The recent mass deaths of Darling River fish was due to systemic mismanagement of the Menindee Lakes in the southwest of New South Wales, a new report by the Australia Institute has concluded.
The report has repudiated claims that the New South Wales government could not have influenced the decision by the Murray Darling Basin Authority to drain the lakes, given that all MDBA decisions are made at the direction of state governments.
The report also took aim at the claim that ongoing drought conditions led to the algal bloom that so badly de-oxygenated the river.
“To blame the fish kill on the drought is a cop-out, it is because water releases were made from the Lakes when this simply shouldn’t have happened,” said Maryanne Slattery, Senior Water Researcher at The Australia Institute.
“It is clear what has caused the Darling River fish kill - mismanagement and repeated policy failure.”
“It’s time to stop passing the buck. The Prime Minister blames the drought, the NSW Water Minister blames the Commonwealth, upstream blames downstream, and downstream blames upstream.
“While the MDBA has joined the drought blame band-wagon, their own research shows that water is just not getting to the Lakes outside of major floods. This can’t be explained by climate and is most likely to be extractions for irrigation.”
“What every Australian needs to understand is that this is an ecological catastrophe created by the governments implementing the Murray Darling Basin Plan.” said Rob McBride, sheep grazier near Menindee who featured in the fish death video now viewed over 5 million times.
”This confirms what our Barkandji people and others living along the Baaka/Darling river have long known: we are being made to pay the price for over-allocation of water upstream,” said Badger Bates, local Barkandji elder.
“What’s worse is that on top of the impact on the Menindee and the Lower Darling itself, the mismanagement of the Menindee lakes system impacts the water availability for growers in the NSW Murray, left with no water to grow this year’s crop,” said Ms Slattery.