The Brazen Theft of Water from the Murray-Darling is Outrageous

If you saw this story, you’d be shocked.

I was. Here’s what I’ve had to say to the media

Four Corners Revelations Leave Barwon Reeling

Four Corners’ expose of water theft, limp prosecutions and secret meetings with favoured irrigators have called into question the integrity of the former NSW Water Minister Kevin Humphries, the senior leadership of the Department of Primary Industries, and Rural Water Minister Niall Blair.

The programme revealed:

  • The senior leadership of DPI Water secretly plotted walking away from the Murray Darling Basin Plan with irrigators.
  • DPI Water leaders offered irrigator lobbyists access to highly confidential internal DPI documents for them to use in a joint campaign against the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
  • DPI Leaders ignored widespread meter-tampering amongst irrigators after being told by DPI investigators.
  • DPI disbanded the ‘Special Investigations Unit’ set up to investigate water crimes despite a series of scathing reports about water theft in the Barwon.

Following these revelations, Rural Water Minister Niall Blair must immediately answer the following questions:

  1. Was the Minister aware that his predecessor as Minister for Water Kevin Humphries allegedly told irrigators to ignore a ban imposed on them that was meant to ensure water flowed to Broken Hill?
  2. When did he become aware that irrigators along the river were tampering with water gauges and hoarding millions of litres of scarce water? What action has he taken about these allegations?
  3. Was the Minister aware of the Deputy DG of Primary Industries’ secret meetings with irrigators? Did he, or his Office, approve them?
  4. Does the Minister endorse the actions of the Department of Primary Industries Deputy DG that it is appropriate to ‘de-badge’ confidential Government documents so that they could be supplied to lobbyists working for irrigators?
  5. Did he have any knowledge of the decision to disband the Special Investigations Unit whose responsibility was enforcement of the Water Management Act and was responsible for supplying drinkable water for communities down stream?
  6. Is he still committed to the Murray Darling Basin Plan? Will he rule out New South Wales walking away?
  7. Does he have confidence in the leadership of the Department of Primary Industries?

Quotes Attributable to Daniel Mookhey MLC:

“For every resident of the lower-darling who remembers the yellow water coming from their taps. For every farmer who had to refinance their loans after losing water-entitlements — watching last night’s programme must have been gut-wrenching.

“They placed their trust in a Government that told them to suffer through the drought. Even though they suspected northern irrigator wrong-doing, they were told to trust DPI’s ‘rigourous’ water enforcement.

“Last night’s programme exposed those statements as a sham. They were lied to, plain and simple. They’re entitled to feel betrayed.

“Time and time again, successive National Party Water Ministers have had the opportunity to manage the tensions between Northern and Southern water users impartially and with integrity.

“Time and time again, they’ve failed. They backed their favoured irrigators and abandoned cities like Broken Hill.

“Minister Blair, the Deputy Leader of the NSW Nationals, has a fast-closing window to come forward and answer questions. He should do so today.

“When Parliament resumes shortly, NSW Labor will use all its available powers to get answers for the whole Barwon community.

NSW Labor is not going to let this issue rest. Parliament is back soon. Expect action.