31 January, 2019

Blair refuses to meet conservation groups on Darling River health

NSW Fisheries Minister Niall Blair has refused to meet two of the state’s peak environment groups to discuss the health of the Darling River after it suffered two of the biggest fish kills in the state’s history. 

“Mr Blair’s refusal to meet is a slap in the face for the many thousands of people who care deeply about keeping the Darling River and its wetlands alive,” Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said.

“We want to talk to Mr Blair about the efficient and ecologically sustainable management of the Murray-Darling River system.”

The Nature Conservation Council and the Inland Rivers Network represent almost 200 conservation organisations and thousands of members and have valuable perspectives on the management of inland rivers and their ecology.

The groups wrote to Mr Blair on January 17 requesting an urgent meeting in the wake of the first major fish kill in Menindee Lakes earlier this month.

“The NSW Government has done many things that have undermined efforts to restore the system to health and contributed to the devastating fish kills of the past few weeks,” Inland Rivers Network spokesperson Bev Smiles said.

“Mr Blair is Minister for Regional Water and Fisheries. He has very important responsibilities in managing our inland river systems so they don’t have the ecological catastrophes we are currently facing.”

In particular, the groups wanted to speak to Mr Blair about:

  • Environmental water. Inadequate protection of held environmental water especially in sub-catchments of the Upper Darling River. Current Water Sharing Plans on exhibition for public comment, as part of the Water Resource Plan consultation, have no rules to protect publicly owned environmental water from extraction. 
  • Drought of record. Water allocation decisions that are currently based on worst inflow records prior to 2004. This has resulted in over allocation of water resources in inland NSW causing water shortages in this current severe drought.
  • Flood plain harvesting. The continued failure of government agencies to fully quantify and assess the environmental impact of floodplain water harvesting as part of the Healthy Floodplains Project.
  • NSW SDL adjustment projects. The lack of substantial business cases for NSW Sustainable Diversion Limit adjustment mechanism projects (supply measure projects).

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