Showing posts sorted by relevance for query water theft. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query water theft. Sort by date 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.

Friday, 4 August 2017

The Trouble With Water: not a good look for the National Party of Australia



On 1 June 2017 former NSW Minister for Natural Resources, Lands and Water (23 April 2014 - 2 April 2015) and current Nationals MP for Barwon, Kevin Humphries, announced that he will retire at the next state election in March 2019.

In the wake of the 24 July ABC “Four Corners” revelations of large-scale water theft under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, Humphries has been referred to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) by the Labor Opposition.

Hot on the heels of this program came another announcement on 31 July 2017.

Former NSW Minister for Primary Industries (3 April 2011 - 2 April 2015) with responsibility for lands & water and current Nationals MP for Cootamundra, Katrina Hodgkinson, announced her retirement effective mid to late August 2017.

Hodgkinson denies any connection between her sudden retirement and those Four Corners revelations.

However it should be noted that it was on the joint watch of Humphries and Hodgkinson that the position of NSW Water Commissioner responsible for the overall management of the State’s surface water and groundwater resources was axed and the NSW Office of Water was reformed as part of the Dept. of Primary Industry maintaining overall responsibility for accepting and assessing applications to change water access licences and operating the Water Access Licence Register.

High volume water theft appears to have become easier on the watch of these two National Party politicians.

All that would be needed for a trifecta of retiring state politicians associated with water resource policy would be for the current NSW Minister for Primary Industry, Minister for Regional Water and Nationals MLC, Niall Blair, to announce an unexpected desire to spend more time with his family and pursue other interests.

Any further scandal surrounding the management water resources in the NSW section of the Murray-Darling Basin and this may well be a distinct possibility - or even more media coverage like this perhaps?

The Daily Telegraph, 2 August 2017:

A NATIONALS minister is pushing Cabinet colleagues to change irrigation laws to retrospectively justify a decision by his department to give a major political donor and cotton farmer more rights over the precious Barwon-Darling River.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal that Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair is behind a push to alter an element of the Barwon-Darling Water Sharing Plan.

It comes after his department in 2016 overruled what it called “minor” error in the law to grant extra irrigation rights to Brewarrina cotton farmer Peter Harris.

A department briefing, seen by The Daily Telegraph, said the error was impacting on “some users wishing to trade between river sections covered by the plan”.

The briefing was written shortly after Mr Harris was given extra rights.

Mr Harris gave $10,000 to the National Party prior to the 2011 election in combined personal donations and those made by his company.

Its understood an internal Coalition fight has broken out between Mr Blair and current Water Minister Gabrielle Upton , who is resisting the changes. The revelations come as several inquiries have been launched into the alleged water theft on an industrial scale of precious resources across the basin…….

The Daily Telegraph has obtained another document showing that the retiring Ms Hodgkinson changed the water sharing plan to benefit irrigators after lobbying. She was water minister at the time.

In a 2012 letter to lobbyist and cotton farmer Ian Cole, Ms Hodgkinson wrote: “Following consideration of a number of WSP (water sharing plan) matter raised with me, I ­requested the Office of Water to make several amendments which I believe now present a fair and equitable outcome for all.”

The Minister for the Environment and Liberal MP for Vaucluse Gabrielle Upton's obvious reluctance may be due to her appreciation of a change in wind direction within the national electorate on the subject of Murray-Darling Basin water allocations.

The present Deputy Prime Minister and Australian Water Minister, Barnaby Joyce, is also in a somewhat precarious position – less to do with his manifest inadequacy as a federal minister and more to do with his stated motives for seeking to add the water ministry to his portfolio responsibilities.

Cartoonist David Rowe at Financial Review

Sunday, 3 December 2017

SA Royal Commission into Murray-Darling Basin management and alleged water theft


The NSW Berejiklian Government will not be happy with this………

ABC News, 30 November 2017:

Allegations of water theft upstream in the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) have prompted South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill to launch a state royal commission to identify any perpetrators.

New South Wales and Queensland were slapped with a scathing assessment of compliance with the MDB Plan on Saturday, after a review found poor levels of enforcement.

The review also found a lack of transparency surrounding the states' water management, along with Victoria's.

Mr Weatherill said the report did not go far enough and announced a royal commission.

"The review that was handed down did not go into detailed findings of who committed water theft and who behaved inappropriately in relation to the river," he said.

"There have been no specific findings in relation to individuals or groups of individuals."

When asked whether a state royal commission could force bureaucrats from interstate to give evidence, Mr Weatherill said the royal commissioner would be given the powers of compulsion.

"And they will have no choice but to come forward," he said.

"A state-based royal commission does have the capacity to analyse things that touch on other states, provided there is a connection to South Australia.”

"That's our very clear legal advice and it's our intention to pursue this royal commission's power to their fullest extent, so we can get to the bottom of this water theft."…..

Despite labelling it "just another stunt", the Federal Government said it would cooperate with SA's royal commission.

Assistant water resources minister Anne Ruston said the issues in the basin were being addressed but the Commonwealth would not stand in the way of the commission, and neither should NSW or Victoria.

"I'd like to think they'd cooperate, certainly the Commonwealth will cooperate, we haven't got anything to hide," she said.

The Australian Government’s 25 November 2017 The Murray–Darling Basin Water Compliance Review can be read here.

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

Monday, 7 August 2017

Politicians and Water: The Murray Darling Basin Scandal Fallout


The ABC Four Corners program “Pumped” which was screened on 24th July has illustrated how important scrutiny of the establishment is to the rule of law in our democracy. It also illustrates why the ABC is under threat from many politicians and other powerful players who see any effective scrutiny of their operations as an intolerable threat to their way of doing business, a way that is against both the general community interest as well as the national interest.
The outrage from the revelations of water theft and other illegality by big irrigators in the northern NSW area of the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) has increased over the days since the program was screened.  Politicians have been left scrambling and forced to change tack following the strength of the reaction and the condemnation of the inadequacy of their initial responses.
In NSW the Nationals Minister for Primary Industry, Niall Blair, was forced to change from an internal inquiry conducted by his department to an independent inquiry.  Blair was excessively optimistic in thinking that such an internal inquiry would be acceptable given that Four Corners had revealed a questionable relationship between Gavin Hanlon[1], his department’s Deputy Director General (Water), and big irrigators in the upper MDB.  In addition there was the important question of why the department had failed to act on departmental compliance officers’ reports of licence breaches and meter tampering. And there were questions about the role of the former water minister Kevin Humphries in dealing with the large irrigators.
The NSW Opposition has also taken action referring both the former Nationals water minister Kevin Humphries (Member for Barwon) and a senior bureaucrat (presumably Gavin Hanlon) to ICAC.
The Federal Government reaction was initially almost dismissive.  The Minister for Water Resources, Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce[2], as well as attempting to downplay the water theft by comparing it to cattle rustling, claimed that it was a matter for NSW and that there was no need for Federal Government involvement. Billions of dollars of taxpayer funds have been used to buy back water for environmental flows and instead of being used for this purpose this water has gone to the big irrigators in the upper Barwon-Darling.  Presumably the taxpayer funds had come from the Federal Government. This would surely make it a matter of very great interest to this government which, seeing it is so concerned about budget repair, would surely be appalled at the waste of billions of taxpayer dollars.
Joyce’s totally inadequate initial response was compounded shortly afterwards with what he said in a speech to irrigators in a hotel at Shepparton, a speech which was recorded by one of those attending.
Joyce said, "We have taken water, put it back into agriculture, so we could look after you and make sure we don't have the greenies running the show basically sending you out the back door, and that was a hard ask.”
"A couple of nights ago on Four Corners, you know what that's all about? It's about them trying to take more water off you, trying to create a calamity. A calamity for which the solution is to take more water off you, shut more of your towns down."
Even a dinosaur like Barnaby Joyce should have been aware that anyone carrying a smartphone has the capacity to secretly record what others are saying.  In the political sphere we have seen how damaging this can be in the cases of Christopher Pyne and One Nation’s James Ashby. The Shepparton recording has certainly damaged Joyce and has added volume to the calls for him to be sacked from the Water portfolio.  Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen as the Prime Minister has enough problems in his own party without alienating Joyce and the Nationals.
By Sunday 30th the scandal became a matter that the Federal Government had to act upon despite Joyce’s earlier labelling it a state matter. The Federal solution was for the Murray Darling Basin Authority to carry out an independent basin-wide review into compliance with state-based regulations governing water use. The Authority is to report by 15th December 2017.  The Government saw this review as complementing the other investigations of the Four Corners allegations.
However, this is a case of far too little too late.  The MDB Authority is scarcely a body able to conduct an independent review of what has obviously been happening under its watch.  Furthermore a cynic would see the reporting date of 15th December, just before the Christmas holiday season, as a typical government move to ensure that the review report would receive minimal attention and be forgotten about over the holiday break.
The Federal Opposition, like its NSW state counterpart, has also taken action on the scandal.  It requested that the Auditor-General expand his current audit of the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.  The Auditor-General will now include how the federal department is monitoring the performance of NSW under the National Partnership Agreement on Implementing Water Reform in the MDB relevant to the protection and use of environmental water.
Unsurprisingly, the South Australian Government, which has long been concerned about the lack of water reaching the end of the Murray-Darling system, was outraged by the allegations.  It is calling for a judicial inquiry, a much stronger investigation than those arranged by NSW and the Federal Government.  SA senators from Labor, the Greens, the Nick Xenophon Party and the Conservatives have joined their state government in calling for a judicial inquiry.
This scandal has a long way to run yet.  There are major questions to be answered about the National Party – both state and federally - and its relationship with the big irrigators and its apparent indifference to the needs of other irrigators further down the system.  There is also the question of its influence on the workings of the NSW Department of Agriculture.   And just what role has it had in limiting the effectiveness of – perhaps even of sabotaging - the Murray Darling Basin Plan?
For both Federal and NSW state Liberal leaders there is the question about the advisability of having resource management portfolios in the hands of Nationals and of putting both Agriculture and Water in the same portfolio.  Each of these governments has a very poor environmental record.  What has been happening on the Barwon-Darling reinforces the view that keeping “in good” with the Nationals is far more important for the  Liberals than ensuring that environmental policies are in the best long-term interests of the state and nation.
[1] Gavin Hanlon joined the NSW Department of Primary Industries in December 2014.  Prior to this he had been Managing Director of Goulburn Murray Water since 2011.
[2] The water portfolio was removed from the Environment Department and allocated to Joyce as a result of the agreement with the Liberals in 2015  following  Malcolm Turnbull becoming Prime Minister.

Hildegard
Northern Rivers
2nd August 2017

Guest Speak is a North Coast Voices segment allowing serious or satirical comment from NSW Northern Rivers residents. Email northcoastvoices at gmail dot com dot au to submit comment for consideration.

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, 19 September 2017

Independent Investigation into NSW Water Management and Compliance - interim report concerning theft and corruption allegations published 8 September 2017


It took a public airing of the issues by ABC TV “Four Corners” in its Pumped: Who is benefitting from the billions spent on the Murray-Darling? program on 24 July 2017 to force the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, Australian National Audit Office, Commonwealth Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee, NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption and the NSW Berejiklian Coalition Government into investigative action.
The NSW Government has now published its initial 78-page report into allegations of theft and corruption in the management of water resources in the Murray–Darling Basin.


On 11 September 2017, Ken Matthews issued a statement regarding the delivery of his Independent Investigation into NSW Water Management and Compliance. The focus of his interim report was to assess whether the department's policies, procedures and actions were appropriate, to recommend whether further actions should be undertaken, and to identify opportunities to improve the department’s future compliance and enforcement performance.

Download the Independent investigation into NSW water management and compliance – Interim report (2 MB PDF).


ABC News, 12 September 2017:
Yesterday, Mr Hanlon was stood down from the Department of Primary Industries pending a misconduct investigation: Four Corners had also revealed he had offered to share with them — via DropBox — internal departmental documents that had been "debadged".
His removal was announced as the Government released a wide-ranging report by Ken Matthews into the allegations raised in the program.
The Matthews report has turned out to be nothing of the whitewash many expected. What he has delivered instead is a grenade.
Among his recommendations is that the Government enforce a regime of "no metering, no pumping" which is sobering for no other reason than it is so obvious: the vast majority of people who pay water rates in this country will be aghast that this has not always been the case for water users who deal in billions of litres of water.
Most alarming for some government employees and businesspeople is the revelation contained in his report that the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has taken up an interest in the matter: including into whether the department has properly and fully pursued cases of alleged illegal water extraction.
As a result of its involvement, the fine details regarding "gaps in the case management record", and why cases were not pursued in the face of "prima facie evidence of substantive breaches", were not published. Instead, Mr Matthews handed these matters to the anti-graft commission.
From what I saw on the ground when we were filming this program, there will be many people sweating on what happens next. The Matthews investigation was clearly thorough, but it was done in a very short time, and with none of the powers of the ICAC.
A critical further point, that might otherwise be lost amid the hue and cry about illegal water take and meter tampering, is the question of so-called "environmental water".
This was made possible by a bizarre "water sharing plan" enacted in 2012 by which the NSW Government gave major water-users more reliable access to water — including by dumping restrictions on pump sizes and allowing fast, large-scale industrial extraction of water even when the river was running low.
Mr Matthews makes it clear that "this issue applies not only in the Barwon-Darling water system but elsewhere in NSW and the wider Murray-Darling Basin".
"Solving the problem will be critical to the success of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan," Mr Matthews found.
"It is a pre-condition if the anticipated environmental benefits of the plan are to be delivered.
"The issue is not new. Regrettably, it has continued without resolution for years ... there is a strong public expectation that arrangements should be in place already, and to the extent that they are not, a remedy is urgent."
This is a bombshell for the Commonwealth Government and this major economic and agrarian reform.
The South Australian Government has reacted to Mr Matthews' findings already, reiterating calls for a national judicial inquiry.
For Mr Le Lievre, and many others, this is where the significant changes need to be made. Communities like Louth will simply fade away without the water they once had flowing past.
Earlier this year, Mr Le Lievre told me someone in the NSW Government had to be held accountable for what had been done with the water.
The Matthews report goes some way to delivering precisely that, but, as the weathered farmer insisted at the time, "the only way to make them accountable and to stop them from pulling out legs is to do it under oath".
"Simple. They can't get out of it, they've got to tell the truth."
It is a power that was not available to Mr Matthews, or to the various other investigations now underway into the Four Corners revelations. It is, however, readily used in the ICAC's hearing room.