Following the Queensland meetings in December, we went to [NOTE: Link removed as the content is no longer online] Murray Bridge for both roundtable meetings with community representatives and a public meeting.
Video: The draft Basin Plan – Murray Bridge community meeting
[Title card: Murray-Darling Basin Authority. www.mdba.gov.au]
[Shot of man playing golf]
[Sign: MURRAY BRIDGE GOLF CLUB. Visitors Welcome]
[Woman asking a question: ...the Indigenous <inaudible> about cultural rights to water]
>> CRAIG KNOWLES [seated at roundtable meeting]: What I’m trying to do here is actually create the space where you can have your say – a more legitimate say. I would agree for the moment, and in the context of the Guide – communities were frozen out, they weren’t given an opportunity, there was no real robust structure to have these sorts of arguments – and even if you could have the arguments, not have the chance to influence. What I’m trying to do is build the framework where these arguments are legitimate, valid as part of the process going forward.
>> MAN at roundtable: The Basin Plan needs to provide enough to flush the Basin salt out to sea. So, I’m pretty clear on that. That for me is a litmus test of whether this Plan works. So, when I heard about the figure of 2750, the question which came for me was, “It seems a smaller number than I was expecting to do all the jobs it’s expected to do”.
>> CRAIG KNOWLES: The number, the headline number that people are talking about is the 2750 – ok? That’s a number that the Authority believes as a starting point – remember starting point. We’re happy to concede that number could change during the processes we’ve identified. That’s a modelling number as at 2009.
>> [WOMAN at roundtable]: At the moment, Lake Albert is 20 times more saline than anywhere else in the river system. So we’ve still got a major problem there and the water comes into our lake and it sits there, along with all the toxins, the chemicals and everything else. So we’re going to finish up with a hypersaline, chemical mess.
>> DIANE BELL, ENVIRONMENTALIST: The simplest question for me, as somebody who lives on the river, sees on a daily basis the changes, who went through the period of the lakes drying out, who has seen the resilience of the system coming back is, “Will this plan flush 2 million tonnes of salt, pollutants and nutrients out through the mouth and keep the mouth open so that the system not only has a quantity of water in it but has a quality of water that will sustain the life and meet the targets of the Act?”
>> CRAIG KNOWLES, after the meeting: There was a big focus on the Lower Lakes, as you would expect. But that’s all about caring for something that’s precious, not just to Australia but to planet.
>> CRAIG KNOWLES, at public meeting: [birds chirping] Things change in nature and you’ve got to have a system and a process (in my view anyway) that contemplates change and actually celebrates change and recognises new knowledge and new ways, clever ways of doing things should always be part of the deal and should always be incorporated into the things we’re trying to do.
>> CLEM MASON, IRRIGATOR: [birds chirping] Without a plan, we will fail. I am very pleased that this plan, at last, after 150 years, is now starting. I thank all of you today for coming along today and supporting such a plan. I hope that’s what you’re here for because a plan without a start will fail.
>> GLEN JONES, BOATING INDUSTRY: Let’s agree and accept that now that no plan takes us nowhere. We will have several opportunities, as we move towards 2-0-1-9, for the fine tuning that needs to be done.
>> GARRY HERA SINGH, FISHERMAN: Is 200 and- 2750 gigalitres enough? I doubt this, but it’s a starting point. Our industry is, and has been, a vulnerable sector to the ever increasing demands of upstream. I urge all of us to take this opportunity to contribute to the development of this plan.
>> WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: I’d like some comments about why the sustainable diversion limits across the Basin for groundwater have actually been increased compared to what was originally in the Guide.
>> CRAIG KNOWLES: The truth is we’ve identified what’s there. There’s no magic, new water. The principal reason why the number’s grown is because we’ve identified all the water – it wasn’t so in the Guide.
>> DEAN BROWN, Former South Australian Premier: If we don’t get this through, uh, the Federal Parliament next year, I think the real danger that it’ll be 15 to 20 years before another attempt is made. And I think we, as South Australians, have got an obligation – particularly us here today. We’ve heard the arguments. We need to go out and engender that support and rescue the South Australian community to suport that point of view. Thank you, Craig.
>> JEFF PARISH, Basin Community Committee, after the meeting: With this meeting, we’ve got to the position where people accept that a Basin Plan is necessary. They accept that this is a first step towards achieving that. Behind that, I think there are still a myriad of concerns with detail but people are – instead of bringing them to the forefront – are now taking a position where they say, “Let’s make a start. Let’s keep talking about the detail and the concerns we have” and I think this has given us a basis to move forward.
>> CRAIG KNOWLES, after the meeting: Local communities want to have a say. There’s an enormous amount of wisdom in local communities. There’s an opportunity here that, with proper and decent mutual respect, you can do a lot of good things. I think that there’s an understanding that, by working together, we can get a good result.
[CLOSING CARD 1: For more information:
[CLOSING CARD 2: Produced by: Chris Hammer, Ethos CRS Consulting]