A protest outside New South Wales Parliament on July 10 demanded the state government take real action to combat the dire situation facing the Murray-Darling river system.
The action was opened by Muruwari and Budjiti man, water activist and artist Bruce Shillingsworth, who is organising a Water Corroborree in the drought-affected north-west and west of the state in early October.
Watershed AllianceAU’s Kylie Lawrence, who has spent years researching the water crisis in the north-west and west of NSW, addressed the protest, speaking about the need to strip water licenses and ban floodplain harvesting to rejuvenate the rivers.
Maritime Union Australia (MUA) Sydney branch secretary Paul McAleer noted that Webster, one of Australia’s biggest agribusinesses, is owned by Chris Corrigan who was instrumental in attacking the MUA in 1998 in the famous waterfront battle. Webster and Peter Harris’ Clyde Cotton together control 70% of Murray-Darling water allocations.
NSW Greens MLC Abigail Boyd demanded the government leave water in the rivers and stop irrigation or mining pumping during low-to-medium flows.
Mayor of Brewarrina Philip O’Conner sent a message to the rally that read: “The current crisis in the Barwon-Darling river system is largely the consequence of a failure from all levels of government to manage our water for the river communities.
“Governments should not enter into agreements to provide water for large scale irrigation when there are higher priorities.
“Thousands of fish poisoned by stale water or left to die when lakes are drained is a sign that despite having spent over $7.5 billion on water initiatives, whatever we are doing, it, is, not, working!”
Dignity Water’s Lanz Priestly also sent a message to the rally about the community effort to combat the drought that he is helping to coordinate: “Community groups have conducted at least 38 water runs since January, raising at least $400,000 for water, tanks and filtration systems.
“The government has finally funded 55 tanks for the Lake Menindee region and two water runs. But this is nothing compared to what the community has had to raise for the region.”
The action was supported by a number of groups, including Bathurst Climate Change Action Network, Belubula Headwaters Protection Group, Lithgow Environment Group Inc, The River Yarners, Central West Greens, ECCO: Environmentally Concerned Citizens for Orange and Rahamim Ecological Centre.
Video by Peter Boyle.