Monday 14 January 2019

Menindee: an Act of God?

Screen capture from ABC Broken Hill website, taken at 18:41 (AEDT)

Yesterday Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud met with the water “managers” of the affected states in the Murray-Darling Basin to decide what to do about this mess, report Carrie Fellner and David Wroe, from the Sydney Morning Herald.

Judging by Littleproud’s announcements, not much:
He said he’d offered NSW “any assistance it requires as it responds to these incidents, and to rebuild fish stocks when it rains” and announced $5 million for a native fish management and recovery strategy that would come from MDBA coffers.
$5 million.

Given the high temperature and luminosity prevailing in regional NSW, a new algal bloom is being forecast any time in the next few days. More mass fish death is predicted.


Those guys met amidst the customary storm of claims and counterclaims following revelations that NSW State authorities had been warned as early as 2012 by the state’s own bureaucracy that the water-sharing rules in place were harming fish populations.

Niall Blair, NSW Minister, claims those warnings were heeded. In his version, it was “a perfect storm of events” that caused the Menindee fish kill.

Richard Kingsford, director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of NSW, disagrees.


Related coverage:
Menindee bracing for another mass fish kill as temperatures soar in NSW
By Kevin Nguyen and Jamie McKinnell. Updated about 2 hours ago


In this kind of post I try not to editorialise. This shall be an exception.

At one hand, I intellectually understand that, once the disaster happened, there’s probably little those guys can do now to fix it. They don’t want to use the word “powerless”. I can understand that. One must await for rain.

Yet, I am angry. That does not no entitle them to just seat on their hands. And that’s what they are doing.

In fact, I dread the possibility of rain, but that’s me. That toxic brew will be flowing downstream. What then? Are we sure we won’t see a repeat of what happened in Menindee all the way to the ocean?

Has anyone bothered to warn residents not to drink that water? I’m no doctor, but I wonder, shouldn’t these people stay the hell away from it? What about supplying them at least with clean water for their personal consumption?

Has anyone verified whether any multicellular animal life survives in those waters?

What about livestock and wildlife? There are informal, anecdotal reports of mass death of land outback life. How much truth they contain?

Couldn’t the mass deaths of galahs and other birds in South Australia last December be related to this?


Maybe I am worrying myself sick for no reason. Perhaps those guys have thought the whole situation through and have everything under control. What do I know?

Still, I would rather have answers now, instead of waiting to see what happens.


Australia is one of the world’s richest countries. There’s no lack of educated people here. Available to our government are resources that people in poorer countries can only imagine. Lots of money went into the Murray Darling Basin. And the only thing we get is Blair babbling brainlessly that insipid “perfect storm” commonplace?

It’s all an act of God. Blame Him, not Blair.

Imagine if (maybe when would be better) something like this happens in poorer, more populous, countries.

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