Saturday, 21 July 2007

He said, she said (3)

He said: "Today in one flying visit to Grafton...Kevin Rudd has decreed that there will never be any sharing of water between the
Clarence River and Queensland.
"So much for his commitment to Queensland. So much for having an open mind or a vision for a sustainable water future for Australia," Mr. Turnbull said."
[The Daily Examiner,"Rudd betrays Qld, says Turnbull",21 July 2001,p.9]

She said: What a mouthful of sour grapes from the Minister.
At least the Federal Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Water visited the NSW Northern Rivers and listened to what local residents had to say.
One has to wonder when and why Mr. Turnbull's own 'vision' came upon him. This is what he said on 1 March 2007, in part about any Clarence River diversion:
"While these suggestions seem simple, transporting water has a variety of potential economic, environmental and social implications.
The costs involved in transferring water over large distances are substantial. Costs are incurred from the construction, operation and maintenance of the project. One estimate to build a pipeline from Tasmania to the mainland is around $5 billion. Despite the large capital cost of projects of this scale, the ongoing costs of moving water are what make it so expensive. Unless the distance is downhill with the assistance of gravity, significant amounts of electricity are needed to pump the water to overcome elevation, gravity and friction.
Projects quickly become prohibitive. For example, I recently released a report by the economics consultants Marsden Jacobs investigating Western Australia's proposed Kimberley to Perth pipeline, which estimated the cost to be up to $9.30/ kL – ten times the cost of urban water in many cities. The proposed pipe was not only 1800km long, but required a vertical lift of almost 500m.
Currently we pay very little for the water we consume. In Sydney, 1000 litres of water can be purchased and delivered to your bathtub for just over $1. Many other Australian capital cities charge much less. Rural water is even cheaper, 1000 litres of water (when it is available) can be delivered for a few cents.
Diverting water from its natural flow will have profound environmental impacts. Water diversions will primarily interfere with existing environmental flows. It is often flippantly stated that any drop of water which passes through the system unused is a wasted drop. It is important to note that freshwater flows through catchments or into the ocean are not wasted. It is an essential element of downstream ecosystems.
Any infrastructure decision would have a significant impact on the plants and animals in the system and is likely to compound existing environmental problems. Hundreds of square kilometres of vegetation would be either cleared or disturbed. The mating and migratory patterns of numerous native animals could be fundamentally altered. Consideration should also be given to the increased emission of greenhouse gas as a result of operating such a system.
Altered flow regimes could also have significant social impacts on communities near the river by affecting primary production, industry activities, and recreation existing in the area.
The wide ranging economic, environmental and social implications of diverting rivers and piping water make such projects prohibitively expensive, socially and environmentally disruptive.
It is interesting and important to note, while society has seen vast improvements in technology – the movement of water is virtually unchanged. There is little difference between how water is moved today, to how the Romans were moving water over 2000 years ago." [,1 March 2007]

This Turnbull statement was released just forty-three days before he began a public push to divert Clarence catchment water. As by March he had already ordered the Northern Rivers water diversion desktop study and had previously met with some of those seeking a Clarence River dam, one has to ask what he really believes (if anything) when it comes to environmental issues.
Being Federal Minister for Environment and Water Resources should be about more than pleasing a politically moribund Prime Minister holding a simplistic world view.
It should also be about more than pleasing bulk water users in the Liberal Party's mates club.

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