Joint statement (Lifeblood Alliance)

Inquiry needed into NSW undermining Basin Plan Reforms

Date :25 July 2017

The ABC Four Corners program has uncovered disturbing evidence of alleged water theft and meter tampering in the NSW Barwon-Darling river systems. Billions of litres of water intended for the environment, and purchased with public funds, have been siphoned off by large irrigators for their own personal gain.
The Four Corners investigation alleged that active investigations into water theft within the NSW Government were shut down with no apparent reason. Explosive recordings also demonstrated the close relationship between senior NSW bureaucrats and irrigation industry lobbyists.
The Lifeblood Alliance made up of environment, Indigenous and community groups are calling on the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption to investigate the allegations raised in the Four Corners Program.
The alliance is also calling for an independent federal inquiry into the role NSW has played in undermining the Basin Plan reforms.
“The irrigation industry in NSW has a powerful and unhealthy relationship with bureaucrats and political leaders. This has lead to poor water management for the health of our rivers and the weakening of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan,” said Bev Smiles, President of Inland Rivers Network
“Communities across Australia and in the Murray-Darling Basin deserve to know why it appears laws to stop the theft of water flows haven’t been enforced by the NSW Government. These are serious allegations of extraordinary abuse of the Murray Darling Plan. There must be an ICAC investigation,” said Dr Paul Sinclair, Campaigns Director at the Australian Conservation Foundation.
“The NSW Government has been providing large irrigators with favourable access rights to water from the Darling River upstream of Bourke, leaving downstream users and the environment hanging out to dry, all the way down the Darling and into the Murray. Victorians and South Australians are being short-changed by NSW water guzzlers. We need all our governments to step up and restore integrity to the Basin Plan and an independent inquiry into the conduct of the NSW Government,” said Juliet Le Feuvre, Healthy Rivers Campaigner at Environment Victoria.
“The Four Corners show has highlighted the inability of the current NSW Government to develop, implement and monitor effective water management policies. As a result we see the health of the Darling River and its tributaries decline and the non-irrigation communities it supports suffer death by a thousand cuts. It is imperative that the NSW Government correct its deficiencies of the past by amending the Barwon Darling water sharing plan and honour its commitment to a fair and equitable Basin Plan,” says Terry Korn, president of the Australian Floodplain Association.
“Traditional Owners have borne the worst impacts from unsustainable exploitation of our precious water resources. We have participated in good faith in important water reforms to ensure a healthy Basin. To hear of alleged water theft and meter tampering is absolutely devastating. Basin Governments must act immediately to restore faith in these processes,” said Mr Rene Woods, Chair of Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations.
 “The alarming evidence of poor water management uncovered by the 4 Corners Program must act as a wake-up call for governments and communities across the Basin. With so many of the Murray­–Darling Basin’s internationally significant wetlands in failing health and our magnificent waterbirds in sharp decline, governments must act now to secure and deliver all environmental water agreed under the 2012 Murray-Darling Basin Plan,” said Chris Purnell from Birdlife Australia



Mobile number

Inland Rivers Network

Bev Smiles

0428 817 282

Australian Conservation Foundation

Dr Paul Sinclair

0409 004 651

Environment Victoria

Juliet Le Feuvre

0428 770 019

Australian Floodplain Association

Terry Korn

0447 847 399

Murray Lower Darling Indigenous Nations

Rene Woods

0424 299 929

Birdlife Australia

Chris Purnell

0438 370 613

Conservation Council of S.Australia

Craig Wilkins

0417 879 439

Nature Conservation Council NSW

Kate Smolski

0478 828 864

Queensland Conservation Council

Dr Tim Seelig  

0439 201 183

Environmental Farmers Network

John Pettigrew

0428 367 791

Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations

Fred Hooper

0427 957 960

River Lakes + Coorong Action Group

Suzy Rex

0411 746 729

Goulburn Valley Environment Group

Terry Court

0407 344 912

National Parks Association of NSW

Anne Reeves

0407 210 608


Return to Media releases page

Original Site Design: Brown Ink