The NSW Government has responded to allegations made by ABC program 4 Corners regarding the claims that irrigators are taking more water from the Murray-Darling catchment than they are permitted.
ABC’s 4 Corners Program suggests meter tampering and improper record keeping has enabled the theft of billions of litres of water.
The NSW Government states that DPI Water will cross check allegations made by ABC 4 Corners regarding compliance and any issues regarding the Barwon Darling catchment and implementation of the Basin Plan.
DPI Water refutes the claims it lost its appetite for compliance and said it works closely with water enforcement authorities to achieve prosecutions where adverse activities are detected and proven.
It said the state remains committed to the Murray Darling Basin Plan and to ensuring it is delivered in a way that balances economic, environmental and socio-economic concerns, and puts local communities front and centre.
The Minister for Water and the River Murray in South Australia, Ian Hunter, said the 4 Corners program raised serious concerns.
“Tonight’s Four Corners programme confirms our deep suspicions about the level of commitment of New South Wales to comply with the Basin Plan.
“What did the New South Wales Government know about this, and when did they know it? That Government has questions to answer.
“Clearly we can’t trust the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries or the New South Wales Government to investigate themselves. Therefore we demand an urgent meeting of COAG to commission a judicial inquiry,” Mr Hunter said.
The commitment of all states to the Murray Darling Basin Plan was confirmed by the Department of Primary Industries at a recent meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), where Ministers welcomed the COAG plan for delivering the Basin Plan package developed by the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council.
“I have directed the Secretary of the NSW Department of Industry to provide an urgent overview of all the compliance matters raised in the program. I have also asked for clarification around the circumstances of the Deputy Director General’s briefing,” Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Water, Niall Blair, said.
“The Department established a new quality improvement process for regulation on July 1, 2016, with an independent advisory committee led by the NSW Land and Water Commissioner and the former head of the NSW Environment Protection Authority.
“The Secretary will engage these advisers in preparing a suitably robust and independent process to complete the analysis of these issues. Additionally, the Secretary will also seek advice from the Ombudsman to maximise the effectiveness of the investigation.
“We acknowledge the importance of every drop of water in the basin, but the fate of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan won’t hinge on irrigators in the Barwon-Darling.”