A delegation of landholders, Indigenous leaders and recreational river users from the Far West has come 1000km to Sydney to urge the NSW Government to urgently address mismanagement of the Darling-Baaka River and Menindee Lakes.
Since the death of millions of fish in Menindee Lakes in 2019, the plight of the Darling-Baaka River, the lakes and the ecosystems, communities and economies that rely on them have slipped off the political and media agenda. But the problems highlighted two years ago are unresolved and new threats are emerging.
Darling-Baaka River Water Delegation has come to Sydney to put the spotlight back on the issue and prompt the government to restore the health of the river and hope for river people. The delegation’s key demands are spelt out in the Darling-Baaka River Action Plan (attached) and 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.
- Keeping Menindee Lakes and the Great Anabranch alive. Abandon engineering works that will reduce their ecological, economic and community value, and list them under the Ramsar Convention.
- Putting Indigenous water needs ahead of irrigation industry demands.
The delegation is meeting MPs from all sides of politics, and will urge them to support the following key actions:
- Enforce laws that require Indigenous cultural, drinking and environmental water be delivered ahead of irrigation water.
- Install gauges at Wilcannia and Menindee to ensure promised water flows are actually delivered.
- Nominate Menindee Lakes as a wetland of international significance under the Ramsar Convention.
- Scrap the engineering works planned at Menindee Lakes that will limit the amount of water getting to the lakes and make the lakes empty faster than they do now.
- Stop irrigators at the top of the basin pumping if and when the river stops flowing along its whole length.
- Support voluntary water licence buybacks to reduce the amount of water extracted for irrigation.
- Limit the issuing of floodplain harvesting licences to ecologically sustainable levels.
- Order the removal of illegal private dams, channels and levies that are trapping floodwaters and preventing water getting to wetlands, watering floodplains, recharging aquifers.
The delegation includes:
- Uncle Badger Bates, a Barkandji Elder from Wilcannia on the Darling-Baaka River. (Attending via Zoom due to COVID-19).
- Derek Hardman, CEO of the Barkandji Native Title group. (Attending via Zoom due to COVID-19).
- Rob McBride, owns Tolarno Station near Menindee Lakes, one of the biggest sheep farms in the world.
- Julie McClure, co-owner of Kallara Station, a sheep property.
- Don Stewart, Treasurer of the Darling River Action Group, based in Broken Hill.
All delegates are available for interviews.