Darling River Fish Kill: sacrificed by Basin management

The Australia Institute welcomes the Labor Party proposal to hold a Commission of Inquiry into the mass fish kill at Menindee Lakes last week. 

“The blame game for the mass fish deaths is well and truly on. The Prime Minister blames the drought, the NSW Water Minister blames the Commonwealth, upstream blames downstream, and downstream blames upstream,” said Rod Campbell, Research Director at The Australia Institute.

“Australia Institute research has shown that the Lower Darling and Menindee Lakes has been mismanaged by many over a long period of time.

“Approximately two Sydney Harbours worth of water has been taken out of the region in the last two years.

“Repeated policy failure in the management of the Lower Darling and Menindee Lakes has implications for major projects, irrigation and the environment throughout the Basin.

“The hundreds of thousands of fish like the Murray cod have been sacrificed for interests elsewhere. The Australian public deserve an open account of how we have gotten to this point and the proposed inquiry is a good start.

To find answers, any inquiry into the Darling River fish kill needs to examine:

  • why inflows have been declining substantially into Menindee Lakes over the last decade;
  • whether the long-standing management arrangements for Menindee Lake are still appropriate, particularly with large holdings of environmental water;
  • whether the management of Menindee Lakes was, in fact, inconsistent with agreed management arrangements; and
  • evaporation and salinity at Menindee Lakes.

“The river of dead fish is symbolic of the death of public trust in the management of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan,” said Mr Campbell.

“Only an extensive inquiry which stops the finger-pointing and gets real answers to the cause of the fish deaths will start to restore public confidence in the management Murray-Darling Basin Plan.”

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