The Gillard Government has been sitting on warnings that the crisis ridden Murray-Darling Basin Plan under development could increase the risk of flooding, documents released under Freedom of Information laws reveal.
Documents provided to Coalition Murray-Darling Basin spokesman Simon Birmingham include briefing notes about the risk of flooding particularly in rural areas under any increased environmental flows, and even appear to suggest it might be a desired outcome.
Increasing the share of water provided to the environment brings with it the potential to increase flooding risks… purchase of flooding easements or compensation payments are both options that may need to be considered if inundation of floodplains to achieve environmental outcomes is to occur.
Issues brief to Water Minister Tony Burke for Supplementary Budget Estimates, October 2010
“This revelation is all the more confronting at a time when many are still dealing with devastating widespread flooding and swollen rivers following this month’s heavy rainfall,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“The great irony scaring many farmers is the prospect they may be starved of water for productive purposes but face a greater threat of flooding due to higher environmental flows.
“Now we know the Government has known about the risk of flooding for some time and the potential that it could expose taxpayers to millions in liabilities.
“Water Minister Tony Burke has so far appeared out of his depth as the Basin reform process has plunged into crisis on his watch, including the resignation of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s chairman.
“Tony Burke must at least guarantee that he won’t approve a plan that significantly increases the risk of floods like those so many regional communities are currently battling.”