Neil Eagle. Nails it again at Echuca Senate Enquiry meeting

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I thank Senator John Madigan, and now his fellow Senators, for being the first politicians to take this threat to the future of irrigated agriculture in the Murray-Darling basin, and to Australia’s food security, seriously.

We are in the process of witnessing the progressive dismantling of our nation’s 100 year old major irrigation system.

Quote:  Murray Irrigation Limited reduction of average water use from 1.5 million megalitres to now half of historic use.

Wakool Shire farmers’ average water use is now half of historic use, with job losses of 500 in a shire population of 5,000.

What Has Driven This Insanity?

  1. A misreading of the 2000-2010 drought as river decline and an acceptance by bureaucrats and politicians from both major parties of the scaremongering of pseudo scientists such as the Wentworth Group and Tim Flannery –  who in reality are anti-irrigation environmental activists.  They claimed a permanent climate shift and future permanent decline in rainfall and river flows – to the extent that dams would not fill ever again.  Only for the basin to get flooding rains and spilling dams at the end of the drought.
  1. The myth of over-allocation. Explained in my papers attached to my Submission.
  1. The false claim that the naturally estuarine Lower Lakes of Alexandrina and Albert were always fresh and should be maintained as fresh water.
  1. Sustainable Diversion Limits (SDLs) is another planned measure to restrict productive use of water. Note:  Europe’s river flows vary 2 to 1; Australia’s river flows vary 50 to 1 or more.

How on earth is it possible to select which Model to use?  It is an absolute nonsense!  Note:  Libby Price, ABC Radio interview with the CSIRO Chairman- when challenged as to which Model to select there was deathly silence.

  1. The separation of land and water under the guise of moving water to high value crops. Under Managed Investment Schemes these high value crops soon became low value crops.  There is suitable soil and climate in all areas of the Basin to grow any crop – the water does not need to be shifted!

How Do We Rectify This Monumental Stuff Up?

There is only one way, as our forefathers realized in the construction of our reservoirs; ‘a secure supply of reliable water’.

This can only be achieved by:

  1. Amending or re-drafting of the 2007 Water Act to give a triple bottom line of equal weighting to economic/social/environmental needs. The current Act contravenes this basic principle which was laid down by Council Of Australian Governments under the National Water Initiative.
  1. The structure of the Murray Darling Basin Authority must be changed to have the top water and agriculture appointees from each State (as Commission or Board Members) independent from political direction or other States’ veto.
  1. Any action on further implementing this Plan must be suspended until a full evaluation of this Senate Inquiry’s recommendations is made.
  1. Water currently being used for unproven environmental outcomes in low inflow / drought periods when the rivers may run dry, should be made available for productive use.

Before and after the construction of Lock ZERO near Wellington, SA, the future management of the naturally estuarine Lower Lakes must be fully evaluated.  This is the largest loss of resource in the total Murray-Darling system and all for a futile objective.  Some of the saved resource could be redirected in low flow years to productive use.  The productivity and health of the Lower Lakes could be restored with re-establishment of the Mulloway fishing industry.  The productivity of the basin in South Australia and the Upper States could be secured in the national interest.

  1. The need to act on the building of new storages – at last at least being discussed. There are numerous already identified and evaluated sites (Murray Gates, Clarence Diversion and Mitchell River).  Imagine the resources that should have been available for such nation building projects if our political leaders had not been duped into building the mothballed desalinization plants for Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth – squandering billions of  $.


Finally, mandatory reading for anybody dealing with Australian Water Policy Issues:

.    the Late Professor John Briscoe’s report

.    Submission by Peter Millington:  Director General, Water Resources Commission mid1980 to mid 1990 and now a consultant (I consider Peter to be the most knowledgeable and balanced water policy expert currently.)

.    The Interim Report of the House of Representatives evaluation of ‘The Living Murray’ 2004.  It was subsequently buried, but if acted upon maybe we would not be dealing with this mess now.

The devastation to production, employment and communities is already massive.

Realize, the REAL endangered species are our next generation of irrigation farmers and their communities – not the river redgums, southern bell frogs, native birds and fish and all of which we should and do actively strive to protect.  But for what, if all the people and produce are gone!

Neil J Eagle, AO

5 November 2015

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