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A win for Menindee Lakes and lower Darling-Baaka communities

The NSW Government’s decision to abandon engineering works that would have dried out Menindee Lakes is a win for the ecosystems, communities and businesses that rely on the lakes for their survival. [1]

“Minister Pavey deserves credit for listening to the local community, which has always opposed starving Menindee Lakes of water just to give more to irrigators at the top of the system,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.

“Now the government needs to ensure enough water actually makes it all the way down the river some the lakes can fill rather than be syphoned off into private dams hundreds of kilometres upstream.

“That means buying back water licences, limiting floodplain harvesting to ecologically sustainable levels, and delivering cultural water so the Traditional Owners can continue their cultural practices.”

Scrapping the Menindee Lakes engineering works was a key demand of the Darling-Baaka River Delegation that came to Sydney earlier this week to lobby for improved river health. 

The delegation comprised landholders and Indigenous leaders from around Menindee Lakes and other parts of the Far West. 

Other demands that are yet to be met include:

  • Keeping the river running along its whole length by slashing water extraction for irrigation to ecologically sustainable levels that are realistic about the effects of climate change.
  • Limiting floodwater harvesting to ecologically sustainable levels by strictly limiting the issuing of new licences.  
  • Listing the Menindee Lakes under the Ramsar Convention for wetlands of international significance.
  • Putting Indigenous water needs ahead of irrigation industry demands.  

“Water policy is complex, but the problem is simple. There are too many straws in the glass —  too much water is being taken from the floodplains and rivers,” Mr Gambian said.  

“Today’s announcement is a great step forward, but a lot more needs to be done to stop the Darling-Baaka River dying.

“There is a very serious risk the government will issue licences for floodplain harvesting that take yet more water from the river, its ecosystems and the downstream users.

“We call on Minister Pavey must ensure volumes agreed in floodplain harvesting licences are measurable and ecologically sustainable. 

“The Darling-Baaka needs the small and medium flows to keep the system alive and connected.

”This means extraction for irrigation should only occur when connectivity from the top of the river system to the confluence with the Murray, is guaranteed.” 

References

[1] Pavey says Menindee water-savings project discussions suspended, The Land, 18-3-21

[2] Darling-Baaka River delegation puts water back on the political agenda, NCC, 16-3-21

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