OPINION – National Party’s record on water pretty poor

DEAR News Of The Area,

I WOULD like to acknowledge Michael Kemp’s initiative to safeguard regional NSW water, but I am perplexed about his sincerity after decades of the National Party’s lack of care for us and our water.

Maybe my concerns come from when western NSW towns did not have water, for Walgett it has been five years since they could drink out of the tap.

When in Bourke 2019 I swam in the public pool and was unable to do many laps and could not understand why I could not pull myself through the water.

The manager explained they were drawing water deep underground in the river and then topping it up with bore water and that the ladies of the town regularly complained because of what it did to their hair.

Maybe it was the tragic scenes of millions of dead fish with one resident stating it covered 30 kilometres, which devastated people in these communities and took away a valuable food source and the ability to conduct cultural activities?

There are towns where the Darling-Baaka is their main water source and the stories have made headlines around the world.

Maybe it was when in late 2019 when still in drought the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) released an environmental flow down the Lachlan River.

The NSW Minister for Water Melinda Pavey attacked the CEWH and John Barilaro threatened to “rip the bloody plan (MDP) up” (Murray Darling Plan).

CEWH responded: “It is the NSW Government’s responsibility to ensure people and towns had the water they need. That was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald by Peter Hannam on 3 November 2019.

Maybe it was when Minister Melinda Pavey presented a Water Transparency Bill to Parliament (June 2020) that stated members of Parliament cannot hold or trade water licences, there was criticism by many groups including the NSW Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party.

The party said the Bill was merely a watered-down version of its own, representatives said it did not go far enough and it did not cover spouses nor was it retrospective.

We do not know whether ministers had been trading water for years. That was reported by ABC Broken Hill’s Saskia Mabin.

Or do my doubts relate to when Minister for Water Melinda Pavey’s act on long-promised floodplain harvesting licences?

Pavey’s department quietly issued a regulation on 7 February 2020 that exempted irrigators from holding them.

It was done without press release or fanfare, but the move caught the attention of independent Upper House MP Justin Field.

This regulation allowed big irrigators to take floodplain-harvested water, billions worth, without payment or criminal prosecution. That was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald by Peter Hannam 23 September 2020.

Remember, the Perrottet Government quietly declared new rules just before entering caretaker mode at the last NSW election that will enable coal mines to access water allocations set aside for drinking water for southern Sydney and Wollongong.

Scientific estimates suggest the cumulative impact of all existing coal mining activities in the region will mean about 450 billion litres of water is drained from the catchment area.

Environmental consultant and former mining manager for Water NSW, Peter Dupen said, “It is alarming the NSW Perrottet Government has given coal companies special access to water allocations that are supposed to be set aside for urban water supply to Wollongong and southern Sydney.

“The risk to our water supplies as we start to shift into an El Nino cycle is immense, and our precious urban water supplies shouldn’t be wasted on destructive coal mines,” he said.

I would like to think that Michael Kemp is acting in good faith, even though many comments he has made are disingenuous.

Unfortunately, the history of the National party has been to look after mining interests and large irrigators, which are mainly owned by multinational corporations and not NSW communities, regional towns, nor our environment.


Leave a Reply