National Farmers' Federation

Clear advice on fish deaths

Two reports have confirmed that January’s Menindee fish deaths were the result of a terrible, perfect storm of conditions.
The interim Vertessy Committee Report, commissioned by the Government and the Academy of Science’s report, commissioned by Labor, both confirm that extreme drought resulted in poor water flows below the Menindee Lakes. The depleted flows underpinned blue green algae blooms which were subsequently killed in a cold snap causing the water to deoxygenate across the entire river bed.
The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) Water Taskforce Chair Les Gordon said the consensus view was welcomed.
“We also support the pragmatic recommendations for better infrastructure, better management mechanisms for low flows and review of prioritisation of environmental indicators as measures that can have a positive effect in the future.”
Mr Gordon cautioned that even if all proposed recommendations were fully implemented, they would not be the panacea to prevent future fish deaths.
“The terrible perfect storm conditions will happen again and therefore better mitigation is prudent.”
Mr Gordon said, along with the recommendations of the fish deaths reports, Governments needed to act on the outcomes of the recent Productivity Commission Report into the implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
“This report is the only credible pathway to the better implementation of the Plan.
Mr Gordon criticised the Academy of Science report for venturing outside its terms of reference, by offering commentary on buyback caps and the repeal of the Northern Basin Amendments.
“This is just another example of scientists and academics acting as activists and intervening in critical technical analysis, in this case by self-appointing themselves to the committee and imposing their broader view on the outcome.
“The committee should have stuck to the task of assessing the science and reporting on the causes and targeted solutions.”
The NFF participated in a briefing from the Vertessy committee and came away comforted that a sensible and responsible pathway forward was developing.
“The farm sector is as concerned as anyone about fish death events.
“We will support logical resolutions that enhance fish health outcomes, but we will not allow these events to demand a rewrite of a plan that is just halfway through implementation and suffering under the pernicious effects of significant drought,” Mr Gordon said.

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