Opinion

Time for action

By Country News

If you are to listen to the politicians, the problems with the Barmah Choke have just occurred in the last irrigation season.

This is far from reality.

The problems with the over-commitment of both the Murray River at the Barmah Choke and the Goulburn River have been with us for decades.

Last year has just brought them to a head, and highlighted the mismanagement of our rivers, both environmentally and economically.

The politicians and responsible authorities have continued to allow large-scale irrigation developments downstream with no regard to the capacity of these rivers to supply irrigation and environmental water.

This, combined with the free trade of water from above the Barmah Choke to below the choke, have created the makings of the perfect storm.

It was well known the capacity was being pushed to the limits before last year; send more down was the policy, even when the damage was apparent.

Banks collapsing on a massive scale, Barmah Forest flooding, reduction of Moira grass — still the responsible authorities and politicians did nothing.

In fact, more water was left available to be traded below the choke.

At best this is environmental and economic vandalism, more likely criminal negligence.

If a royal commission is held, would charges be laid?

The Murray and Goulburn rivers and the Barmah National Park are changed forever, as are the irrigation communities that once relied on this water that now causes so much damage to the environment.

We now have a water market that is closed and corrupt.

Water that can be traded about with little regard to the ability to deliver, or the extra losses incurred.

Water can be stored for years by speculators, until the price suits to sell at a huge profit at the expense of irrigators that wish to grow food or fibre.

These speculators pay very little to help run the irrigation delivery system.

These speculators are little more than parasites on the irrigation community.

Billions of taxpayers’ dollars have been spent on infrastructure to deliver water that is fast becoming too expensive for irrigators to use profitably.

Irrigators are still waiting for the return of 75Gl that was committed to irrigators as part of stage one of the Foodbowl Modernisation Project; Melbourne Water and the environment have their share.

The politicians and bureaucrats gave us this mess — it is now time for them to listen to irrigators, not just the corporates, and take a stance, knuckle down and get some positive results, not be ‘‘happy to look at the edges’’, as some would suggest.

—Anita Seiter

NVIC secretary