Friday, 4 September 2009

Murray Darling Association members may be bickering at their annual conference but they are still fixed on the idea of Clarence River water diversion

The 65th Murray Darling Association annual conference is drawing to a close at Playford, SA and today at its annual general meeting the association will vote on not one but two motions concerning Clarence River water diversion.

Although association members are throwing around vague accusations about water theft and abuse within the Murray Darling Basin, they seem oblivious to the fact that this is the intent behind their motions concerning the NSW North Coast Clarence River catchment.

According to the Playford AGM Agenda:

13.2 Clarence River Region 2
For many years, Region 2 has been raising the issue of a feasibility study to dam part of the
Clarence River and divert some of the water inland to the Murray-Darling Basin to help alleviate
water shortages. The Federal Government has made it quite clear that it will not support any such
project but the NSW Government has not been as clear on the issue. Some years ago, the
Association supported a feasibility study into the idea.
RECOMMENDATION: That the NSW Government be asked to respond directly to
community requests over the years that part of the Clarence River be dammed to minimise flood damage and to divert some of the water inland to the Murray-Darling Basin.

13.3 Clarence River diversion Region 6
This proposed diversion of the Clarence River was first discussed in the 1930s. The Fraser
Government allocated $4 million to fund a feasibility study into the scheme. The Hawke
Government discontinued this. The proposal, if feasible, would involve the construction of a
headwater dam on the Clarence River, with a 22km tunnel under the Gibralta Ranges in Northern
NSW. This tunnel would emerge on the Murray-Darling Basin side of the ranges and feed into
the Beardy River, then the McIntyre River and, ultimately into the Basin. The Gibralta Ranges are
situated in one of the highest rainfall areas in Australia. Benefits of the scheme include:
• The dams would have storage capacity approaching that of the Snowy Mountains
• The capacity of the headwater storage would provide flood control to the Clarence Valley.
• The diversion would only require 24% of the total maximum storage volumes of water to
provide similar volumes of water to the Basin as the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
• The generation of hydro-electricity is another major benefit.
This motion is not a request to build the scheme, but to revisit it in the context of recent climatic
events and over-allocations in the Murray Darling Basin.
RECOMMENDATION: That the MDA requests the Federal Government, as a matter of urgency, to commission a report on the Clarence River Diversion Proposal relative to water flows through the Murray-Darling system and to make that report widely available.

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