SA leads calls for inquiry into upstream water grab

Getty Images                       The Darling River in a typically low season. Every drop is like gold

Getty Images The Darling River in a typically low season. Every drop is like gold

The issue has exploded after the ABC's Four Corner's program revealed allegations on Monday that water, which had been purchased by taxpayers for environmental flows, had been illegally diverted to cotton farms in the Barwon-Darling region of the Murray-Darling Basin.

"We do need to remember though that people are innocent until proven guilty and I support full investigations to ensure those accused have the opportunity to put their case", he said.

The NSW Greens and their spokesman on water, Jeremy Buckingham MLC, even called for a Royal Commission: "The NSW Government has been caught red-handed undermining the Murray Darling Basin Plan for the benefit of a few of their big irrigator mates".

The critics were not limited to NSW, with the acting chief executive of Environment Victoria calling on the Victorian government to take action against what it perceives as theft by their bordering state.

"The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has known about issues in the Barwon-Darling for some time".

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"One of these toolkit measures is a project to protect environmental flows in the Barwon-Darling".

"If the allegations are correct, that at a very senior level in the public service in New South Wales that people have turned a blind eye to this, then that is very concerning", Hunter said.

The NSW Government has ordered an "urgent overview" of the state's compliance with the Murray Darling Basin Plan in response to the Four Corners report, which included recordings of the state's top water bureaucrat offering to share government information with irrigation lobbyists.

She said she agreed the program had raised serious allegations that needed to be investigated as a matter of urgency.

"I have also asked for clarification around the circumstances of the Deputy Director General's briefing", Mr Blair said.

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"This government is determined to address the economic, environmental and socio-economic concerns around the river system, with local communities front and centre in this balancing act".

South Australian Water Minister Ian Hunter said he had no faith in the NSW public service investigating itself and an inquiry headed by a former judge was required.

The Nature Conservation Council today called on NSW Premier Gladys Berejikilian to remove Nationals MPs from natural resources portfolios and refer the issues raised in the Four Corners' program to the state's ICAC. "The only issue with a judicial inquiry is that under a Constitutional law principle, states can not be compelled to give evidence to a federal inquiry".

"NSW continues to push for pragmatic decision making in all aspects of the Basin Plan".

Billions of litres of water are harvested every year via irrigation on the 13 billion Australian dollar (10.30 billion US dollars) Murray Darling Basin scheme, which comprises of over 77,000 km of waterways. We were pleased to see that the Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Council endorsed these projects in-principle on 16 June 2017, " Mr Glyde said.

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The Indian Constitution does not have the concept of a national song, the Supreme Court had earlier said in February 2017. Several people have sacrificed their lives and families to the independent struggle that prolonged for several decades.

The NSW Government remains committed to the Murray Darling Basin Plan, while seeking the best deal for NSW communities within that framework.

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