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

Monday, 15 July 2019

The national scandal that is the Murray-Darling Basin continues unabated


On the morning of Friday 12 July 2019 NSW Water's real-time records showed that much of the Murray-Darling Basin river systems where they pass through New South Wales are still recording less than 20 per cent water flows, with some sections of the Darling River still regularly recording zero flows and water levels as low as 0.16 of a metre.  

Water sustainability and environmental water flows have been in crisis for decades within the Basin and no solution is in sight.

Here is a snapshot of the latest information........

ABC News, 7 July 2019:

Australian taxpayers have given a huge corporation more than $40 million, enabling it to expand irrigation in the Murray-Darling Basin under an environmental scheme that has been labelled a national disgrace.

Four Corners can reveal that more than $4 billion in Commonwealth funds has been handed over to irrigators, which has allowed them to expand their operations and use more water under the $5.6 billion water infrastructure scheme — the centrepiece of Australia's $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The scheme is intended to recover water for the rivers by giving farmers money to build water-saving infrastructure, in return for some of their water rights.

Some of the beneficiaries of the scheme are partly foreign-owned corporations that have used the money to transform vast tracts of land along the threatened river system, planting thirsty cotton and nut fields.

One of the biggest operators is Webster Limited, a publicly traded company that produces 90 per cent of Australia's walnuts and is 19.5 per cent owned by Canadian pension fund PSP.

Webster has received $41 million from the water infrastructure scheme to grow its empire in the Murrumbidgee Valley, in south-west New South Wales, where it has bought hundreds of square kilometres of land.

The funding covers more than half of an ambitious $78 million capital works program by Webster Limited to build dams to store more than 30 billion extra litres of water and irrigate an extra 81 square kilometres of land, developing much of it into prime, irrigated cotton country.

Maryanne Slattery, a former director at the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, says it is horrifying that a scheme designed to help the environment is allowing irrigators to use more water.

"That program was supposed to reduce the amount of water that was going to irrigation, when it's actually increased the opportunities for irrigation … all subsidised by taxpayers," she said…...

Read full article here.

ABC Four Corners8 July 2019:

Taxpayer dollars, secretive deals and the lucrative business of water.

"It's a national scandal." Water economist

Two years on from the Four Corners investigation into water theft in the Murray-Darling Basin that sparked a royal commission, the program returns to the river system to investigate new concerns about how the plan to rescue it is being carried out.

"How extravagant is this scheme?... I'd just call it a rort." Lawyer

On Monday Four Corners investigates whether the contentious plan has become a colossal waste of taxpayers' money.

"The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is a triple bottom line fail. It's a fail for communities, it's a fail for the economy and it's absolutely a fail for the environment." Business owner

The river system is the lifeblood of Australian agriculture but right now it's in crisis. It's experiencing one of the worst droughts on record, and with mass fish deaths capturing the headlines and farmers struggling to survive, many are saying the scheme is failing to deliver.

"I would characterise it as pink batts for farmers, or pink batts for earth movers. It all had to happen in a short space of time." Contractor

Billions of taxpayers' dollars are being poured into grants handed to irrigators in an attempt to save more water. Four Corners investigates exactly how the money is being spent.

"I'm a taxpayer. I don't agree with the scheme. I think it's actually too expensive." Farmer

Some irrigators say this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to transform their businesses.

"With a bold initiative, having the basin plan and the government investing in irrigated agriculture, you get an opportunity to basically reset... for the next 50 years." Irrigation CEO

Others question who is actually gaining the most from the generous scheme.

"We're degrading the rivers at the same time as we're handing out money to a few individuals to realise huge economic gains at public cost." Ecologist

For those with access to water, there are lucrative sales to be made. Water prices have hit record highs turning it into liquid gold.

"Anyone can come in and buy water. You don't even have to be a farmer...You're going to make money out of it, and that's what a lot of people are doing, unfortunately." Farmer

Others worry that the scheme is encouraging the planting of crops even thirstier than cotton, creating a potential time bomb.

"There's been an explosion in the production of nuts in the Murrumbidgee, and more broadly in the Murray-Darling Basin...This may well be a time bomb." Former water official

Four Corners investigates how the scheme is being regulated and whether water users and the authorities responsible are being properly held to account.

"We're talking about billions of dollars in taxpayers' money on a scheme that many, many capable and reliable scientists have said, this isn't going to work." Lawyer

Transcript of Four Corners 8 July 2019 episode Cash Splash is here.

Abc.net.au, 9 July 2019:

Two years on from Pumped, the Four Corners investigation into water theft in the Murray-Darling Basin that sparked a royal commission, Monday night’s report Cash Splash investigated new concerns about how the plan to rescue the fragile and vitally important river system is being carried out, probing the infrastructure grants scheme which is now the centrepiece of the $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The investigation revealed tens of millions of dollars intended to restore the Murray-Darling Basin is helping big businesses expand irrigation and access huge volumes of water that would have flowed into communities and habitats downstream.

The aim of the story was to speak with people who have first-hand evidence of how the grants scheme is operating. It drew on a wide cross-section of the community affected by the scheme, including farmers and irrigators who have received the funding or been involved in its expenditure, scientists and economists who have gathered and analysed data on its effects, community leaders, former government officials and current and former Murrumbidgee Irrigation staff.

The interviewees on the program were:

Julie and Glen Andreazza, NSW Farmers of the Year
Brett Jones, CEO, Murrumbidgee Irrigation
Anthony Kidman, former Murrumbidgee Irrigation Project Manager
David Papps, former Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder
Professor Richard Kingsford, Ecologist, UNSW
Richard Beasley SC, Former Senior Counsel Assisting the SA Royal Commission into the MDBP
Prof Sarah Wheeler, Water Economist, University of Adelaide
John Kerrigan, Earthmover and now irrigator and recipient of infrastructure grants
Maryanne Slattery, former Director of Environmental Water at the MDBA and now senior Water Researcher, Australia Institute
Kelvin and Glen Baxter, farmers
Prof Quentin Grafton, UNESCO Chair in Water Economics, ANU
Paul Pierotti, Vice President of the Griffith Business Chamber
Tony Onley, Business Development Coordinator, Murrumbidgee Irrigation
Emma Carmody, Senior Solicitor, Environmental Defender’s Office
Matthew Ireson, Grazier

Four Corners requested an interview with Environment Minister Sussan Ley, who is responsible for the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office and is the Member for Farrer, which includes the Murrumbidgee Valley where the story was filmed.


Minister Ley declined to be interviewed and her spokesperson told Four Corners no-one from the government would comment for the story.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Australian Water Wars 2019: how NSW rivers were running on 22 January


The news cycle is such that even the dire straits the Murray Darling Basin finds itself in, with regard to environmental, cultural and township water flow security, is already fading into the background.

If we let it do so then it will be business as usual for the Federal, Queensland, New South Wales, Victorian and South Australian governments and, it is business as usual which is causing an ecological crisis in Basin waterways.

This is a snapshot of an interactive map supplied by NSW Water showing river flows on Tuesday 22 January 2019.
Every red marker against a river or section of river indicates that at that point the flow was less than 20 per cent of the natural flow.

You will note that even the coastal rivers of Northern NSW are running at less than 20 per cent of their natural flow.

Along the length of the Darling/Barka River many points like Brewarrina, Bourke and Wilcannia recorded zero natural flow passing on 22 January.

This was also a day when land surface temperatures were still uncomfortably high, with parts of the Murray-Darling Basin predicted to reach temperatures of 42-45+ Celsius.


Remind your local MP that they still need to stand up and be counted when it comes to legislating measures to mitigate climate change and need to be persistent in demanding their political parties bite the bullet on water management reform.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Ecological Disaster in Murray-Darling River Systems January 2019: Trump-lite Scott Morrison blames Labor and the drought

@michaeldaleyMP, 13 January 2019

In March 2012 it was the O’Farrell Liberal-Nationals Coalition Government who received the above Memorandum on the Water Sharing Plan for the Barwon-Darling Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources which covered both the Barwon-Darling unregulated river water source and the Upper Darling Alluvial groundwater source.

This NSW water sharing plan was clearly prefaced on creating a market for the sale of water rights and the needs of commercial irrigators and the mining industry:


2.1 Why are water sharing plans being prepared? Expansion of water extraction across NSW in the 20th century has placed most valleys at or close to the limit of sustainable water extraction. This has seen increasing competition between water users (towns, farmers, industries and irrigators) for access to water. This has also placed pressure on the health and biological diversity of our rivers and aquifers.

Plans provide a legal basis for sharing water between the environment and consumptive purposes. Under the Water Management Act 2000, the sharing of water must protect the water source and its dependent ecosystems and must protect basic landholder rights. Sharing or extraction of water under any other right must not prejudice these rights. Therefore, sharing water to licensed water users is effectively the next priority for water sharing. Among licensed water users, priority is given to water utilities and licensed domestic and stock use, ahead of commercial purposes such as irrigation and other industries.

Plans also recognise the economic benefits that commercial users such as irrigation and industry can bring to a region. Upon commencement, access licences held under the Water Act 1912 (WA 1912) are converted to access licences under the Water Management Act 2000 and land and water rights are separated. This facilitates the trade of access licences and can encourage more efficient use of water resources. It also allows new industries to develop as water can move to its highest value use.

In conjunction with the Water Management Act 2000, plans also set rules so that commercial users can also continue to operate productively. In general, commercial licences under the Water Management Act 2000 are granted in perpetuity, providing greater commercial security of water access entitlements. Plans also define the access rules for commercial users for ten years providing all users with greater certainty regarding sharing arrangements.

The warning in the Memorandum was ignored by the O’Farrell. Baird and Berejiklian Coalition Governments and, by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority when it drained 2,000 gigalitres of water from the Menindee lakes in 2017.

Obviously fearing the electorate will remember: a) that when the Abbott Coalition Government came to power it handed even more power over water resources back to the states & abolished the independent National Water Commissionand b) then recall the rampant abuse of water resources under then Deputy PM and Nationals MP for New England as Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce as well as multiple allegation of water theft; Prime Minister and Liberal  MP for Cook Scott Morrison sought to wrongly blame first Federal Labor and then the drought for the ecological devastation which is occurring in the NSW section of the Murray-Darling river systems.

ABC News, 14 January 2019:



 The State Government is bracing for another mass fish kill in the Darling River this week, with soaring temperatures forecast in western NSW.

The mercury is expected to reach up to 46 degrees Celsius in the town of Menindee, where up to 1 million native species were killed in an algal bloom over the New Year.

The Bureau of Meteorology said a heatwave, caused by hot air being blown from Central Australia, would persist until Saturday and could break temperature records around Broken Hill.

Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said state and local governments would work with the community to manage the possibility of another ecological disaster.

"Well we know that we've got high temperatures right across the state and a lot of poor water quality situations particularly brought on by the extended drought so unfortunately we are expecting that we may see more fish killed," Mr Blair said.

The warning comes as contractors prepare to clear the 40-kilometre stretch of the Darling River of dead fish before their rotting carcasses compound the situation.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud will convene a meeting of State and Federal environmental and water stakeholders working under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Mr Littleproud proposed using $5 million for a native fish recovery strategy and will seek agreement for the money to come from Murray-Darling Basin funds.

"The reality is we're in a serious drought and the only silver bullet is rain," he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison refuted a report released by NSW Labor at the weekend claiming the Liberal Government ignored warnings about low water levels.

"I'm concerned today that some might want to play politics," he said.

"There were reports done by scientists under Labor's contribution to that plan back in 2012, the plan has been operating in accordance with that advice and so we need to just keep on working on the issue."

Mr Morrison said the fish kill was because of the drought.

"It's a devastating ecological event, particularly for those all throughout that region the sheer visual image of this is terribly upsetting," he said.

However, that is disputed by many people in Menindee, who argue poor water management has compounded the mass kill. [my yellow highlighting]

Morrison in blaming everyone but successive Federal (since September 2013) and NSW (since March 2011) Coalition governments forgets that Australian voters can read and, as late as June 2018 the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office as part of the NSW Interagency Working Group for Better Managing Environmental Water offered advice on the Barwon-Darling which both the current Australian Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Drought Preparation and Response & Liberal MP for Maranoa David Littleproud and current NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water & Nationals MLC Niall Blair appear to have ignored until it was too late.

Footnote

1. One of the last things the National Water Commission (NWC) did before then Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott abolished it was to inform the Abbott Coalition Government that:

"Ten years on from the signing of the NWI, water reform in Australia is at a cross roads. Many reform gains are now taken for granted and the multi-party support that has been a hallmark of this historic agreement is at risk of breaking down.
Given the substantial government investments and hard-won progress so far, and the valuable but challenging gains yet to be realised, it is critical that there is no backsliding from reform principles.
Strong leadership is essential to realise the full benefits of water reform and to embed proven NWI principles into the decision making of all Australian governments."


Thursday, 3 January 2019

Murray-Darling Basin Plan: a $13 billion fraud on the environment


Some home truth about the current Murray-Darling Basin Plan to remember as we enter into the morass of competeing claims in NSW State and Australian Federal election campaigns in the first half of this year....


IN THE MATTER OF THE MURRAY-DARLING BASIN ROYAL COMMISSION, Adelaide South Australia, 23 October 2018:

MR R. BEASLEY SC, Senior Counsel Assisting:

….Commissioner, the Water Act and the Basin Plan have been hailed as ground-breaking reform. They are. What this Commission has learnt, however, from the evidence it has gathered, and from the witnesses that have informed us, is that it’s one thing to enact transformative legislation like the Water Act and the Basin Plan, it’s quite another thing to faithfully implement it. Sadly, the implementation of the Basin Plan at crucial times has been characterised by a lack of attention to the requirements of the Water Act and a near total lack of transparency in an important sense.

Those matters have had, and continue to have, a negative impact on the environment and probably the economies of all the Basin Plan states but the state that will suffer the most is the state at the end of the system, South Australia. The Water Act was a giant national compromise. At its heart was a recognition that all of the Basin states – Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia – were taking too much water from the system and had been for a long time. That, as a matter of statutory fact in the Water Act, and as a matter of reality, has led to serious degradation of the environment of the Basin. The Millennium Drought of 2000s underscored the fact that, if nothing was done, over-allocation of the water entitlements in the Basin would inevitably and quickly lead to irreversible damage to the Basin environment.

The Water Act was a response to that. It was the statutory means by which the process of restoration and protection of environmental assets would begin. I say the Water Act was a compromise because the Act contemplates that water will be taken from our rivers and used consumptively for irrigation, the growing of crops and permanent plants. Of course, also for human water needs. But it sets a limit. That limit is that no more water can be taken beyond the point where key areas of the environment and its ecosystems might be damaged. In an environment that’s already degraded, that means the Water Act requires the environment to have both enough water to restore degraded wetlands and the like and also, of course, to maintain them.

That’s not just the right thing to do. It’s what Australia’s international obligations require. That task, setting a limit on the extraction of water, is to be based on the best available science. Not guided by the best science, not informed by the best science but based on the best available science. It also has to be achieved by taking into account the well-known principles of ecologically sustainable development. What the Commission has learnt from the evidence presented to it is that the implementation of the Basin Plan, at crucial stages, has not been based on the best available science. Further, ecologically sustainable development has either been ignored or, in some cases, in relation to supply measures, actually inverted.

 I want to read to you a peer review of the Guide to the Basin Plan from some international scientists in 2010 because it demonstrates that they were well aware, even back then, of what was actually going on in the early stages of drafting the Basin Plan. This is a peer review report by Professor Gene Likens of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Mr Per Bertilsson of the Stockholm International Water Institute, Professor Asit Biswas from the Third World Centre for Water Management and Professor John Briscoe, Gordon McKay Professor from Harvard University. What they said was this, in reviewing the Basin Plan, at page 34 of what became exhibit RCE38:

It is a fundamental tenet of good governance that scientists produce facts and the government decides on values and makes choices. We are concerned that scientists in the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, who are working to develop the facts, may feel they are expected to trim those so that the sustainable diversion limit will be one that is politically acceptable. We strongly believe that this is not only inconsistent with the basic tenets of good governance but that it is not consistent with the letter of the Water Act. We equally strongly believe that government needs to make the necessary trade-offs and value judgments and need to be explicit about these, assume responsibility and make the rationale behind these judgments transparent to the public.

If all the MDBA had been done in the past eight years since that review was written is “trim the facts”, that would be bad enough. But it’s worse than that. The implementation of the Basin Plan has been marred by maladministration. By that I mean mismanagement by those in charge of the task in the Basin Authority, its executives and its board, and the consequent mismanagement of huge amounts of public funds. The responsibility for that maladministration and mismanagement falls on both past and current executives of the MDBA and its board. Again, while the whole of the Basin environment has and will continue to suffer as a result of this, the state whose environment will suffer the most is South Australia.

The principal task of those implementing the Plan is to set the Basin-wide sustainable diversion limit. How much water can be taken from the rivers before the environment suffers? You’ve heard evidence that has been unchallenged that this task was infected by deception, secrecy and is the political fix. The modelling it has been said to have been based on is still not available seven years later. The recent adjustment of the sustainable diversion limit by raising it by 605 gigalitres, on the evidence you’ve heard, is best described as a fraud on the environment. That’s a phrase I used in opening. It was justified then. It’s re-enforced by the evidence you’ve heard subsequently. The so-called 450 gigalitres of upwater, the water that the then South Australian Government fought for, for this State’s environment, is highly unlikely to ever eventuate. The constraints to the system are just one major problem in the delivery of that water.

Like all aspects of the implementation of the Basin Plan, efficiency measures or infrastructure projects that form the basis of how the 450 gigalitres of water is to be attained, and which are funded by public money, lack any reasonable form of transparency and, as the Productivity Commission recently, and witnesses to this Commission, have noted, are hugely more expensive and less reliable than purchasing water entitlements. I will discuss this in detail but I will give you one quote from an expert who can talk with real authority about the extra 450 gigalitres proposed for South Australia under the Basin Plan. That’s the former Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, David Papps. In his evidence to you said:

 I would bet my house that South Australia is not getting that water.

Mr Papps’ prediction seems safe when one considers the proposed amendments to the Basin Plan by the governments of NSW and Victoria concerning the 450 gigalitres that I will come to shortly. Everything that I have just said to you is based on the views of eminent scientists and other people who have given evidence and lodged submissions. However, neither the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Water, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, or any Commonwealth government agency has provided any answer to anything I have just said or to the evidence before the Commission that I will refer to shortly. They have no answer. The submissions provided to you very recently by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, and the DAWR, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, demonstrate, as did their unwillingness to give evidence, culminating in proceedings to the High Court, that they do not have any answer.

The MDBA, you will recall, were even too busy to meet you. The States also have no answer, as demonstrated in their somewhat thin submissions to you, with the exception of the South Australian Government. When I say the MDBA has no answer to the expert evidence given in this Commission, I should emphasise also that it clearly has no answer to the maladministration and unlawfulness of its implementation of the Basin Plan. It is nevertheless a great pity that relevant persons from the Basin Authority, and other Commonwealth agencies, were not required to give answers to you under oath concerning the scientific evidence the Commission gathered.

The opportunity may have been there had the High Court decided those proceedings in your favour. I’m not going to speculate on what the High Court would have done but, regrettably, the South Australian Government chose not to extend your Commission in order to provide you with the opportunity that may have been available to you to question those relevant people. You made it clear to the South Australian Government that was your strong preference. You advised them that the Commission had potential witnesses that wanted to give important evidence, evidence relevant to the South Australian environment, but only if they were compelled by summons. In other words, they were too scared to talk about the implementation of the Basin Plan without the force of a summons. Why the Commission was not extended to explore these crucial matters is something upon which you can draw inferences as you see fit. I will only say that it’s a great opportunity lost……

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.