Murray Bridge last week.
Royal Commissioner Bret Walker and Senior Counsel Assisting Richard Beasley heard the calls for cementing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, the need to upgrade SA’s river infrastructure and the anger surrounding water theft allegations.
With SA water users and irrigators having been through difficult droughts, Mr Beasley said the response from the consultation showed the community believed the Basin Plan would provide some positive results for the Lower Lakes and Coorong, as well as businesses that relied on irrigation.
“All speakers addressed matters of relevance to the Commission’s terms of reference, and it was particularly useful to learn the local residents are concerned about the supply measures that will be before the Senate this month, the Northern Basin Review and efficiency measures generally,” he said.
Mr Beasley said there would be some key focus areas during the Commission, which included the recovery of the 450 gigalitre enhanced environmental project investigating lack of enforcements and protection of environment water, and the slowness in preparation by various states and whether they would meet the July 1 deadline.
“Even though this is a Royal Commission established by the SA government, our terms of reference require us to go across the basin – because it doesn’t just stop at the SA border,” he said.
Mr Beasley said it seemed “unusual” that a body such as the Murray-Darling Basin Authority could make a decision on the Northern Basin Review, which could then be overturned by parliament.
Also of concern to speakers, including Member for Hammond Adrian Pederick, was the Vic and NSW motion to walk away from the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
“We need to make sure we get the river back from everyone, (because) if we lose the bottom end, it will eventually go up stream and effect everyone,” Mr Pederick said.
Future of river reliant on national approach: Smith
“The basin has to be treated as one throughout Australia,” Mannum man Peter Smith said.
“I’d like to see the Basin in the hands of one authority – and we’ve got to engineer the bottom section of the system as well as the top section.
I believe the MDBP must be implemented, and introduced in full, and on time as it’s the only way of starting a regulatory system in the Basin, to ensure the Basin survives.”
Quality of system critical for Coorong, Lower Lakes
Speaking on behalf of the River Lakes and Coorong Action Group, Elizabeth Tregenza said the system remains at the tipping point of sustainability, and while there were signs the system was recovering slowly, it would take years to make a full recovery.
“We fear the next drought, the inundation of seawater and the death of the Coorong and extinction of species,” she said.
Family farm could be lost due to water differences
Fouth generation farmer Neville Jaensch fears his sons will not become fifth generation farmers at the family’s property in Tailem Bend as a result of poor planning across the basin.
“Water is valued differently by each state, the lakes are in major peril, and the barrages are an old technology in desperate need of upgrading,” he said.
“Everyone talks about the next drought, but no one talks about the next flood.”