ENVIRONMENT: by News WeeklyNews Weekly
PM at odds with Murray River report
, May 8, 2004
Prime Minister, John Howard, has indicated his intention to push ahead with plans to commit 500 gigalitres of water to the Murray River for environmental flows, despite the strong recommendation of the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee for the Government to spend at least 10 per cent of the $500 million committed to the project on collecting proper scientific data on the river's health before any more water is committed to environmental flows.
The cross party Agriculture Committee was scathing it its attack on the poor science presented by the Murray Darling Basin Commission (MDBC) and others such as the World Wildlife Fund's Wentworth Group, which favoured large environmental flows down the river at the expense of farmers.
According to Neil Eagle, a citrus grower with long involvement in Murray water issues, the PM is wrong in his inference that the Committee's recommendations contradict the agreement the Federal government has with the states - through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) - to improve the health of the Murray. "It does however indicate that the options most likely to provide River health gains, stated in the MDBC's own Scientific Report and exposed by Dr Lee Benson, are non-flow
options. Yet the MDBC is still advocating flow options. Why?"
Dr Benson was employed by Murray Irrigation, in part to review the scientific findings of key reports of the MDBC.
Mr Eagle said that the PM's statement that the Murray needs a lot more water is not borne out in the MDBC's own scientific reports.
The PM's statement that "almost 80% of the average flow is taken for human use is also incorrect. The fact is, on MDBC's own data, 39% of the average natural flow still goes over the barrages at Goolwa," Mr Eagle said.