Showing posts with label sustainability. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sustainability. Show all posts

Sunday, 28 October 2018

On past performance it will only take state and federal National Party politicians and their mates a couple of years to drain Morrison's $5 billion Drought Future Fund


On 26 October 2018, in the face of ongoing allegations of financial gouging of the public purse and mismanagement of water resources in the Murray Darling Basin, Prime Minister and Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison unveiled his $5 billion Drought Future Fund at a summit attended by farmers, economists, industry bodies and state and federal ministers in Canberra....promising measures to drought-proof the nation's agriculture sector. The first $3.9 billion of the scheme, which would operate similarly to the Medical Future Fund, is to be paid for out of a pool of money originally intended for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

What a brilliant idea.

Rob an already underfunded disability sector and the vulnerable people who depend on its services in order to beef up a proposed drought future fund,

What can possibly go wrong?

Well, on past history it will likely take National politicians and their mates about two years to empty this new fund  - with little to no drought-proofing to show for the taxpayer dollars they manage to redirect towards their own businesses.


The Age, 26 October 2018:

The Nationals' federal treasurer Peter Schwarz is accused of gouging much of the $850,000 he was paid by Australia’s largest drought-proofing project and calling in favours when pressed to account for the taxpayer cash.

As Prime Minister Scott Morrison launches his drought summit, leaked government files reveal that Mr Schwarz banked the taxpayer subsidies in November 2011 and then spent years resisting efforts from water officials to get him to or use it for its intended purpose – saving water.

The frustration of the Goulburn-Murray Water authority with the conduct of Mr Schwarz – who as well as being the Nationals key federal fundraiser is also running in next month’s Victorian election – is exposed in dozens of damning leaked authority files.

The files provide a case study of issues which are front and centre at Mr Morrison’s drought summit and which are being examined by drought envoy and Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce: using taxpayer funds to help farmers deal with drought, and, questions about whether backroom favours or mismanagement are undermining drought-relief efforts.

Among the leaked files is a July 15, 2016 memo from a water authority lawyer summing up his view of Mr Schwarz’s conduct after he joined hundreds of other farmers given cash incentives as part of Australia’s largest water saving initiative, the Connections Project. The project aims to help restore the Murray Darling water system.

The lawyer stated that after Mr Schwarz received $850,505 in 2011 – divided into $473,000 for on-farm water-saving measures and $300,000 to buy a neighbouring property – he ‘‘failed to perform any of the obligations despite having received the payment … in full.’’

‘‘The Schwarzes have spent much of the ensuing period attempting to make a case that, notwithstanding they entered into the agreement and received payment, they should not be bound to perform,’’ the July 2016 legal memo states.

The leaked files also reveal that Mr Schwarz sought to call on his personal relationship with a controversial high-ranking water official, Gavin Hanlon, and an unnamed ‘‘minister’’ to ‘‘support [his] cause’’.

Mr Hanlon was a senior Victorian water official who was headhunted by the NSW government as its irrigation chief. He quit his NSW post in 2017 after revelations of questionable dealings with farm lobbyists, sparking an ongoing investigation by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption……..

In a statement to Fairfax Media, the water authority said that seven years after it gave Mr Schwarz the funds, the stand-off over with him has been "substantially resolved." It is understood that Mr Schwarz and Goulburn-Murray Water have finally agreed that he will use the funds for water savings, but no work has as yet been done.

The files reveal intense frustration inside Goulburn-Murray Water not only about Mr Schwarz’s conduct but the authority’s inability to recoup taxpayer funds.

A note written by an employee in April 2014 states that: ‘‘Peter told me on a number of occasions he would prefer to deal with higher GMW management and would not be accepting the agreement he had previously signed.’’.......

BACKGROUND

SBC News, 1 December 2018:

The NSW public has a right to know whether a senior government executive, fired over her alleged involvement in the Murray-Darling water theft scandal, received a six-figure payout, the opposition says.

A report into water theft in the Murray-Darling Basin, released on Thursday, confirmed that along with top bureaucrat Gavin Hanlon's public resignation, a second executive was fired for her role in the alleged misconduct.

AAP understands the senior executive is a former National Party staffer and irrigation lobbyist, who was appointed to a senior job within the Department of Primary Industries in 2015.

Opposition water spokesman Chris Minns said the Berejiklian government should confess whether the executive had received a golden handshake on her way out the door......

In September, NSW Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair said misconduct proceedings had started against Mr Hanlon.

Mr Hanlon was forced to resign as the Department of Industry director general in September following allegations of misconduct, including promising to share internal government documents with irrigation lobbyists in 2016.

Thursday's independent investigation into NSW water management and compliance report, authored by Ken Matthews, said the second senior executive is alleged to have also been involved in the teleconference.

According to her LinkedIn profile, the executive was a policy officer for lobby group Southern River Irrigators between 2011 and 2013 before becoming an advisor to federal senator Simon Birmingham for a year......

Thursday's report comes less than a week after both NSW and Queensland were slammed by a Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) review into water theft and regulation.

That inquiry found both states regularly failed to make sure irrigators complied with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, and weren't transparent about their failures......

The Guardian, 27 September 2018:

A former water industry lobbyist preselected by the New South Wales National party to lead its Senate ticket in the next federal election has suggested examining Barnaby Joyce’s proposal to release more water for irrigators.

Once a lobbyist for Murray Irrigation, Perin Davey won the No 1 spot on the NSW National party’s Senate ticket earlier this month, after the longtime Nationals senator and bank campaigner John “Wacka” Williams retired and the former Nationals deputy leader Fiona Nash resigned over her dual citizenship.

Davey was part of the teleconference with NSW government water official Gavin Hanlon, when he allegedly offered documents stripped of the department logo to help irrigators lobby against the Murray-Darling basin plan.

Hanlon resigned following the revelations, which were referred to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption. The former water minister Kevin Humphries was also referred to the state watchdog. Icac makes it a practice not to comment any current investigations. Davey said she had not been interviewed by Icac and Guardian Australia does not allege any wrongdoing.

The meeting was exposed in the 2017 Four Corners episode that reported allegations that water was being harvested by some irrigators in the Barwon-Darling region of the Murray-Darling basin to the detriment of the environment and downstream communities.

Joyce, the former agriculture minister, had nominated Davey to the board of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority but, as a result of the fallout from the program, Davey asked Joyce to withdraw her nomination.

Davey, who now runs her own government relations company, said she was simply participating in a teleconference and that it was not unusual......


North Coast Voices:

13 MARCH 2018
Only a handful of NSW landowners to face court over Murray-Darling Basin water theft allegations? 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.

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...

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.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Blatant water theft by miners being allowed under Berejiklian Government rules?


IMAGE: Ros Druce. Maules Creek Mine, January 2016 in New Matilda

ABC News, 10 September 2018:

A New South Wales coal mine is being accused of inappropriately taking more surface water than it is entitled to.

A review of Whitehaven Coal's Maules Creek Mine near Narrabri by the campaign group Lock the Gate showed it captured 1,800 million litres (ML) of surface water in 2016, despite being licenced to take 30 million litres.

Surface water is water that is collected from rainfall and run off.

An examination of surface water licences in New South Wales has been unable to find any other surface water licences held by the mine to justify the additional water.

"It does appear that the take is much higher than the licence they have explained to the community," Maules Creek farmer Lochie Leitch said.

Whitehaven Coal declined to be interviewed.

The company issued a statement saying it was in compliance with its water licences, and the use of rainfall and runoff is permissible under legislation.

Farmers whose properties neighbour the mine have joined forces with the campaign group, Lock the Gate Alliance, to lodge a complaint with the state's new water watchdog, the Natural Resources Access Regulator.

The NRAR was set up in April 2018 following a review of water management and compliance which was prompted by a story by the ABC's Four Corners.

The farmers are worried that the alleged collection of this extra surface water is affecting the environment.

"[It's] simply capturing too much water that would otherwise be recharging groundwater and flowing into surface water systems," Maules Creek farmer Sally Hunter said.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

The political endorsements of extinction by Turnbull, Berejiklian and Palaszczuk governments continue




Wild fish stocks in Australian waters shrank by about a third in the decade to 2015, declining in all regions except strictly protected marine zones, according to data collected by scientists and public divers.

The research, based on underwater reef monitoring at 533 sites around the nation and published in the Aquatic Conservation journal, claims to be the first large-scale independent survey of fisheries. It found declining numbers tracked the drop in total reported catch for 213 Australian fisheries for the 1992-2014 period.

The biomass of larger fish fell 36 per cent on fished reefs during 2005-15 and dropped 18 per cent in marine park zones allowing limited fishing, the researchers said. There was a small increase in targeted fish species in zones that barred fishing altogether.
"Most of the numbers are pretty shocking," said David Booth, a marine ecologist at the University of Technology Sydney. “This paper really nails down the fact that fishing or the removal of large fish is one of the causes” of their decline.

Over-fished stocks include the eastern jackass morwong, eastern gemfish, greenlip abalone, school shark, warehou and the grey nurse shark. The morwong catch, once as common as flathead in the trawl fishery, dived about 95 per cent from the 1960s to 109 tonnes in the 2015-16 year to become basically a bycatch species……

…Peter Whish-Wilson, the Greens ocean spokesman, said the new research was largely based on actual underwater identification – including the Reef Life Survey using citizen scientists. It suggests fishing stocks "are not as rosy as the industry or government would like us all to think".

"This study also shows that marine parks can be successful fisheries management tools but we simply don’t have enough of them or enough protection within them to deliver widespread benefits," he said.

"The new Commonwealth Marine Reserves are woefully inadequate and won’t do anything to stop the continuing decline in the health of our oceans."


Humane Society International Australia (HSI), represented by EDO NSW, is seeking independent review of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s (GBRMPA) decision to approve a lethal shark control program in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

HSI has lodged an appeal in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) which will require a full reconsideration of the approval of the shark control program. The 10 year lethal control program targets 26 shark species in the Marine Park, including threatened and protected species. The appeal is based on the public interest in protecting the biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.....

As apex predators, sharks play a vital role in maintaining the health of the Great Barrier Reef. HSI is concerned about the ongoing impacts caused by the use of lethal drumlines which are known to impact not only on shark species but also dolphins, turtles and rays. HSI is calling for non-lethal alternatives for bather protection.


Forest covering an area more than 50 times the size of the combined central business districts of Sydney and Melbourne is set to be bulldozed near the Great Barrier Reef, official data shows, triggering claims the Turnbull government is thwarting its $500 million reef survival package.

Figures provided to Fairfax Media by Queensland’s Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy show that 36,600 hectares of land in Great Barrier Reef water catchments has been approved for tree clearing and is awaiting destruction.

The office of Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg did not say if his government was comfortable with the extent of land clearing approved in Queensland, or if it would use its powers to cancel permits.

The approvals were granted by the Queensland government over the past five years. About 9000 hectares under those approvals has already been cleared.

Despite the dire consequences of land clearing for the Great Barrier Reef – and billions of dollars of public money spent over the years to tackle the problem – neither Labor nor the government would commit to intervening to stop the mass deforestation.


Freedom of information laws are an important mechanism for making government decisions transparent and accountable. But the existence of such laws doesn’t mean access to information is easy.

It took a three-year legal process for the Humane Society International (HSI), represented by EDO NSW, to access documents about how the Australian Government came to accredit a NSW biodiversity offsets policy for major projects

The NSW policy in question allowed significant biodiversity trade-offs (that is, permitting developers to clear habitat in return for compensatory actions elsewhere) seemingly inconsistent with national biodiversity offset standards. HSI wanted to know how the national government could accredit a policy that didn’t meet its own standards.

Despite Australia being a signatory to important international environmental agreements and accepting international obligations to protect biodiversity, in recent years it has been proposed that the national government should delegate its environmental assessment and approval powers to the states, creating a ‘one stop shop’ for developers.

The original FOI request in this case was submitted in early 2015, during a time when Federal and State and Territory Governments were actively in consultation on handing over federal approval powers under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). This was to be done in the name of efficiency, with the assurance that national standards would be upheld by the states.
Over 60 documents finally accessed by HSI show this was a false promise. The documents reveal that federal bureaucrats in the environment department identified key areas of the NSW policy that differed from federal standards.

Despite this, the policy was accredited.

Accreditation meant that the NSW policy could be used when approving developments with impacts on nationally threatened species found in NSW, instead of applying the more rigorous national offsets policy.

In the time it took to argue for access to the documents, NSW developed a new biodiversity offsets policy as part of broader legislative reforms for biodiversity and land clearing. Unfortunately, the new NSW biodiversity offsets policy continues to entrench many of the weaker standards. For example, mine site rehabilitation decades in the future can count as an offset now; offset requirements may be discounted if other socio-economic factors are considered; and supplementary measures - such as research or paying cash - are an alternative to finding a direct offset (that is, protecting the actual plant or animal that has been impacted by a development).

While there have been some tweaks to the new policy for nationally listed threatened species, there is still a clear divergence in standards. The new policy, and the new NSW biodiversity laws, are now awaiting accreditation by the Australian Government.

How our unique and irreplaceable biodiversity is managed (and traded off) is clearly a matter of public interest. And on the eve of a hearing at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the federal environment department agreed and released over 60 documents. While it was a heartening win for transparency and the value of FOI laws, it was a depressing read when these documents revealed the political endorsement of extinction.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

The people of the Liverpool Plains versus Santos and its irresponsible domestic and international shareholders


Oil and gas mining corporation Santos Limited is currently seeking approval to drill up to 850 natural gas wells on est. 425 sites over 95,000 hectares in the Pilliga Forest region of north-west New South Wales. 

Pilliga Forest is consdered a rare example of intact temperate forest and covers an est. 300,000 hectares sitting atop a recharge area of the Great Artesian Basin.

Santos presents itself as an Australian company, yet two affilated Chinese companys hold over 624 million voting shares in the companyand its top institutional shareholders contain the usual mix of international banks, finance and investment companies2.

In its 2017 annual report Santos admits; A range of environmental risks exist within oil and gas exploration and production activities3

This is the response of the people living on the Liverpool Plains. 


The backyard of New South Wales is facing its biggest threat yet – invasive gasfields. Betrayal by governments has meant protectors are fighting to save the things they love. The Pilliga, Great Artesian Basin, Liverpool Plains – all are at risk. This is a David and Goliath battle to save our land, air and water from destruction. It’s also a fight for the soul and future of Australia. In this film we meet the experts and people living in the sacrifice zone and uncover the truth behind the real gas crisis confronting ordinary Australians.

https://youtu.be/h3h1FxwI1CE

Footnotes
1. As of 27 June 2017 Hony Partners Group, L.P and ENN Ecological Holdings Co Ltd acting in concert
2. At Page 130 https://www.santos.com/media/4319/2017-annual-report.pdf.
3. 15 February 2017 Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection fined Santos  $12,190 for non-compliance with a Soils Management Plan.

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.

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]

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

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

The mess that Barnaby left





EDO NSW, on behalf of its client the Inland Rivers Network, has commenced civil enforcement proceedings in the NSW Land and Environment Court in relation to allegations of unlawful water pumping by a large-scale irrigator on the Barwon-Darling River.

The two water access licences at the centre of these allegations allow the licence holder to pump water from the Barwon-Darling River in accordance with specified licence conditions, as well as rules set out in the relevant ‘water sharing plan’. The conditions and rules specify – amongst other things – how much water can be legally pumped in a water accounting year (which is the same as the financial year) and at what times pumping is permissible (which depends on the volume of water flowing in the river at any given time). 

Our client alleges that the holder of these licences pumped water in contravention of some of these conditions and rules, thereby breaching relevant provisions of the Water Management Act 2000 (NSW) (WM Act). The allegations are based on licence data obtained by EDO NSW earlier in 2017 from Water NSW, a state-owned corporation charged with the responsibility of regulating compliance with the WM Act. 

Analysis of this data, along with the relevant rules and publicly available information on river heights, indicates that the licence holder may have pumped significantly more water than was permissible on one licence during the 2014-15 water year, and taken a significant amount of water under another licence during a period of low flow when pumping was not permitted in the 2015-16 water year. Despite being made aware of these allegations by EDO NSW on two occasions, in April and August 2017, and having had access to the data since at least July 2016, Water NSW has not provided any indication that it intends to take compliance action against the licence holder.

Both allegations concern the potentially unlawful pumping of significant volumes of water, which may have had serious impacts on environmental flows in the river and downstream water users. However, our client is particularly concerned by the alleged over-extraction in the 2014/15 water year, as this period was so dry that the Menindee Lakes – which are filled by flows from the Barwon-Darling River – fell to 4 percent of their total storage capacity. This in turn threatened Broken Hill’s water security and led the NSW Government to impose an embargo on water extractions during part of that year in order to improve flows down the Barwon-Darling into the Lakes and Lower Darling River. 

In these proceedings, the Inland Rivers Network is seeking, amongst other things, an injunction preventing the licence holder from continuing to breach the relevant licence conditions. In addition, and in order to make good any depletion of environmental flows caused by the alleged unlawful pumping, our client is also asking the Court to require the licence holder to return to the river system an equivalent volume of water to that alleged to have been unlawfully taken, or to restrain the licence holder from pumping such a volume from the river system, during the next period of low flows in the river system. Failure to comply with a court order constitutes contempt of court, which is a criminal offence. 

EDO NSW is grateful to barristers Tom Howard SC and Natasha Hammond for their assistance in this matter.

Brendan Dobbie, Senior Solicitor at EDO NSW, has carriage of this matter for IRN.


In 2008, then Senator Joyce criticised the Labor government’s purchase of water in the Warrego valley: that is going to have no effect whatsoever in solving the problems of the lower Murray-Darling, and especially the southern states.

Despite the now Deputy Prime Minister and Water Minister’s own fierce criticism of that purchase, he approved the $16,977,600 purchase of another 10.611 gigalitres of water in the Warrego valley in March 2017 at more than twice the price paid by the Labor government. Questions should be raised about what changed the Deputy Prime Minister’s mind and whether that purchase was value for money.

This purchase also has serious implications for the recent amendments to the Basin Plan that was disallowed by the Senate on 14 February 2018.

This purchase was not required to meet the water recovery target in the Warrego under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. Instead, it was intended to count towards the water recovery target in the Border Rivers. This swap required an amendment to s6.05 of the Basin Plan, which was tabled in parliament and disallowed by the Senate. Yet, the Warrego purchase was not reflected in the Sustainable Diversion Limits (SDLs) put to Parliament as part of the amendments.

Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) is required to base its recommendations to change SDLs based on best available science, but the proposed amendments allowed MDBA and States to subsequently change the SDLs in a valley without any consideration of the science.

While MDBA was seeking public submissions on changes to valley SDLs, based on science; the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) was in negotiations to change those valley targets, not based on science.

Parliament was asked to pass an amendment to the Basin Plan with SDLs that would have been changed based on a deal agreed over a year earlier, if the amendment had passed.

Given that the new SDLs were known and agreed by governments, it is not apparent why the MDBA did not include the new SDLs in the amendment put to parliament.