Showing posts with label water wars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label water wars. Show all posts

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Problems with the Murray-Darling Basin plan just keep mounting and the NSW Northern Rivers needs to make sure these problems don't become ours


When it comes to the Murray-Darling Basin river systems there is never any really good news - we go from reports of town water shortages, pictures of permanently dry river beds and allegations of widespread water theft to the possibility of a fundamental legal error in the master plan circa 2012.

The Guardian, 2 May 2018:

One of Australia’s foremost lawyers has issued an extraordinary warning that the Murray-Darling basin plan is likely to be unlawful because the authority overseeing it made a fundamental legal error when it set the original 2,750-gigalitre water recovery target in 2012.

Bret Walker QC, who chairs the South Australian royal commission into the Murray-Darling basin plan, issued the warning in a second issues paper. He also spelled out the far-reaching implications of the plan being unlawful.

Not only does it mean that the original water recovery target of 2,750GL was likely to have been set too low to deliver the environmental goal of the Water Act and could be challenged in court, but it also means that amendments to the plan now being debated by the Senate are likely to be invalid as well.

These include a plan to trim 70GL from the northern basin water recovery targets and a suite of projects, known as the sustainable diversion limit adjustment projects, which would be funded in lieu of recovering 605GL in the southern basin.

Both are being strongly criticised by scientists and environmentalists because they believe that they further undercut the environmental outcomes of the plan. 
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) says it has relied on the best available science in recommending the changes.

The new uncertainty over the validity of the amendments will make it difficult for crossbenchers to support them as the Coalition government has urged.

Walker has provided a roadmap for environmental groups or an individual affected to challenge the plan in court.

At the heart of his advice is his view that the Water Act directs the MDBA to ensure environmental outcomes are achieved when it set the environmentally sustainable level of take (ESLT) from the river system. This is the flipside of setting the water recovery target.

But instead of considering the environmental outcomes only, the MDBA applied a triple bottom line approach, giving equal weight to social and economic impacts of water recovery.

“The MDBA also appears to have approached the word ‘compromise’ in the definition of ESLT in a manner involving compromise between environmental, social and economic outcomes rather than in relation to the concept of ‘endangering’ or ‘putting in danger’ environmental criteria such as key environmental assets, and key ecosystem functions,” the SA royal commission said.

 “The commissioner is inclined to take the view that this approach to the word ‘compromise’ in s4 of the Water Act is not maintainable, or alternatively that he is presently unable to see how it is maintainable,” the paper says.

“There is also evidence that recovering an amount of water for the environment of 2,750GL does not, as a matter of fact, represent an ESLT in accordance with the definition of that term under the Water Act.”

Walker pointed to numerous reports, including a 2011 CSIRO report which said modelling based on a 2,800GL recovery target “does not meet several of the specified hydrological and ecological targets”.

There is also evidence that the MDBA received legal advice on more than one occasion, consistent with the commissioner’s concerns.

The issue of water sustainability in the Murray-Darling Basin affects not just those living in the basin and the economies of the four states this large river system runs through – it also affects the bottom line of the national economy and those east coast regions which will be pressured to dam and divert water to the Basin if its rivers continue to collapse.

One such region is the Northern Rivers of New South Wales and in particular the Clarence River catchment area and the Clarence Valley Local Government Area.

Almost every year for the past two decades there have been calls to dam and divert the Clarence River – either north into south-east Queensland or west over the ranges into the NSW section of the Murray Darling Basin.

The latest call came last month on 18 April from Toowoomba Regional Council in south-east Queensland:



The response came on 24 April via NBN News and it was a firm NO:

However, because communities in the Murray-Darling Basin have for generations refused to face the fact that they are living beyond the limits of long-term water sustainability and successive federal governments have mismanaged water policy and policy implementation, such calls will continue.

These calls for water from other catchments to be piped into the Basin or into SE Queensland are not based on scientific evidence or sound economic principles. 

They are based on an emotional response to fact that politicians and local communities looking at environmental degradation and water shortages on a daily basis are still afraid to admit that they no longer have the amount of river and groundwater needed to maintain their way of life and, are wanting some form of primitive magic to occur.

The Clarence River system is the most attractive first option for those would-be water raiders, but experience has shown the Northern Rivers region that once a formal investigation is announced all our major rivers on the NSW North Coast become vulnerable as the terms of reference are wide.

The next National General Assembly of Local Government (NGA) runs from 7-20 June 2018.

If Toowoombah Regional Council’s motion is placed on the assembly agenda it is highly likely that a number of councils in the Murray-Darling Basin will announce their support of the proposal.

Northern Rivers communities need to watch this NGA closely.

Monday, 30 April 2018

What the Australian Government didn’t want the UN to publish



During Nationals MP for New England Barnaby Joyce’s disastrous sojourn as Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources the federal government began a successfull campaign to have the United Nations delete all criticism of Australia’s $13bn effort to restore the ailing Murray-Darling river system from a published study.

It seems the Turnbull Government did not want the world to know, or Australian voters to be reminded, that it had placed long term water sustainability in four of its eight states and territories in jeopardy.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations draft report in question was the following:

C.J. Perry and Pasquale Steduto, (25 May 2017), DOES IMPROVED IRRIGATION TECHNOLOGY SAVE WATER? A review of the evidence: Discussion paper on irrigation and sustainable water resources management in the Near East and North Africa

Abstract
The Near East and North Africa (NENA) Region has the lowest per-capita fresh water resource availability among all Regions of the world. Already naturally exposed to chronic shortage of water, NENA will face severe intensification of water scarcity in the coming decades due to several drivers related to demography, food security policies, overall socio-economic development and climate change. Irrigated agriculture in the Region, which already consumes more than 85 percent of renewable fresh water resources, will face strong challenges in meeting augmented national food demand and supporting economic development in rural areas. Countries of the NENA Region promote efficient and productive irrigation as well as the protection and sustainable management of scarce and fragile natural resources, particularly water, in their national plans. Through the Regional Initiative on Water Scarcity, FAO is providing support and focus to efforts in confronting the fast-widening gap between availability and demand for fresh water resources. A key question to address is: how can countries simultaneously reduce this gap, promote sustainable water resources management and contribute effectively to food security and enhanced nutrition? The traditional assumption has been that increasing irrigation efficiency through the adoption of modern technologies, like drip irrigation, leads to substantial water savings, releasing the saved water to the environment or to other uses. The evidence from research and field measurements shows that this is not the case. The benefit at the local “on-farm” scale may appear dramatic, but when properly accounted at basin scale, total water consumption by irrigation tends to increase instead of decreasing. The potential to increase water productivity— more “crop per drop”—is also quite modest for the most important crops. These findings suggest that reductions in water consumption by irrigated agriculture will not come from the technology itself. Rather, measures like limiting water allocation will be needed to ensure a sustainable level of water use. The present report provides the evidence needed to open up a discussion with all major stakeholders dealing with water resources management on the proper and scientifically sound framework required to address jointly water scarcity, sustainability and food security problems. A discussion that has been disregarded for too long.

C.J. Perry stated at Research Gate on 25 April 2018 that:

Government representatives from the Australian Embassy in Rome disagreed with the research findings for the Australia section summarised in the original report. FAO, in response, welcomed the opportunity to improve the report. Dissemination was put on hold and the report was removed from the FAO website pending inclusion of additional material relevant to the Australian section. In a series of exchanges, no empirical evidence was presented to support the Australian authorities’ claim that the investment program in the Murray Darling Basin has generated substantial water savings and environmental benefits. This left the global principles and conclusions set out in the original report unchallenged, while the results from Australia remained contentious. Therefore, it was decided that the best solution to the matter was to withdraw the Australian section from the publication and let the Discussion Paper to be available again on the web. The original and current versions of the report both invite submissions of additional case studies, information and analysis to WSI@fao.org.  Cases documenting technical or policy interventions where irrigation water has been released to environmental or other uses will be particularly valuable.

The suppressed section in the original draft of this UN report would have been identical or very similar to this version of the text:

4.1 AUSTRALIA

Document(s)
System of Environmental-Economic Accounting for Water (SEEA-Water) (United Nations Statistics Division, 2012); Water Account Australia 2004–05, (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006); Droughtand the rebound effect: A Murray–Darling basin example (Loch and Adamson, 2015); Understanding irrigation water use efficiency at different scales for better policy reform: A case study of the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia (Qureshi et al., 2011); Water Reform and Planning in the Murray–Darling Basin, Australia (Grafton, 2017)
…………………………………...........................................................................................
Context

Australia has led the world in the introduction of water rights in a context of extreme resource variability.
This in turn has provided the basis for managed trading between sectors and locations, and valuable lessons regarding potential problems as previously under-utilized entitlements are sold and used, and of “stranded assets” if significant volumes of water are traded out of an area. More recently, evidence suggests that subsidy programmes to “save” water seem to have been ineffective, poorly conceived and un-prioritized.
…………………………………...........................................................................................
Highlights

The Murray Darling Basin (MDB) is widely recognized for its advanced standards in water resources management—in particular the system of tradable water rights that allows transfer of water on short term or permanent leases subject to evaluation of third party impacts by the regulatory authorities.

Australia participated in the formulation of the United Nations (UN) System of Environmental-Economic Accounting for Water. This framework accounts for water withdrawn from “the environment” (rivers, aquifers), use of that water in various sectors, including transfer between sectors (for example a water utility supplying a factory or town), consumption through ET, and direct and indirect return flows to the environment and to sinks. Trial implementation of the framework was planned in Australia, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics had already in 2006 issued guidelines referencing the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting for Water (UN- System of Environmental-Economic Accounting for
Water (SEEAW) system), which was to be applied to the reporting of the 2004-5 national water accounts.

However, the following statement from the introduction to Chapter 4 of the 2004-5 National Water Accounts for Australia5 is apparently at variance with one critical element of the SEEAW approach—namely the distinction between consumptive and non-consumptive uses:

This chapter examines the use of water within the AGRICULTURE industry in Australia. Water used by this industry includes livestock drinking water and water applied through irrigation to crops and pastures. Since the AGRICULTURE industry does not use water in-stream, or supply water to other users, total water use is equal to water consumption.

Elsewhere in the Accounting Standards it is stated that:

It is believed that leakage to landscape from surface water resources such as rivers and storages occurs in the MDB region; however, reliable volumes are not available, and currently there is no suitable quantification approach to estimate these volumes.

Does this assumption of zero return flows matter? Indeed it does: Australia is now embarked on a massive (AUS$ 10bn) programme to save water for the environment, including subsidies to farmers for hi-tech on farm investment. Savings are estimated on the basis of typical application efficiencies (e.g. flood irrigation 50 percent, drip 90 percent), so a farmer with a water entitlement of 100 water units, switching from flood to drip would be assumed to consume 50 units at present, which would require a delivery of only 50/0.9 (55.5) units after conversion. The “saving” of 44.5 units are then divided between the farmer and the environment. Of the 22.25 units going to the farmer, he consumes (with the new technology) approximately extra 20 units. So on-farm water consumption is expected to increase from 50  units to 70 units (and return flows are diminished by approximately the same amount), in apparent direct contradiction to the programme objectives. In some cases, such return flows will be non-recoverable outflows to saline groundwater; in other cases, where irrigation is close to rivers or where groundwater is usable, the return flows are recoverable and cannot be counted as “savings”. However, the current evaluation of investments includes no apparent basis for assessing whether subsidized introduction of hi-tech systems will actually release water to alternative uses, or simply increase consumption by the extra amount allocated to the farmer. A more comprehensive implementation of UN-SEEAW—where return flows to the environment are specifically accounted for—would have addressed this problem.

Other authors have identified the issue. Qureshi et al. (2011) point to the problem of ignoring return flows, and the danger of focussing on local “efficiency”, while Loch and Adamson (2015) go on to identify the “rebound effect” whereby when water deliveries to the farm are more valuable, the demand for water actually increases.

Most recently, writing in a Special Issue of Water Economics and Policy that addressed many of the complexities of managing water scarcity in the Murray Darling basin, Grafton (2017) made the following key observations regarding the Australian experience with providing subsidies for on-farm improvements in irrigation technology:

* About USD 2.5 billion of taxpayers’ funds used for improving farm irrigation has primarily benefitted private individuals;
* These investments have had no discernible impact in terms of reduced water use on a per-hectare basis, or release of water to alternative users;
* The buyback of water rights from willing sellers was the most effective use of taxpayer funds to release water to alternative uses;
* Investments in irrigation to raise “crop-per-drop” productivity had failed to deliver water savings on a basin scale.



Thursday, 26 April 2018

Everytime someone buys a bottle of water in Australia it has consequences for a community somewhere in the world


By November 2017 Tweed Shire's est. 93,458 residents faced a water security trifecta.

Floods in the first quarter of the year had affected water quality and local infrastructure, a  tidal anomaly in August had caused saltwater to enter the Bray Park Weir, the following month Terranora Lagoon was contaminated by raw sewerage from the treatment plant and the walls of Clarrie Hall dam still needed raising to cope with urban water needs.

Water sustainability still remains an issue in 2018.

In this case it appears to be Black Mount Pty Ltd and Mt. Warning Spring Water Company's commercial water supply needs which are the main culprit.......

Echo NetDaily, 13 April 2018:

A call for the halt of water mining in the Tweed Valley has been made by NSW Greens MP and North Coast spokesperson, Dawn Walker in state parliament this week and is supported by the Tweed Water Alliance. Concerns over the impact on underground water resources, alleged poor compliance with extraction licenses and the damage caused by heavy vehicles have all been raised.

‘Water is our most precious resource and gigalitres of water beneath Tweed Valley are being sucked up and bottled for commercial profit, leaving the community high and dry with the impacts. Water mining licences are being handed out by the government without adequate monitoring and in many cases, water meters haven’t even been installed,’ said Ms Walker.

Water mining licences are controlled by the state government while work on the property and permission for truck movements are controlled by the local council.

‘We certainly support the ban,’ said Jeremy Tager, spokesperson for the Tweed 
water alliance who believes the water extraction companies are ‘operating lawlessly’.

‘Extracting water is a lose lose prospect for here and most other places. Water is taken away from local users; it creates little or no employment as most of the operators are water transporters. That means the trucks come in and get filled up and then are taken away to be bottled elsewhere.

‘They only pay a a small road contribution to drive these big trucks on rural roads that were never designed for them.’

In December 2017 the Tweed council voted to amend their LEP (local environment plan) 2014 to remove the clause that the previous council had put in to allow water extraction for bottling water in the Tweed shire. This has been sent to the state government for approval as part of the Gateway process. If the state government decide that the change can proceed then Tweed council will be able to put the LEP amendment on public display.

The state government can also request that a ‘savings clause’ be put in that would allow current applications that are waring to be assessed to be allowed.

Echonetdaily asked the state government what the time frame for responding to the Tweeds request for removing the water mining clause from the LEP was and if they would request the inclusion of a ‘savings clause’.

A spokesperson for the department of planning and environment responded stating that; ‘The department is currently in the early stages of assessing a proposal from Tweed Shire council to remove the water extraction and bottling clause to the Tweed Shire 2014 LEP.

Local extractor takes council to court

Larry Karlos, a local water extractor, is currently taking the Tweed Council to the Land and Environment court to appeal their decision not to allow them to increase the size of the trucks they use to transport water from six meters to nineteen meters.
‘The council refused the application for 19m trucks because they felt that the road was no suitable for that size truck,’ said Tweed Mayor Katie Milne.

‘Urlip Road is really narrow and in some places it is only one lane. There are also areas where it is very steep on one side and has a steep drop off on the other.

ABC News, 21 March 2018:

It's the new battle in the bush — the bottled water wars.

On one side is Australia's $800-million-a-year bottled water industry and its suppliers, on the other, rural residents who fear their most precious resource, groundwater, is being squandered.

"It's dividing the local community," said Larry Karlos, one of half a dozen water extractors in the Tweed Valley in northern New South Wales.
He's been pumping water from an aquifer beneath his property for 16 years.
But his recent bid to increase the amount he sells to bottling companies has ignited local opposition.

Fourth-generation farmer Patrick O'Brien fears his children's future is being jeopardised for the profit of the water industry.

"If they don't stop this type of thing then, you know, what's going to be left?" he told 7.30.

“What's going to left for future generations? No-one was really worried when they were trucking the water out in small amounts, but then they want more, they want more trips, they want bigger trucks."

Friday, 13 April 2018

Alleged irrigator water theft heading for the courts?


A cousin by marriage of the current Australian Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud, John Norman, finds his agricultural business practices under scrutiny.....

The Guardian, 9 April 2018:

Fraud charges are expected to be laid against one of Queensland’s biggest cotton irrigators, John Norman, within a matter of weeks.

If the trial of the owner-operator of Norman Farming, and former cotton farmer of the year goes ahead, it is likely to draw attention to the links between the irrigator’s family and that of the federal minister for agriculture and water resources, David Littleproud.

If the charges are laid, they will also throw the spotlight on the Queensland government’s failure in administering a key plank of the $13bn Murray-Darling basin plan, how it withheld critical information about the alleged crimes, and how it raises queries as to whether it lied about its own investigation.

For the past 18 months, an expanding team of undercover detectives, cybercrime experts and forensic accountants have been investigating Norman’s business on the Queensland/New South Wales border, an irrigated cotton aggregate stretching 45km north from the McIntyre river.

The investigation has focused on whether Norman Farming misused upwards of $25m in Murray-Darling basin infrastructure funds that were supposed to make the irrigator more efficient and deliver water back to the ailing river system downstream.
The plan for the basin is funded by the commonwealth and administered by state governments. But allegations that the $150m Healthy Headwaters Water Use Efficiency projects in Queensland, part of the MDB plan, lacked any genuinely independent checks on projects, means it may have been left open to corruption.

“It’s been a loosey-goosey slush fund helping irrigators get richer,” according to Chris Lamey, a dry-land farmer who’s seeking compensation from Norman, his neighbour. “It’s achieved the opposite of what was intended. There’s a lot of water not getting into NSW now and it’s backed up in dams next door to me.”

Queensland’s covert police investigation into Norman Farming went public in October 2017, when dozens of major crime squad detectives holding multiple subpoenas fanned out from Goondiwindi in early-morning high-speed convoys, heading across the floodplain to the irrigator’s properties and several of its contractors in and around the border river town…..

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Just because Nationsls MP for New England Barnaby Joyce is now sitting on the backbenches in disgrace doesn't mean the Turnbull Government can ignore all those dodgy water deals he made


Example of a dodgy water deal par excellence where a Cayman Islands corporation can pocket $78.8 million from a suspect water sale in the beleaguered Murray-Darling Basin........

Eastern Australia Agriculture Pty Ltd (EAA) was incorporated in 2007 and is based in St George, Australia. It operates as a subsidiary of Eastern Australian Irrigation Limited.

According to The Courier Mail on 21 March 2018; the company is based in the tax haven of the Cayman Islands.

The Land reported on 19 October2011 that; EAA shareholders are based in Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands. Its directors include former Ridley Corporation managing director Matthew Bickford-Smith and former Colly Farms's grower services manager Peter Cottle.

EEA’s portfolio comprises two properties - “Kia Ora” (7km south of St. George) and “Clyde” (10km south-west of Dirranbandi) totalling 37,590ha made up of 12,800ha of cotton producing irrigation land with further areas of development potential.

These properties are close to the notorious water harvester,“Cubbie Station”, in the Condamine-Balonne Valley.

EAA’s entire properties, including the water licences were reported to have been independently valued at est. $107m in 2017.

In 2017 the Turnbull Government agreed to purchase over 29 gigalitres of water for $80,041,455  from EEA, which originally insisted on $2,200 per megalitre. But after negotiation, the Government paid a higher price - $2,745 per megalitre.

Then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Water, Barnaby Joyce, approved the final purchase of 29,159 megalitres of OLF licences in May 2017 - 14,969 ML from “Clyde” and 14,190 from “Kia Ora”.

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) due diligence later reduced the total volume to 28,740 megalitres and the price paid to $78,891,300.

The water purchased was for Over Land Flow (OLF) licences, which cannot be traded between irrigators, because they are attached to land. They have no legal status or any recognition at a location other than where they were originally purchased. That is, there appears to be no legal basis for the Commonwealth to ensure it gets to the places it is intended to be used. [The Australia Institute, March 2018, “That’s not how you haggle”, p.3]

The sale of EAA’s OLF licences represented 74% of the value of both EAA properties.

EAA recorded a $52m gain on the sale in their 2017 Annual Report. [ibid, p.8]

The purchase appears to be in breach of the Commonwealth Procurement Rules because it was not made available to all licence holders in the valley…. [ibid, p.3]

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Only a handful of NSW landowners to face court over Murray-Darling Basin water theft allegations?


ABC News, 8 March 2018:

The NSW Government will prosecute several people over alleged water theft on the Barwon-Darling, eight months after Four Corners investigated the issue.

WaterNSW has named the people it is taking to the Land and Environment Court over alleged breaches of water management rules.

They are prominent irrigator Peter Harris and his wife Jane Harris, who own a major cotton farm near Brewarrina in the state's north-west and were named in the Four Corners story.

The couple have been accused of taking water when the flow conditions did not permit it, and breaching licence and approval conditions.

Three members of another prominent family are also facing charges: cotton grower Anthony Barlow from Mungindi near Moree and Frederick and Margaret Barlow.
The Barlows have been accused of pumping during an embargo and pumping while metering equipment was not working.

WaterNSW gave false figures: Ombudsman

WaterNSW announced the prosecutions an hour before the NSW Ombudsman released a scathing report saying the agency had given the Government incorrect figures on its enforcement actions.

The state's ombudsman, Michael Barnes, found WaterNSW gave incorrect figures when it provided statistics that showed there had been a significant increase in enforcements between July 2016 and November 2017.

"The information provided to us indicated that the updated statistical information from WaterNSW that we'd published was significantly incorrect," he said.

"There had, in fact, been no referrals for prosecutions and no penalty infringement notices issued in the relevant period."

Mr Barnes said he initiated a separate investigation after his office received complaints about the figures, and he found WaterNSW had inflated the statistics.
"As part of our investigation, we confirmed with Revenue NSW that no penalty infringement notices were issued by WaterNSW in the relevant period," he said.

The ombudsman said he raised the issue with WaterNSW, which has admitted to the mistake and apologised.

Mr Barnes also said he believed the error was unintentional.

The agency's CEO, David Harris, said staff have now manually reviewed all actions taken.

"Some of the detail WaterNSW provided was incorrect and, although it was revised, it is not acceptable and we are acting to ensure it does not happen again," he said……



Thursday, 8 March 2018

Murray-Darling Basin: water mismanagement just keeps rolling on


Image sourced from Twitter

Having miserably failed to enforce even the most basic of safeguards against widespread water theft in the Murray Darling Basin - such as not allowing unmetered water extraction -  the Murray Darling Basin Authority and then water resources minister and now humble Nationals backbencher Barnaby Joyce have left us having to rely on leaks to the media to find out the true state of play in the national water wars.


The ailing state of the Darling River has been traced to man-made water extraction, according to a leaked report by the agency charged with overseeing its health.
The "hydrologic investigation", dated last November and obtained by Fairfax Media, analysed more than 2000 low-flow events from 1990-2017 on the Barwon-Darling River between Mungindi near the NSW-Queensland border down to Wilcannia in far-western NSW .

The draft report – a version of which is understood to have been sent to the Turnbull government for comment – comes days after WaterNSW issued a red alert for blue-green algae on the Lower Darling River at Pooncarie and Burtundy.


The paper by Murray-Darling Basin Authority's (MDBA) own scientists found flow behaviour had changed since 2000, particularly in mid-sections of the river such as between the towns of Walgett and Brewarrina.

On that section, low or no-flow periods were "difficult to reconcile with impacts purely caused by climate", the scientists said.

Indeed, dry periods on the river downstream from Bourke were "significantly longer than pre-2000", with the dry spells during the millennium drought continuing afterwards.

Water resource development – also described as "anthropogenic impact" – must also play "a critical role" in the low flows between Walgett and Brewarrina, the report said.
The revelations come after the Senate last month voted to disallow changes to the $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin Plan that would have cut annual environmental water savings by 70 billion litres…..

A spokeswoman for the authority said the report was "undergoing quality assurance processes prior to publication", with a formal release on its website likely in coming days.

The MDBA commissioned the internal team to "address some of the specific concerns raised" by its own compliance reviews and those of the Berejiklian government, she said.

Terry Korn, president of the Australian Floodplain Association,  said the report confirmed what his group's members had known since the O'Farrell government changed the river's water-sharing plan in 2012 to allow irrigators to pump even during low-flow periods.

Poor policy had been compounded by "totally inadequate monitoring and compliance systems", Mr Korn said.

"Some irrigators have capitalised on this poor management by the NSW government to such an extent that their removal of critical low flows has denied downstream landholders and communities their basic riparian rights to fresh clean water," he said. "This is totally unacceptable."….

Fairfax Media also sought comment from federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud.

Once publicly outed for sitting on the review report the Murray Darling Basin Authority finally decided to publish it this week.
https://www.scribd.com/document/372999806/Murray-Darling-Basn-Compliance-Review-Final-Report-November-2017


The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 February 2018:

The NSW government intervened to urge the purchase of water rights from a large irrigator on the Darling River that delivered a one-off $37 million profit to its owner while leaving downstream users struggling with stagnant flows.

Gavin Hanlon, the senior NSW water official who resigned last September amid multiple inquiries into allegations of water theft and poor compliance by some large irrigators, wrote to his federal counterparts in the Agriculture and Water Resources Department, then headed by Barnaby Joyce, in late December 2016 urging the buyback of water from Tandou property to proceed.

The Tandou water purchase proposal "should be progressed...given the high cost of the alternative water supply solution" for the property south-east of Broken Hill, Mr Hanlon wrote, according to a document sent on December 23, 2016 and obtained by Fairfax Media.

Early in 2017, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences estimated the property's annual water entitlements of 21.9 billion litres to be $24,786,750 "based on recent trade values", according to another document listed as "Commercial in Confidence".

Despite this valuation, the federal government by 16 March, 2017 would pay Tandou's owner Webster Ltd more than $78 million. At its announcement on 21 June last year, Webster said in a statement it "expects to record a net profit on disposal in the order of $36-37 million".

The transfer of the water rights are apparently the subject of inquiries by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, with several people saying they have discussed their knowledge of the deal with the agency. An ICAC spokeswoman declined to comment.


Liberal Party donor Christopher Darcy “Chris” Corrigan is Executive Chairman and a significant shareholder in this company