I WANT to comment on the degradation of the lower Darling River, as evidenced by dry river beds and a range of adverse effects on the surrounding community.
Notwithstanding the small water flow in the river, there remains a core problem occurring in the past few years, of reduced river flows which are severely impacting the health of the river and also impacting associated communities.
The overall management of the Darling River, and its various tributaries, has resulted in a severely impoverished waterway and therefore those management processes demand major correction.
The damage inflicted on the lower Darling has escalated to unacceptable levels in recent years.
River management plans need to provide much better for an equitable sharing of the resources of the river – appropriate sharing is not occurring.
The benefits of sharing the interests of major stakeholders include:
ENSURING a healthy waterway as an amenity for regional communities to enjoy, especially in our semi-arid climate;
IRRIGATORS on the lower Darling with high-security water should receive the priority of water allocations we expect them to receive. Present rules facilitate the diversion by irrigators above Bourke, of any river flows during drier sequence periods. These above-Bourke diversions have a higher priority than river environment, towns, high-security and stock and domestic needs. This places a priority of irrigation for an annual crop above the state responsibility of a healthy river. Similarly, the needs of pastoralists for improved water availability and quality should receive a higher priority.
TOURISM in regional areas is enhanced by having healthy landscapes, especially waterways. Healthy waterways provide opportunities for camping, fishing, boating for both tourists and local communities;
ABORIGINAL culture assumes the responsibility for their stewardship of the landscape and this is not being addressed sufficiently in river management processes.
Band-Aid measures will not be sufficient to achieve the level of improvement needed.
It will be necessary for all stakeholders who can bring about reform of river management, to thoroughly identify and address the core issues.