SA accused of double standards in Basin Plan

South Australia accused of Murray Darling water double dealing


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Upstream states and irrigators have accused South Australia of double standards, following revelations it substituted 45 gigalitres of a 150GL environmental flow event in 2016.

Upstream states and irrigators have accused South Australia of double standards, following revelations it substituted 45 gigalitres of a 150GL environmental flow event in 2016.

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South Australia substituted 45GL of environment water for consumptive use

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UPDATED Wednesday 11/10

IS it a case of pot calling the kettle black for South Australian Water Minister Ian Hunter?

It was revealed this week SA state’s water agency withheld 45 gigalitres from an environmental flow to protect supply for consumptive use.

In late 2015, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder David Papps, who irrigates the environment using a portfolio of water entitlements held under the Murray Darling Basin Plan, wrote to South Australia urging it not to withhold the 45GL, which was to be timed to coincide with his planned release of 150GL from Hume Dam.

Mr Papps sent his water down the Murray, on top of already high flows, to flush salt through the Lower Lakes and the Coorong wetlands and out to sea.

But SA Water Minister Ian Hunter said SA’s 45GL was deferred to sure up supply for human consumption and high security water entitlements.

Mr Hunter has been scathing in his criticism of upstream states implementation of the Basin Plan, criticising them for undermining the intent of the reform, which aims to deliver more water to environmental environmental assets along the system and increase and downstream flows out to sea.

Mr Hunter has led calls for a Royal Commission into allegations that NSW government “gamed” the Basin Plan, particularly with access arrangements under state water sharing plans in the unregulated Barwon Darling system, near the Queensland border.

NSW and Victorian water ministers piled on in response to the news of SA’s deferral.

“No matter what the justification, this raises questions about the SA government’s commitment to the environmental objectives set out in the Basin plan. The public deserves an explanation,” said NSW Water Minister Niall Blair.

Mr Hunter said SA’s deferral plans were approved by the MDBA.

The 150GL flow from Mr Papps reached its target, while SA deferred 35GL for future critical human water needs and 10GL for future delivery of private carryover to entitlement holders. 

SA Water Minister Ian Hunter.

SA Water Minister Ian Hunter.

“SA has and continues to act in accordance with the Plan,” he said.

“It is a desperate attempt from the NSW and Commonwealth Liberal-National Governments to distract from the serious allegations raised about illegal conduct and attempts to undermine the (Basin) Plan. 

“We have never diverted any Commonwealth environmental water. We have nothing to hide. My offer to them: let’s have a Royal Commission and put all of these allegations on the table.”

Water sharing plans are also approved under the Basin Plan, and previous accusations from SA that NSW industry has undermined the intent of the reform has spurred industry groups to take aim at Mr Hunter.

“Don't pontificate to us about people abiding by the spirit of the Basin Plan intent when it is now obvious you have a double standard in SA,” said NSW Irrigators chief executive Mark McKenzie.

“We are sick of being preached at by Mr Hunter. You can’t have one rule for SA and another for other Basin states.”

National Irrigators chief executive Steve Whan said the deferral showed “you can’t just take an attitude of being holier than thou” on water reform.

“If SA want to achieve the Basin Plan, including the 450GL of upwater, they need to cooperate and work with the eastern states and irrigators along the whole system.”

Australian Conservation Foundation has been a vocal critic of NSW’s water sharing plans, which have come under scrutiny due to the fact some classes of water licences in the Barwon can pump during an environmental flow.

ACF nature campaign manager James Trezise said it was imperative the Basin received the full benefit of water recovered for the environment.

Australian Conservation Foundation has been a vocal critic of NSW’s water sharing plans, which have come under scrutiny due to the fact some classes of water licences in the Barwon can pump during an environmental flow.

ACF nature campaign manager James Trezise said it was imperative the Basin received the full benefit of water recovered for the environment.

“No state, be it NSW or South Australia, should be diverting environmental water when it can help restore the rivers, wetlands and wildlife of the Basin.

“This again demonstrates why we need a national judicial inquiry to look at the Basin Plan’s implementation and compliance across all states.”

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