As thousands of suffocated fish wash up on the shores of the Darling River in Menindee, politicians have been quick to point the finger of blame in every direction.
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate Helen Dalton has blamed the government for what she views as “appalling” water mismanagement.
“The fault lies fairly and squarely between Niall Blair and the state government,” Mrs Dalton said.
“Their poor decisions have harmed our environment and our communities, and we need a federal royal commission to take them to task.”
She says they drained too much water from the Menindee lakes - water which could been flushed to prevent the poisonous blue-green algae from choking the fish and harming the locals.
But Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair has hit back at critics for “political scaremongering”, saying he couldn’t be blamed for the drought hitting the region.
“You can’t dismiss the impact of drought when in the last six months, we have had 30 gigalitres of water flow in the northern system, while in an average year we would expect 4000 gigalitres. The numbers speak for themselves,” Mr Blair said.
“This is a devastating ecological event and we must address the impacts and recovery with facts and evidence rather than political scaremongering.”
Mr Blair said the DPI and WaterNSW were investigating the problem, and that they would work to restock the lake with fish once the problem is fixed.
Until then the Menindee Lakes are currently around five per cent full and are expected to be empty by the end of January.
The low levels were partly due to the water drained for irrigators and lakes in South Australia.
Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley said there needed to be sweeping changes to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.
“Disturbing evidence this week of fish stock deaths in a number of areas of my electorate again demonstrates the complete lack of flexibility in allocating this water where and when it is needed,” she said.
“We desperately need an audit of the use of environmental water; one which is subject to an independent assessment by the Commonwealth Auditor General.”
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