Call to dump Constraints policy

Call to dump MDBA constraints policy


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It would be “sheer madness” to think man-made environmental flood flows could be manipulated, without social and economic damage, according to Upper Goulburn River Catchment Association spokeswoman Jan Beer.

It would be “sheer madness” to think man-made environmental flood flows could be implemented without causing social and economic damage, according to Upper Goulburn River Catchment Association spokeswoman Jan Beer.

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Ms Beer, Yea, said it was impossible to remove the hundreds of constraints - within the Murray River and its tributaries - and achieve flow targets, proposed by the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA).

CONTRAINTS POSITION: Phillip Glyde, Murray Darling Basin Association chief executive has said the Constraints measures were a critical part of supply measures.

CONTRAINTS POSITION: Phillip Glyde, Murray Darling Basin Association chief executive has said the Constraints measures were a critical part of supply measures.

“Landholders have very clearly stated they are resolute in their intention to refuse to allow the creation of easements, and both state and federal governments, as well as the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH), have declared they will not intentionally inundate private property without consent,” Ms Beer said.

“They’ve talked about compensation to landowners, but the MDBA fails to understand that no amount of one-off financial hand-outs can compensate landowners for their property being flooded on a constant recurring basis into the future.”

Ms Beer said she had written to Victorian water minister Lisa Neville and federal minister Barnaby Joyce, calling for the MDBA’s Constraints Management Strategy to be scrapped.

In February, federal assistant water resources minister, South Australian Liberal Senator Anne Ruston, told a parliamentary committee the government would not fund constraint works, if landowners did not want them. “That safety mechanism goes without saying - no matter how far down the track we go in trying to achieve the outcomes,” Senator Ruston said.

Ms Beer called on Ms Neville and other water ministers to accept that pursuing the MDBA’s strategy “would demonstrate a lack of good common-sense and practicality”.

She said a key flawed assumption from the MDBA was “that landholders will allow easements to be placed on their titles so that their private property can legally be flooded.”

She added the Basin Plan aimed for flows of 60,000 to 80,000 megalitres a day over the South Australian border, which the MDBA believed would keep the Murray Mouth scoured of sand without the need for dredging 95 per cent of the time.

But the 2016 spring floods proved flows of that magnitude would not achieve the 95 percent target and highlighted all flows upstream, as stated in the Reach Reports were “insufficient and incorrect”.

Mrs Beer said the MDBA claimed only “minor over-bank flows” would be required to achieve proposed environmental flows downstream. “Data taken from the 2016 flows along the Goulburn, Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers and their tributaries proved this to be totally incorrect. Landowners with many years local experience of flood events know the assumption to be absolutely wrong.

“It’s just another one of the many flaws in the Constraints strategy, and highlights the strategy needs to be dumped so a more realistic approach can be taken. This should include, rather than exclude, valuable local knowledge from people who live along our river systems. It should also accept factual data, even if this does not align with the MDBA’s unachievable flow targets.

MDBA chief executive Phillip Glyde told a Senate estimates hearing the constraints measures were a “pretty critical part” of the nominated supply measures.

“At the moment the states have nominated a number of supply measures to achieve the 650 gigalitres of downwater,” Mr Glyde said. 

He told Victorian National Party Senator Brigid McKenzie the MDBA was asked to look at an overall constraints management strategy, as a way of trying to minimise the social and economic impact of returning water to the environment.

“Constraints measures, using water more effectively to achieve an environmental goal, limit the socioeconomic damage. The MDBA is now working with the states for them to refine their proposals. 

Mr Glyde said supply measures, including Constraints, were a matter for private discussion, between governments. “The critical things that stakeholders would be interested in, I think, are what some of the flow rates the states might be proposing are et cetera,” he said.

“Those measures are now being looked at in the period between now and the end of June.”

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