As we already know, Australia massively increased its migrant intake in the early-2000s, and this has driven a three-fold increase in Australia’s net overseas migration (NOM) compared to the historical average:
*Accordingly, the Australian population has ballooned by around 6.4 million people (34%) so far this century.
*The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) median projections also have Australia’s population swelling to 42.6 million by 2066, with 17.5 million of that growth to come via NOM:
According to former Australian defence chief Chris Barrie, we have not seen anything yet. Barrie predicts that climate change “will induce a mass migrant invasion of Australia”. From The Australian:
[Barrie] warned that fresh-water shortages, together with crushing population densities across the Indo-Pacific, could unleash a wave of mass migration towards Australia…
[Barrie] said the melting of the Himalayan glacier, which scientists predict will shrink by at least a third if temperatures rise by 1.5C, would create “a very high risk” that fresh water would not be available for hundreds of millions of people…. Countries such as Bangladesh — with a population density of more than 1370 per square km by 2050 — would then start looking towards Australia “for a new home”.
“With the lack of fresh water will also go a lack of food. And once people start, they will do anything,” he said…
Let’s assume Admiral Barrie is right. Then why is Australia already running a mass immigration program in preparation of this climate catastrophe?
Our major cities’ dam storages are already plummeting and becoming increasingly reliant on desalination. Whereas many of our regional areas are gripped with severe drought.
Australia already lacks water supplies for its existing population, let alone tens of millions more people.
At capacity, Lake Burrendong can hold three times as much water as Sydney Harbour. In November 2016, it was at 120 per cent. Now, it’s at 4.4 per cent.Follow this story to get email or text alerts from ABC News when there is a future article following this storyline.Follow this story
Before it was a playground for boating and fishing enthusiasts, Burrendong was “quite a sensible little town”, according to former resident Dale Edwards.
“When I went there, I was under the assumption that it would be resumed, so I sort of agreed to myself — the day would come,” he said.
He said at the time, the feeling among the community was that ultimately the dam was worth it, but they knew the water was taking a lot of “good river country”.
“We stock merino sheep on our property. We were forced to destock most of them last year when the drought really kicked in. We’re now left with really my core breeding stock. I’m just trying to hold on to them for as long as I can. But, it really depends on rain.
“If we don’t get it soon, who knows?”
Wellington is one of the main regional centres near Burrendong and it sits inside the Dubbo Shire.
Mr Campbell said it was difficult to describe the sentiment around town, but admitted the drought and dreams of rain were the main topics of conversation, no matter where you go.
During times of adversity, sport and other social events are the lifeblood of small communities. It’s the same for the NSW central west.
“Oh, they’re crucial!” Mr Campbell said.
“We’ve even got our own farmers’ cricket team going on, not that we’re very good. It’s not so much about the result than it is about the jokes we make on the field and the fact we get to have a beer all together at the end of it.
“Plus, I think all the wives like the fact that we’re out of their hair for a while!”
But, with water restrictions tightening, Mr Campbell is unsure how much longer sporting fields will be watered.
“When it stops, I don’t think anyone will be taking a dive for the ball; they’ll just let it go through for a four.”
is a columnist for The Saturday Paper and a 30-year veteran of
the Canberra Press Gallery.
Coalition flailing on drought
Prime ministers do their best to hide it, but the fact is governing involves mostly flying by the seat of your pants. And this is particularly true for the Morrison administration, now into its sixth month after its surprise election win. It is scrambling to persuade the nation it really knows what it is on about and how it will achieve it. The drought and a stubbornly sluggish economy aren’t helping. Nor is Morrison’s new best mate, Donald Trump.
Journalists who followed the prime minister on his United States odyssey say by the end of last week Morrison was giving every indication he couldn’t wait to escape the Trump bubble. When he was asked to ruminate on the trip’s highs and lows, he gave a lick and a promise to the enduring alliance but quickly added, “The second I touch down, I’ll be taking off again and heading out to drought-affected communities in Australia.”
True to his word, on arrival in Sydney, Morrison jumped from his big jet – “Shark One” – to a smaller one and went straight to the dust bowl that the once-lush Darling Downs have become. There, in trademark fashion, he spoke of the $7 billion for drought relief he had already announced and unveiled another $100 million on top of that. The locals were a tad sceptical. One reporter chimed in, “But you don’t have seven billion in the bank today for drought.” That forced the prime minister to admit the amount “is building up over time”. He said hundreds of millions have already been spent.
Labor is even more sceptical about the $7 billion figure. Shadow minister for agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon says $5 billion of it is the Future Drought Fund, which doesn’t start until next July, and not one cent of the fund goes directly to farmers. As far as Fitzgibbon can see, the total is arrived at by counting $2 billion earmarked for concessional loans – not exactly the sort of relief farmers need, having not pulled an income for several years and with no prospects of doing so for who knows how long.
Fitzgibbon is now calling for the auditor-general to take a close look at the millions the government is spending or says it is. He is convinced much of it is an ad hoc shambles that is pork-barrelling Coalition electorates and ignoring Labor ones. Fuelling his suspicions is the allocation of $1 million of drought relief for the Moyne Shire in south-western Victoria. It was one of 13 council areas nationwide to receive the funding under the Drought Communities Program. At first the government claimed the allocation was based on “the science” in the Bureau of Meteorology’s drought maps. Then it was pointed out the bureau’s maps do not indicate rainfall deficiency for the area.
At its meeting on Tuesday the shire’s councillors unanimously voted not to accept the money. Mayor Mick Wolfe explained, “We are not in a drought down here … We appreciate the offer, but give it to somewhere that really needs it.” The shire is in the safe Liberal electorate of Wannon, held by Education Minister Dan Tehan.
The mayor of the drought-stricken Inverell Shire in New South Wales, Paul Harmon, congratulated the Moyne Shire for its leadership and honesty. He told RN Breakfast it was worth “[asking] the question as to who makes those decisions … That’s probably more the key issue.”THE HANDLING OF THE DROUGHT AND THE ECONOMY DOESN’T QUITE MATCH THE GOVERNMENT’S HYPE. NOR DOES THE MANAGEMENT OF OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR BIGGEST ALLY, THE US.
Midweek, Labor leader Anthony Albanese did some pre-emptive drought touring to the southern Queensland town of Stanthorpe, which is rapidly running out of water. He claims he was invited by the locals. His arrival came neatly a day ahead of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Water Resources Minister David Littleproud’s flagged three-day drought pilgrimage.
Labor says the government has had a drought taskforce, a drought co-ordinator, a drought envoy and a drought summit. “What we need,” Albanese said, “is actually a drought strategy, and the government simply doesn’t have one.” Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie assured ABC Radio she is working on it: a disarmingly frank admission from a government now into its seventh year.
The National Farmers’ Federation is not impressed. It says the country doesn’t have a wide, strategic drought policy. McKenzie bristles at the criticism, saying, “We’re waiting on the NFF to actually provide us with their views around what we should include in a long-term drought strategy before we release ours.” Fitzgibbon says it’s a great pity that one of the first things the Abbott government did in 2013 was tear up the historic intergovernmental agreement steered through the Council of Australian Governments. That process was to review all drought agreements and policies and “start again”.
Of course, if we are going to talk about the long term, it is simply crazy that a more serious commitment to climate change action is not also in the mix. The conflict the Nationals in particular have – between their coalminers and their farmers – goes a long way to explaining their science-denying myopia.
The economic impact of the drought is not expected to show up until the cropping season in December and January. But even so, agriculture accounts for only 2 per cent of the economy; other factors are at work in the Reserve Bank’s decision this week to drop the official cash rate to a historic low of 0.75 per cent. This is the first time the rate has dropped below 1 per cent, and it is a long way below the 3 per cent “emergency levels” the Liberals scoffed at during the global financial crisis.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg tried to assure the nation everything was under control – which goes with his job description as booster in chief. Economist Stephen Koukoulas says the figures don’t suggest we are heading for a recession. That has been mightily helped by our strong export performance in “volume and prices”. Some believe this should have been enough to stay the Reserve Bank’s hand, especially in light of warnings from former treasurer Peter Costello and business figures that the downward spiral of interest rates would hurt confidence and may even revive unsustainable debt by way of a reinflated housing bubble.
On this last point the treasurer seems oblivious. His first reaction to the rate cut was to urge the banks to pass it on in full. There is a marked reluctance to do so, and this has a lot to do with their need to attract depositors by not cutting the rates on offer to investors. On that point, the government will be under renewed pressure to adjust the deeming rates it uses to calculate pension payments. At present the rate is 1.75 per cent up to a certain income threshold, and 3 per cent once that threshold is passed. Seniors’ groups say the deeming rates were already too high before this latest cash rate cut, meaning pensioners are hit by a lower government benefit as well as a lower rate of income from any savings they have.
Frydenberg is resisting calls to do more to stimulate the economy, saying he is sticking to his economic plan. That boils down to waiting for the already paid tax cuts to somehow begin flowing into spending – they haven’t yet – and to talk up the 10-year $100 billion infrastructure spending. In broad terms, that’s $10 billion a year, but in a $1.9 trillion economy it is not as much as it sounds. Labor says much of that infrastructure spending should be brought forward, along with the next tranche of tax cuts. But the other part of the plan is a budget surplus next year, which as far as the government is concerned will happen come hell or high water.
That surplus is supposed to be the touchstone of the Liberals’ superior economic management. But unless the economy begins translating into higher wages and more work hours for those with jobs, there won’t be much political dividend. Underemployment is now at 8.6 per cent; a year ago it was 8.1 per cent. That’s the slack in the labour market the Reserve Bank governor, Philip Lowe, keeps talking about.
The handling of the drought and the economy doesn’t quite match the government’s hype. Nor does the management of our relationship with our biggest ally, the US. Or, more precisely, with President Donald Trump. One of Australia’s most experienced diplomats and a former ambassador to Washington, John McCarthy, believes the Morrison government has appeared too eager to embroil itself in US domestic politics. He told RN Breakfast it has landed itself in “a spot” it should have avoided. He is critical of our willingness to assist Trump in his mission to discredit the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election campaign.
In Trump’s sights is Australia’s former high commissioner to Britain Alexander Downer, for passing on to Canberra the boast of then Trump aide George Papadopoulos that they had Russian-supplied dirt on Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton. As a Five Eyes intelligence partner, Canberra passed that on to Washington, which triggered an FBI investigation. Trump sees it all as a political plot to damage him.
But McCarthy’s fears may be premature. The fact that Trump called Morrison on September 5, about three months after Australia’s ambassador to Washington, Joe Hockey, promised to provide “all relevant information”, is a strong indication Australia was not providing enough.
In a Sky News interview, Morrison threw almost no light on “his brief conversation” with Trump. He tried to say there was nothing extraordinary in the president calling for “a point of contact between the Australian government and the US attorney”. The whole unbelievable tone was “there’s nothing to see here”. Evidently, he was just doing his best to fly by the seat of his pants.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 5, 2019 as “Beyond the shadow of a drought”. Subscribe here.
Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s vision for the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro scheme to power Australia’s renewable energy future looks like coming at a huge cost.
*Although a 2000-page environmental impact assessment released last week has given a green light to the largest electricity infrastructure project ever undertaken,expert objections to its cost in financial and environmental terms are alarming.
*“Initially promised at $2 billion, it was quickly revised to $4 billion and a contract for part of its construction has been agreed at $5.1 billion,” said Dr Bruce Mountain, director of the Victoria Energy Policy Centre.
*Twenty square kilometres of largely undisturbed native alpine bush would be affected, with nine million cubic metres of excavated rock spoil to be dumped throughout the park including in existing reservoirs, reducing their active storage capacities and stream flows.
But the most disturbing critique has come through Dr Mountain’s analysis of the business case for Snowy 2.0 and its cost to taxpayers.
*When completed, Snowy 2.0 would not have a monopoly in Australia’s national electricity market.
“There has been no credible market assessment and this alone represents an unjustified risk,” Dr Mountain told The New Daily.
His centre is undertaking a market impact study.
*The NSW NPA has said that a price tag of $10 billion for Snowy 2.0 now looks more likely when the cost of massive transmission upgrades and ongoing transmission operating costs to connect its new underground pumped hydropower station to the national grid is taken into account.
All of this capital and operating expenditure would buy a facility with 2000MW of production able to transmit to the national grid over several days if fully charged.
“It is inconceivable that Snowy 2.0 will produce revenues that are vaguely close to that needed to compensate its capital outlays,” Dr Mountain said.
“This is because the volume of electricity it can produce, valued at the difference between the price paid to pump water uphill and the price received when running the water back down the hill again, will be too small.”
Dr Mountain said his objections could be validated through comparison with the pumped hydro system now operating in Wales, which had comparable capacity to Snowy 2.0 as currently projected.
The market value of the Wales system was a “small fraction” of its initial build and subsequent refurbishment costs.
Mr Dunnett said pumped hydro unquestionably had an important role to play in our future energy mix.
“That doesn’t mean that every pumped hydro project has acceptable environmental credentials, and Snowy 2.0 is simply the wrong project in the wrong place,” Mr Dunnett said.
“There are many better energy storage options that are more efficient, less costly and much less damaging to the environment.
“Snowy 2.0 doesn’t stack up environmentally or economically.”
The EIS, which has been published without government fanfare, reported that only 0.25 per cent of Kosciuszko National Park would be within a “disturbance footprint”.
Snowy 2.0 is the largest engineering project ever undertaken in Australia and was “the most complex hydro-electric scheme in the world”.
It will link the existing Tantangara and Talbingo reservoirs through a series of new underground tunnels and a hydro-electric power station, to be constructed within an underground cavern.
The scheme was justified in the context of Australia’s renewable energy future by providing 2000MW of dispatchable generating capacity to “ensure the stability and reliability of the national electricity market even during prolonged weather events such as wind or solar ‘droughts’.”
Snowy 2.0 will pump water through underground tunnels to the power station for “quick-start” electricity generation at critical times of peak demand “including when intermittent renewable energy output or thermal generation is low”.
The EIS reported that the requirement for an urgent and more stable transition to renewables had been confirmed by independent experts, including the Finkel Review.
Although other potential pumped hydro-electric storage sites had been identified, the planning and lead times were too long.
Snowy 2.0 is due to be operational by the mid-2020s.
But Dr Mountain said the project should now be paused because of the rapidly escalating costs.
“My central point is that something that is as risky and expensive as this demands a proper public assessment and market testing,” Dr Mountain said.
“An investment bank should be retained to estimate how much Snowy 2.0 would be worth if it was built.
“We should pause the project until this is done. This is desperately needed to provide confidence to taxpayers that their money will not be flushed down the drain.”
Quentin Dempster is a Walkley Award-winning journalist, author and broadcaster. He is a veteran of the ABC newsroom. He was awarded an Order of Australia in 1992 for services to journalism
“We asked Alan how he was coping. He said he was coping quite good up until the week the trees were starting to die and he’s been struggling since then.”
The federal Department of Agriculture said independent experts had visited each of the properties and were preparing reports.
“Negotiations on the terms of a potential agreement are expected to commence in October, once the department has considered the independent expert advice and is satisfied that any future agreement would represent value for money,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.
Victoria takes an interest
The looming end of irrigated horticulture in the lower Darling has begun to capture political attention south of the River Murray.
Independent state MPs Suzanna Sheed and Ali Cupper toured the area and visited the Whyte and Strachan properties earlier this year.
Victorian Government staff briefed stakeholders in Mildura about the state’s role in the project, which aims to offset 100 gigalitres of water by reducing evaporation and improving efficiency.
The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning said it wanted to make sure the project did not leave irrigators, communities or the environment worse off.
“We want to ensure the proposed project doesn’t have any adverse impact on reliability and deliverability of water supplies for Victorian Murray water users, downstream communities including those around Mildura, and environmental values,” a spokeswoman said.
The National Party wants an urgent overhaul of the New South Wales Independent Planning Commission (IPC), as Deputy Premier John Barilaro forges ahead with his goal of making the state Australia’s top mining investment destination.
Nationals MPs want changes to the planning commission to give foreign investors certainty over the approvals process for major developments
The calls come in response to the rejection of a proposed multi-million-dollar Bylong Valley coal mine
The independent commission was brought in last year in the wake of corruption under the former Labor government
The party says without changes, the Government will be forced to “tax the hell out of people”, with foreign investors having no certainty in the planning process on major developments.
South Korean company Kepco spent $700 million buying and developing land for its proposed Bylong Valley coal mine in the state’s central west, only for it to be refused by the IPC.
Now, Mr Barilaro said he feared potential investors would not pursue projects in NSW unless changes were made.
“Uncertainty around the IPC’s decision-making process is creating a sovereign risk for mining investment in NSW,” he said.
“There is a lack of consistency, a lack of certainty, and the length of time taken to reach some of these decisions is unacceptable.
“Potential investors don’t have to pursue projects in NSW, and unless there are changes to the IPC, the concern is that many will choose not to.”
There has also been criticism from the NSW Minerals Council, which has launched a public campaign calling on the State Government to act.
“The IPC now seems to be setting its own policy agenda, ignoring the policy settings of the elected government of the day,” chief executive Stephen Galilee said.
“It’s ignoring the assessment recommendations of the Department of Planning itself, and making determinations based on a different set of circumstances other than the priorities of the elected governments.
Michael Johnsen, the Nationals Member for the Upper Hunter, said an independent body had a place in the decision-making process but that a significant review was needed.
“I think that’s only fair and reasonable, but they should be an advisory body, not a decision-making body,” he said.
“We can’t have an independent body turn around and basically go against all the recommendations and all the experts. That’s wrong. It can’t happen.”
The Bylong Valley decision is seemingly the tipping point for those calling for change.
“I actually want to see the State Government, through cabinet, take back control of the decision making with state-significant developments,” Mr Johnsen said.
“The state’s own major infrastructure projects don’t go through the process — if it’s good enough for the private sector, why not give it to the public sector as well?”
“If we’ve got some levels of falling revenue, we’ve got two choices to make it up: we can tax the hell out of people, or we can bring back some confidence into the international investment market and invest and create jobs and income in NSW.”
But Martin Rush, the Mayor of Muswellbrook Shire, which is the largest producer of coal in the state, was quick to remind the Government that it established the IPC.
“They set the system up and said, ‘This will be great, it’ll take the political decision making out of the process and make it a fair process, it’ll take the politics out’,” Cr Rush, a former ALP candidate, said.
“Then when they get a decision they don’t like, they attack it.
“I think the IPC, broadly speaking, could be better resourced, but it is certainly doing the job that they need to do.”
While Kepco could challenge the Bylong Valley judgment in court, the Government is unlikely to step in.
“It doesn’t have the power to overturn this particular decision without making retrospective changes to legislation, and there’s no appetite to do that,” Mr Johnsen said.
“I wouldn’t recommend the Government make retrospective changes; that’s always a bit of a dangerous thing to do.”
‘They just can’t leave anything alone, they want to exercise what they consider their right to interfere in natural processes that have determined the landscape for millions of years.
I have briefly visited this area and can say it’s fragile, really fragile. It’s so fragile that it may take years for a vehicle’s track to be erased.
It is a beautiful place that should be allowed to remain largely untouched, that only superficial impacts be made, let the water flow, the grasses grow and die, the animals live as they have forever and actually reduce the stocking rates so that over time the Kimberley area is more like it was prior to European settlement and interference!
IMAGINE what a unique place it could be, like one huge national park managed on behalf of all of us by the traditional owners.
We loved the Kimberley’s, it’s a magnificent place despite what we have done to it over the last 150 years, let’s hope it has a sustainable future.’
Battle for the Fitzroy River: Kimberley divided over bid to harvest precious resource
It is being pitched as a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to create hundreds of jobs in Western Australia’s far north.
Heavily redacted emails obtained under Freedom of Information shed light on tense negotiations about the future of the Kimberley’s Fitzroy River
Media was not permitted to attend a meeting of stakeholders held in August
Proponents of a plan to harvest water from the river say it is a once in a lifetime opportunity
Proponents say tapping into the mighty Fitzroy River for irrigation could “supercharge” the region’s cattle industry, using water that would otherwise run “uselessly” into the ocean.
But, as negotiations ramp up between those who want to harvest water and those who want to protect the heritage-listed river, there is growing concern about the consultation process.
A recent complaint to the WA Government, obtained by the ABC under Freedom of Information (FOI), reveals claims of “aggression” and “intimidation” at the latest meeting of stakeholders.
Held in Fitzroy Crossing in August, the gathering of more than 60 stakeholders was the first time that many Aboriginal traditional owners, who live along the river, had met in the same room with the cattle industry to try to find some common ground.
The meeting was held behind closed doors, with stakeholders agreeing to a variation of the “Chatham House rule” to keep the discussions off-limits to the media.
But, the heavily redacted emails released under FOI have cast some light on the nature of the confidential negotiations.
In a joint email to the State Government, environmental groups, Pew Charitable Trusts and Environs Kimberley, criticised an unsuccessful push to remove their representatives from the meeting as an attempt to “intimidate and stifle debate” on the future of the river.
“We havenot been subject to the level of aggression and disrespect displayed in this meeting in our combined 30 years of dealing with mining, agricultural and other development proposals in WA,” the groups said.
Criticism of another stakeholder at the Fitzroy meeting, they claimed, had been “disrespectfully and unnecessarily aggressively delivered and sustained for an uncomfortable and intimidating length of time”.
“This unacceptable behaviour was not controlled or managed in any way by the WA Government departmental officers nor consultants, despite this being a taxpayer-funded meeting,” the email said.
Media were not allowed into the meeting and were asked to move away from the public area outside the conference room at the Fitzroy River Lodge.
Asked in the days following the meeting if there was any record of the proceedings, a Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) spokesperson said that no formal minutes had been taken.
It has since been revealed, through the FOI emails, that department staff themselves were also asked to leave the meeting.
In a response to the complaint by Pew and Environs Kimberley, the Department acknowledged the forum had been “challenging at times” with some “intense conversations” but that it had “respected the wishes of all for a stakeholder-led process.”
It said it could not comment on the push to remove conservation groups from the meeting or the decision to uphold “Chatham House rules”.
“These issues were raised, and we were advised agreed to, during the period when State Government and others [redacted] were asked to leave the room.”
‘One river for all of us’
The only public record of what happened at the Fitzroy Crossing meeting is a communique, reporting “broad agreement” by the stakeholders on a list of principles.
The document entitled “One River for All of Us, Black and White” describes the two days of discussions as “wide-ranging and constructive” and said that the forum had agreed that “groundwater and surface water extraction … may be considered”.
Pew and Environs Kimberley have distanced themselves from the communique:
“At no time did we understand that we were agreeing to principles for development proposals,” their joint email said.
“Our position remains that there is a very strong case for protecting the river
“The Fitzroy is part of our national heritage and is the life-blood for thousands of traditional owners … “
In its response, DPIRD said it believed the communique was a genuine reflection of the discussions among stakeholders.
«Page 1 of 2»
The WA Government hopes to release a draft water plan for the Fitzroy River early next year
The ABC knows of only two proposals.
Go Go station has had a long-standing proposal to take 50 gigalitres from the Fitzroy catchment to irrigate fodder crops.
*And billionaire,GINA RINEHART’s company, HANCOCK AGRICULTURE has three cattle stations in the Kimberley and reported ambitions to harvest 325 gigalitres of water.*
*The company outlined a proposal to the Director General of DPIRD earlier this year whereby land from its Fossil Downs station could be incorporated into a new Fitzroy River national park in exchange for access to water.
*The ABC has made numerous requests to Hancock Agriculture for comment but it has declined or not responded.
Backing up the case for large-scale irrigation is a CSIRO report which found 1,700 gigalitres of water could be taken from the Fitzroy catchment annually to support 160,000 ha of crops.
The CSIRO calculated the mean annual discharge into the ocean at about 6,600 gigalitres.
*But, the recent negotiations between the stakeholders have been taking place against a backdrop of parched river beds.
*Chantelle Murray, an indigenous ranger from Gooniyandi, one of a number of groups with native title rights across the massive Fitzroy catchment, has already made up her mind on the prospect of water being harvested for agriculture.
*“The water should be flowing free as it has always been,” Ms Murray said.
“Let it be free … don’t interrupt with nature.
“Our small billabongs will be dried up and our way of living will be changed.
“Twenty years from now, we’ll have our grandkids and great grandkids asking:
“There’s very little resources that the council has, to be able to generate its own research, to be able to peer review some of the processes that are going on with the river.
*“They [the elders] are also quite concerned that there doesn’t seem to be the opportunity to get out to community to talk to the people who live on the land who are going to be most impacted by this development.”
CEO of the Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen’s Association, Emma White, said the consultation process was important because it aimed to set out not only what amounts of surface and ground water from the catchment may be available for sustainable economic development but also what needed to be safeguarded for environmental and cultural flows.
Ms White said the participants at the Fitzroy Forum had agreed to observe “Chatham House rules” in conducting the meeting and provide no media comment.
But she added in a statement:
“This does not prevent participants in the forum discussing issues relating to the meeting or the election commitments with relevant Government agencies nor amongst their own organisations/relevant groups.
“The association looks forward to continuing to work constructively and collaboratively with all stakeholders in relation to the implementation of the Fitzroy Valley election commitments and to build on the shared sentiment from the August Fitzroy forum of “One river for All of Us, Black and White.”
The drought crisis crippling parts of the eastern seaboard may come to a head within weeks as several regional centres are set to completely run out of water within two months.
Parts of regional NSW could run out of water as early as November, with data showing the worst-case scenario for the state if there’s no rain or government intervention.
The projections from NSW’s river operator and bulk water supplier, WaterNSW, show without significant rain, the first towns to lose water supply will be Dubbo, Cobar, Nyngan and Narromine in central NSW, with the Macquarie River forecast to run dry by November.
Normally, the Macquarie River experiences an average inflow of 1448 gigalitres a year, but in the past two years has seen just 97 gigalitres enter the river system, the data, seen by AAP shows.
Meanwhile, the Queensland state government has announced drastic measures to combat the falling water levels and keep some of its regional towns alive.
The NSW situation has been described as “critical” by state Water Minister Melinda Pavey, with the government insisting it’s doing everything it can to make sure the state gets through the devastating drought.
*Australia’s longest river – the Murray – has been severely affected with 901 gigalitres of water entering the system in the past 12 months, compared with its annual average of 5000 gigalitres.
*The data shows that Menindee Lakes, which is a source of flows for the lower Darling and is a vital fish nursery, received just six gigalitres of water in the past year.
Its annual inflow average is 1387 gigalitres.
The lakes sit within the town of Menindee, which experienced mass fish deaths along the Darling River last summer.
Residents have questioned the drainage of the lakes twice in 2017 with some suggesting the fish carnage wouldn’t have happened if the lakes were full.
The WaterNSW data shows the lakes received 2100 gigalitres of water in 2016-17 followed by just 52 gigalitres of water in 2017-18.
*Under the worst-case scenario, the Lachlan River, which runs through the state’s central west, is projected to run dry by March 2020 leaving the towns of Forbes, Cowra and Parkes without water supply.
The river is the fourth-longest in Australia and annually receives an average of 1212 gigalitres of water, but in the last year recorded inflows of just 107 gigalitres.
The state’s north-west, including the small towns of Manilla and Boggabri, could also run out of water by the same date if the upper Namoi River doesn’t receive any rainfall.
A group of rivers that straddle the NSW and Queensland border and supply water to the towns of Boggabilla, Ashford and Goondiwindi, received just 17 gigalitres of inflows in the past year compared to an annual average of 1000 gigalitres.
WaterNSW also predicted the Border rivers will run dry by September 2020 without government intervention and rain.
Water is projected to stop flowing from taps in the northern NSW town of Inverell in March 2021 where the Gwydir River, which usually receives 1141 gigalitres of rain a year, will dry up after just 19 gigalitres entered the system last year.
The data predicts that most of Sydney’s water supply will remain flowing until at least October 2021 when, under the worst-case scenario, the upper Nepean River will run dry.
Australia’s largest urban water-supply dam – Warragamba Dam – is projected to stop flowing by January 2022, according to the data.
Warragamba Dam received 105 gigalitres of water in the last year, compared with its annual average of 1069 gigalitres.
With the exception of only parts of Western Australia and the west coast of Tasmania, the outlook for rainfall across the country is below average.
Relief for southern Queensland
With less rainfall and high temperatures, it means some governments are resorting to drastic measures to keep towns hydrated.
Over the weekend Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that the Queensland government would provide $800,000 a month to truck in water to drought-stricken Stanthorpe, about 220 kilometres south-west of Brisbane.
Between 30 and 40 trucks will cart the water into the town every day.
A further $2.4 million will be spent on two one-megalitre tanks in Stanthorpe to hold supplies that will be trucked in when the dwindling local dams run out.
The drastic measure will ensure residents of the town will have a secure drinking water supply until 2020.
“With bushfires following the prolonged drought, Stanthorpe will not be left to battle through this alone,” Ms Palaszczuk said.