THE NSW Government’s announcement of funding for the construction of a new pipeline from the Murray River to supply the town of Broken Hill has been met with mixed reactions.
NSW Premier Mike Baird today announced the 270-kilometre pipeline was part of a $500 million investment in the 2016-17 Budget.
“This is the single biggest investment to secure a town’s water supply in the history of NSW,” Mr Baird said.
“Water security has been a constant challenge for Broken Hill since it was founded in 1883. This unprecedented investment will provide a reliable water source for the historic township and surrounding communities for the first time in history.
“Everyone should have access to clean and secure water and this pipeline will provide certainty to businesses and residents to give this region every opportunity to prosper.”
Mr Baird said the final structure of the project would be determined in the near future, and while the community would be asked to contribute to the cost of the project, the government would ensure any increase in rates was introduced very gradually.
Pipeline construction is expected to begin early next year and be completed by late 2018.
Cotton Australia has welcomed the announcement as a win for the town, its people and farmers.
Cotton Australia general manager Michael Murray says the Wentworth pipeline was the best of three options considered by the government.
“Broken Hill’s water supply has been under pressure for a long time, and we congratulate the NSW Government in committing to take action to secure the long-term future for water in Broken Hill,” he said.
“Drought-proofing the city will undoubtedly provide more flexibility in managing the Menindee Lakes, allowing optimal use of water resources in the system for environmental and irrigation purposes.”
“We understand the interim use of bore water to supply Broken Hill will cause some concern among residents in the short term, but the long-term dividend is the greater security of water by sourcing it from the Murray River.”
But the Greens NSW water spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham has come out swinging, accusing the premier of condemning the Darling River to death by committing to the pipeline rather than spending money and creating policies to revive the Darling River as Broken Hill’s water supply.
“This is a tragic day for the Darling River and Menindee Lakes. Today Mike Baird has confirmed the worst fears of those living in Broken Hill and the far west. Building this pipeline facilitates the Darling River being sucked dry by upstream irrigators without causing water problems for Broken Hill,” he said.
“The Greens believe the answer is to revive the Darling River. To implement policies to ensure surface water flows down the Darling from small and medium rain events, rather than having all the water taken by irrigators in Southern Queensland and NSW.
“The Greens believe the $500 million should instead be spent on infrastructure works to make the Menindee Lakes System more efficient, including raising Weir 32, installing a regulator between Lake Menindee and Lake Cawndilla, and buying back Cubbie Station or at least some of their water rights to return flows to the river.”