Last week my office met with a delegation of residents who live along the Darling Baaka river system, including traditional owners, farmers and councillors. The rivers are on the brink of collapse with an environmental, agricultural and cultural catastrophe looming.
The Darling Baaka is in the far west of the state and spans 3,000 kilometres, feeding into the iconic Menindee Lakes. Around 85 percent of the fish in the Murray River breed in the Darling and the wetlands are home to 170 bird species and are visited by 210 species of migratory birds. The Murray cod in these rivers and lakes have been there for over 30 million years.
But massive river water extraction and floodplain water diversion upstream has left the system dry and algae ridden, with massive fish kills. It is not drought but water mismanagement that has caused this disaster. Priority has been given to certain profitable agriculture on properties owned by multinationals at the expense of river connectivity, downstream wetlands, the environment and river communities. There is little transparency with the state government refusing to keep a register of all water licence holders.
This may be far from inner Sydney, but the delegation wanted to stress to city residents that this river system is important to the whole state’s biodiversity, food security and Aboriginal heritage. They feel they have little voice because their populations are small and the problem is out-of-view to most people. I agree that we should all be alarmed and I am committed to helping save the river.
You can learn more about the issues and get involved in the campaign at Save the Menindee Lakes for everyone: > HERE. The film “When the River Runs Dry” tells the story – see the trailer at: > HERE. Call the NSW Nature Conservation Council on 9516 1488 if you would like them to help you run a community screening.