No Fairy-Tale Ending for Menindee Lakes Proposal

The viability of a proposal to reconfigure and manage the Menindee Lakes put forward by Kevin Humphries, the outgoing member for Barwon, has been called into question in a report released today by The Australia Institute.

Recent backlash by Lower Darling communities against the Basin Plan’s proposed Menindee Lakes Water Savings project prompted the proposal from Mr Humphries, but new analysis reveals how unlikely this proposal is to ever go ahead, due to:

  • The proposal is likely to require a renegotiation of the Murray Darling Basin Agreement, approval by Federal Parliament and consensus from all State Governments in the Basin.
  • The proposal appears to reduce NSW and Victoria’s ability to fulfil their requirements to South Australia, which means taking water from irrigators in the Murray which will not be popular.
  • Savings from the Menindee Water Savings Project are likely to be reduced, meaning water that has been promised to the Murrumbidgee and the Goulburn will need to be taken back.

“The communities that rely on the health of the Lakes and the Lower Darling/Baaka can’t survive on empty promises made on the eve of an election,” said Maryanne Slattery, Senior Water Researcher at The Australia Institute.

“While any attempt to restore the health of the Lakes and the Lower Darling/Baaka for communities, irrigators and the environment is welcome, this proposal faces huge administrative, political, economic and engineering hurdles.  

“This proposal is likely to require a renegotiation of the Murray Darling Basin Agreement, approval by Federal Parliament and consensus from all Basin governments. In short, the water faces a literal uphill battle to get flowing again.

“A key claim is that if NSW controls Lake Menindee, it won’t be emptied again. But NSW could have stopped the last two drain-outs, so it’s hard to see what would change under this proposal.

“If this proposal is genuine, it would be on the agenda at the upcoming Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council meeting.

“Considering the virtual impossibility of this proposal ever going ahead, it is hard to escape the conclusion that it was aimed at managing pre-election discontent in the Lower Darling.”

Read the full report here

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