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Chief Scientist Fish Kill Report: Government must act on Roadmap to Restore Darling-Baaka & Menindee

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Cate Faehrmann
NSW Greens MP
29 September 2023

The full release of the NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer’s Independent review into the 2023 fish deaths in the Darling-Baaka River at Menindee provides a roadmap for returning the Darling-Baaka River and Menindee Lakes to health, said NSW Greens MP and spokesperson for water, Cate Faehrmann.

“This report is the roadmap that the NSW Water Minister needs to drive a reform agenda to achieve long overdue cultural change when it comes to water management in this state,” said Cate Faehrmann.

“This report couldn’t be clearer that successive governments have failed to uphold the water laws of this state and that the Darling-Baaka River is dying as a result. I’m calling on the NSW Water Minister to urgently act on the recommendations contained in this report and ensure we see the necessary reform needed to restore the Darling-Baaka River and Menindee Lakes.

“Critically, the report stresses that there must be legally enforceable obligations and powers for environmental protections*. This is what has been missing, and it’s meant that powerful irrigator interests have been able to take far too much water while First Nations like the Barkindji get nothing.

“For too long, successive governments have turned a blind eye to water being used in ways which are contrary to the objectives of water legislation in this state, which is that the needs of the environment must come first.

“The report confirms the long-term decline in water quality and flows in the Darling-Baaka River. Environmental interventions must now be the Government’s priority.

“The Chief Scientist referred to these deaths as a ‘canary in a coal mine’ event, making it abundantly clear that future deaths are highly likely without increased flows. It’s therefore heartening to see a recommendation that review of the Murray and Lower Darling Regulated River Water Sharing Plan must focus on meeting environmental and water quality objectives.

“I look forward to seeing the NSW Government’s response to this extremely important report,” said Ms Faehrmann.

 

* Recommendation 1: Regulatory environmental protections must be enforced

The regulatory framework must be upgraded to include legally enforceable obligations and powers to give effect to environmental protections and whole of catchment ecosystem health, as expressed

in the objects of water, environmental and biodiversity legislation.

Changes should:

  • draw on scientific, cultural and local community insights and be developed in partnership with these knowledge communities
  • address risks to the Lower Darling-Baaka and its water-dependent ecosystems
  • be informed by an independent review of existing water rights, water accounting systems, exercise of rules and operational parameters, and their impact on riverine catchment health. This includes provisions in Water Sharing Plans to improve water flow across the system
  • be based on much improved real-time data and monitoring of the whole river system
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Cate Faehrmann
NSW Greens MP
29 September 2023
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