Tuesday, 25 January 2011

It's more pipelines, bigger dams and inter-basin water transfers

The Inquiry into the impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in Regional Australia is being offered a wide range of options to ensure sustainable Murray-Darling Basin river systems.

Few of which admit to any need to limit current water consumption by reducing diversion caps and, some follow that tired old route of more pipelines, bigger dams and inter-basin water transfers.

Here are a few examples.

One option put forward by Wakool Shire Council in its submission:

Look at alternative supply for productive use – i.e.pipeline from river systems to high value use.

Another viewpoint from Lodden Shire Council:

The Authority should also consider the construction of environmental dams in key sites to store significant volumes of water devoted purely to environmental benefits. The cost of such infrastructure projects could be borne by all Australians or at least by those who will receive a direct benefit from the health of the Murray Darling Basin.

Carrathool Shire Council offered this:

New infrastructure projects, including additional and/or expanded water storages……….

Harvesting and redirecting surplus water resources from northern Australia.

While Hay Shire Council complained:

There is no possibility of any harvesting of additional water for the environment by the construction of additional dams or further investigation of diversion schemes. Such water would be harvested in wet periods such as we are now experiencing to be used in providing environmental flows as required in drier seasons. Why as a country are we not investigating this alternative?

Leeton Shire Council put forward these 'solutions':

Harvesting and re-directing surplus water resources form northern Australia and the eastern seaboard in Queensland and New South Wales;………

New infrastructure projects, including additional and /or expanded water storages, for example a new storage at Wellington in South Australia, or expansion of storages such as Lake Buffalo and Lake William Hovell in north east Victoria.

The Citizens Electoral Council informed the Inquiry that:

The proposed Clarence River Scheme would add upwards of 1,000 Gl/y of reliable flows into the MurrayDarling Basin, which would transform the Basin's productive power.

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Thursday, 20 January 2011

Professional Fishermen's Association tells Regional Australia Committee: 'No A Drop!"

This is the text of the Professional Fishermen’s Association submission sent to the House Standing Committee on Regional Australia’s Inquiry into the impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in Regional Australia in which the Association tells the Committee:

The following brief submission is referred to you for consideration by the Inquiry members.

Diverting the Clarence River is not an option in our view and any consideration of this should be rejected outright. The Clarence River is the base for the largest commercial fishery in NSW. Some 150 active commercial fishers catch a range of species in the river and offshore from the mouth of the river at different times of the year .The species include the following and are caught in varying quantities depending on seasonal conditions.

  • eastern school whiting, stout whiting, sand whiting, flathead, bream, mullet, luderick, mud crab, blue swimmer crab, eel, herring, silver biddy, garfish, leather jackets, octopus, redfish, balmain bugs, deepwater bugs, cuttle fish, squid, (arrow, bottle and calamari), eastern king prawns, royal red prawns, school prawns, tiger and endeavour prawns, squid, snapper, pearl perch, morwong (red and rubberlip), yellow tail kingfish, bonito, long tail tuna, mack tuna, cobia, spanish mackerel, spotted mackerel, wahoo, mulloway, samson, sweep, amberjack, scorpio fish (red rockcod), tailor, tarwhine, trevally, teraglin, parrot fish, yellow fin tuna, bar cod, sand crabs, coral crab, red mullet (barbounia), pop eye cod, john dory, black tip and sand shark, yellowtail scad.

Many of these species spend part of their life cycle in estuaries including the Clarence and rely upon nutrients, water flows and the like to survive, reproduce and to maintain stock levels which in turn provides a range of sustainable fisheries in NSW. Fresh water flow is essential to the well-being of the river including ecosystem health and biodiversity within the river system.

One of the biggest fisheries on the Clarence is the Estuary Prawn Trawl (EPT) fishery. The catch varies, due to a range of reasons including freshwater flow levels, but averaged 375 tonnes per year over the past 25 years. The highest catch volume in that period was 597.9 tonnes in 1984/85 with 595.9 tonnes caught in 1988/89. The EPT industry relies on fresh water flow regime to stimulate growth, spawning and it greatly assists catch levels as the river is closed to trawling above the Ulmarra ferry.

Diverting water from the Clarence River will result in a decreased flow of freshwater and this combined with the tidal regime pushing saltwater further upstream will result in the fishery being destroyed as the stock will be upstream and outside the fishing area for the EPT.

The Clarence is also a large producer of finfish (mullet, bream, whiting, flathead, luderick), crab, eel and other seafood. The catch of these species averages about 500 tonnes per year. The reduction of the water flow, through diversion, and the subsequent decrease in nutrient loads will reduce the supply of seafood and will also impact on life cycle of the species in the river and immediately offshore.

The Clarence River fisheries are an important seafood supply source. With food security high on the agenda for Australia the commercial fishing industry on the Clarence and the adjacent ocean plays an important part of the food supply for this nation.

To replace the world’s fish catch by land grown meat, an area equal to twenty-two times the world’s rainforest would be required.

The commercial fishing industry on the Clarence is in the top two industries for output and employment. It is an extremely important industry for the social fabric of the Lower Clarence region. A recently completed socio-economic evaluation of the commercial fishing industry in the Clarence identifies the critical importance of the industry to the area. A copy of that report is provided for the Inquiry and the following two paragraphs are an example of the content of the report.

“The Lower Clarence area which is home to the majority of fishers in Northern NSW area has a fairly high level of socio-economic disadvantage, therefore the employment and income generated by the industry, though relatively small, remains important in the local economy. The long term connection of fishermen and their families to their local area suggests that they make up an important part of the local community and contribute to the social fabric of the towns they live in.

In a future where the sustainability and security of food resources will become so important, it is vital that the local commercial fishing industry is supported both by government and the wider community. People need to recognise the contribution of the industry to the provision of local and regional food security, and the efforts the industry has made to ensure that the harvest of resources remains sustainable. It is important that the productive capacity and the unique skill-set of commercial fishers are maintained. The development of new markets, value adding and the full utilisation of the harvested product will assist in maintaining the viability of the commercial fishing industry into the future.”

The commercial fishing industry on the Clarence generates $92M output, $15.4M income and, 431 employment positions.

The Professional Fishermen’s Association is fundamentally opposed to any diversion of water from the Clarence River. We support the Clarence community views that have been said repeatedly ‘not a drop’.

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Monday, 17 January 2011

Something Rotten in the State of Winsdor?

The Australian House of Representatives Standing Committee on Regional Australia's Inquiry into the impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in Regional Australia is one strange entity.

Throwing process transparency to the wind, it is now selectively publishing copies of the 535 submissions received to date.

This is a snapshot example of what the list looked like on 17 January 2011 after the first 160 submissions:

So what is being hidden? Naive submissions of which there were already plenty in the first 160 received? A committee or secretariat in organizational disarray?
Or is it that the the Chair just doesn't want the bulk of the over 300 unpublished submissions out in the public arena before the mainstream media reports on the public hearings and the Committee delivers its findings?

It goes without saying that such questions would not even come to mind if submissions had been published in the order in which these were received and not as this highly selective hotch potch.

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Friday, 7 January 2011

Barnaby's on the dam(mn) trail again with Abbott trekking in the rear

With the flood waters still making their way down the eastern length of Australia and so much of Queensland still under water, Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce is back on the dam trail again and, obscuring his intention to endorse proposals to dam and divert freshwater from the Clarence River catchment within broad sentences such as these:

The Coalition took to the last election a very specific strategy on the construction of dams….

CJ Bradfield was a Queensland engineering visionary for our nation. He designed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Story Bridge in Brisbane and the inland water scheme in the 1930’s.Unfortunately the final and most important part of his vision was never constructed compromising the wealth of this nation that would have been delivered from this agricultural bounty……..

Australia not only can, but must have the vision to construct the infrastructure that gives us the capacity to create the agricultural, industrial and mining wealth for our future. If we don’t we only have ourselves to blame at the next drought, not climate change, just our lack of management and foresight. We can not afford a reliance on desalination, we must build dams and we must move water.

Never backward in coming forward for a swift political jab, his Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has joined Joyce for the media moment according to The Business Spectator:

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