ELIZABETH JACKSON: With many communities still dealing with the damage from widespread flooding, the Federal Opposition has accused the Government of failing to reveal warnings that its plan to put more water back into the Murray-Darling river system could increase the risk of flooding.
A document the Coalition has obtained under Freedom of Information recommends the Government considers buying flooding easements and paying compensation if it decides to increase water flows to floodplains.
Alexandra Kirk reports from Canberra.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: The nation’s Water Ministers met yesterday for the first time since the release of the controversial Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s draft Guide.
It recommended returning at least 3000 billion litres of water to the stressed river system, mindful of limiting the damage to farmers’ livelihoods and rural communities.
After an angry outcry the Government promised local communities would be more involved in drawing up the final Plan.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Opposition says the new process sounds much the same as the old one and is unlikely to ease communities’ concerns.
The politics of water aren’t getting any easier with the release, now, under Freedom of Information, of a briefing note to the Federal Minister.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: This one shows that there’s a genuine risk of increased incidences of flooding through Basin communities and of course particularly those rural and regional communities and that taxpayers could well, of course, be up for some expense as a result of that if it occurs as part of the Basin planning process currently underway.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Coalition’s Murray-Darling Basin spokesman, Simon Birmingham, is calling on the Government to minimise the risk of floods and rethink – that is, cut – the amount of water to be taken from agriculture and returned to the river system.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well I think the Government should be striving for the lowest reduction possible to preserve and maintain the environmental health that we’re after. And I think there are different ways they can do it from the approach that’s been taken to date.
They need to look at these environmental sites in a way that gets water to them as efficiently as possible. And that probably does mean that they can get away with a lower figure in the end.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: The briefing note to the Water Minister says there’s a low risk of increased flooding to urban areas but more significant for rural land, suggesting that if floodplains are inundated to achieve environmental flows, the Government might need to consider buying flooding easements or paying compensation.