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Environmental agency illegally taking water – Government must properly account for Toorale diversions

25 February, 2020
Environmental agency illegally taking water – Government must properly account for Toorale diversions Image

Member for Barwon Roy Butler has called for the immediate reopening of the Water Sharing Plan for the Intersecting Streams Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources 2011 given the moves by government to install permanent water diversions on Toorale Station.

“In 2008, when Toorale was purchased, a very clear message was delivered to the public and to the State and Federal Parliament’s that this purchase was about returning water to the Warrego River,” said Mr Butler.

“This is no longer the case, with the Commonwealth and State Governments making a complete turnaround. They’re now actively pursuing a path that will see the earthen structures removed to make way for permanent concrete regulators.

“They’ve been drip-feeding the community and farmers’ information about the need to keep these structures in place for the environment.

“What the Government needs to realise is that by installing permanent concrete regulators, you effectively make the Warrego River a regulated river below Toorale. The Water Sharing Plan makes no provision for this fact.

“The government must reopen the Water Sharing Plan so these diversions can be properly accounted for, and the community can be properly consulted on the potential impacts on their livelihoods and communities.

“In the current plan, there is no provision for the measurement of any of the water being diverted onto the floodplain at Toorale.

“If an irrigator was caught diverting water out of a river without an accurate measuring device they will be correctly taken to court, because it's illegal.

“Given the flow event currently entering the Warrego, it is crucial that this water be factored into equations when upstream embargoes are being considered. 

“Fair is fair, the embargoes were needed to allow the severely drought stricken Barwon-Darling system to restart.

“I will not support any embargo that assists an environmental agency illegally taking water below the embargoed sites,” said Mr Butler.

Mr Butler has written to Natural Resource Access Regulator and the Water Minister requesting the Water Sharing Plan be reopened.

“I have asked the Government to reopen this plan so that provisions are made for the measurement of water diverted onto the floodplain, and that Warrego River Water Sharing Plan at least below Toorale be made a regulated river Water Sharing Plan and the downstream community be consulted, “said Mr Butler.

In addition to writing to the Natural Resource Access Regulator and the Minister Mr Butler has made a submission to the Toorale Water Infrastructure Project – Phase 2 Review of Environmental Factors which outlined the following concerns:

  • Contrary to Water Management Act 2000, government agencies involved believe that they don't have to accurately measure the water diverted by the proposed concrete regulating structure from the Warrego River onto the Western Floodplain.
  • There is currently no effective Warrego Water Sharing Plan, the Water Management Act 2000 requires that diversions be accurately measured and that downstream impacts are taken into account.
  • The stated purpose for the purchase of Toorale Station has been completely tipped on its head without any proper public discussion including with downstream farmers and the Menindee community.

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