Tuesday 29 January 2019

Murray-Darling Royal Commission Reports.


The shock of this latest Menindee mass fish kill distracted me from other matters. Apologies to readers.

Yesterday the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission (SA-MDBRC) officially delivered its report to SA Governor Hieu Van and to the SA State Government. As she traces the history of the SA-MDBRC, the ABC News’ Leah MacLennan sheds much needed light on a series of subjects crucial to understand this drama:
  • What is the Murray-Darling Basin Plan?
  • Why did SA decide to hold a royal commission? (Me: The ABC Four Corner’s July 24 2017 report “Pumped: Who’s benefitting from the billions spent on the Murray-Darling?” was critical in this decision).
  • The Commonwealth and state governments, however, refused to attend public hearings. (Me: Normally, it is mandatory to give evidence to royal commissions. Malcolm Turnbull was, at the time, Prime Minister of Australia).
  • Former Commonwealth public servants, however, provided evidence of mismanagement and fraud.

Over the last few years ABC News has covered this subject. That includes the evidence David Bell and Dr Matthew Colloff -- two former Commonwealth employees -- gave to the SA-MDBRC. These two notes report their evidence:

Plan to shrink lakes under Murray-Darling Basin Plan is 'environmental vandalism', whistleblower warns.
By Rebecca Puddy. Updated June 16, 2018, 12:32pm

That’s Bell’s testimony. Highlights from Puddy’s report:
“Following implementation of the basin plan, I consider there has been some unnecessary undermining of it, including through failure to recover real water; buying water back at inflated prices and acquiring water back through efficiency measures,” Mr Bell said in his statement. “I think some of that water is fictitious, which undermines the water rights system.”
“In my view some SDL projects create a risk of serious harm to the environment,” he said. “In that regard, the proposed Menindee Lakes project is nothing short of environmental vandalism and should not proceed.”
David Bell’s full witness statement to the SA-MDBRC.

Scientist accuses Murray-Darling Basin Authority of interfering with research in scathing account
By Isabel Dayman. June 26, 2018, 6:35am.

Covers  Colloff’s testimony. Highlights:
“We were being managed … in such a way that our job became effectively a rubber stamping of the MDBA’s findings,” he said.
“What was clear to us … [was] that they were constantly iterating down the environmental water requirement.”
Matt Colloff’s full witness statement.


The Menindee Lakes project mentioned above and ubiquitous in the media reporting:

The pipeline plan that will drain the lower Darling River dry
‘If you think this is bad,’ say locals of recent mass fish kills, ‘just wait until the Menindee Lakes project goes ahead’
By Anne Davies and Mike Bowers. January 23, 2019 04.00 AEDT

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