LETTER: Fish kill report needed to broaden its focus

THE Australian Academy of Science report into fish deaths around Menindee really needed to cast their net wider. 

The 30 gigalitres of northern basin inflows in the first six months of this financial year (less than 1 per cent of average inflows according to WaterNSW) should have been considered in detail, along with visiting and talking with those they were ready to blame for so called over-extraction’. 

There is no logic in blaming irrigation farmers who haven’t farmed on the Barwon-Darling for almost two years because of the lack of water.

The need for sufficient flows is no revelation and that is what everyone wants. We welcome the confirmation of the cause of how this tragic fish death occurred being because of depleted oxygen levels, but we refute the blame being laid at the feet of irrigation farmers.

Media and public statements around this tragedy have been far too influenced by political considerations. Claims of one million fish, and 100-year-old Murray cod, that “survived two world wars”, are examples of emotive commentary that may send a video “viral” but add nothing to the factual understanding of what happened and constructive discussions of what can be done for the future. In this case, the 100-year old cod claims have not been repeated, but the discrepancy between NSW’s report of hundreds of thousands and the academy “millions” continues this issue. 

What the Murray Darling Basin needs is more rain. That is the problem, not irrigation farmers. Falsely apportioning blame to a small number of farmers achieves nothing. 

What we always need is the end of the drought and more water, but the fact is that the existence of rural communities across the Murray-Darling Basin now depends on responsible leadership.

Luke Simpkins, 

NSW Irrigators Council CEO

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