Wong says Darling benefits by 11billion litres


The following transcript is from the ABC

TONY EASTLEY: In the old days landholders downstream from Toorale Station in western New South Wales had little to cheer about. They had seen their water flows diminish over the years.

But a controversial buy-back of the huge station by the state and federal governments has them celebrating and describing the buyback as good value for money.

Figures released by the Federal Water Minister show that the buyback has put an extra eleven-billion litres of water into the Darling River.

But the Minister is still under pressure to do more about upstream users in Queensland.

More from environment reporter, Shane McLeod.

SHANE MCLEOD: The $23-million price tag brought plenty of criticism for the federal and New South Wales governments when they snapped up Toorale Station near Bourke last September. But some like the president of the Australian Floodplain Association, Wilcannia grazier Mark Etheridge, believes it’s money well spent.

MARK ETHERIDGE: I think government paid about $24-million for it. We have had a relatively minor flow come down the Warrego now and there is probably a lot of money’s worth of water coming into the Darling.

SHANE MCLEOD: The Federal Minister for Water Penny Wong thinks it’s a good investment. She says that as a result of the purchase, more than eleven billion litres of water has flowed on downstream.

PENNY WONG: That is water that would otherwise have been taken if the station hadn’t been purchased; it would have been taken out of the river.

SHANE MCLEOD: The Minister will pay a visit to Toorale later today. The return of water has been achieved because since taking control of the property, the governments haven’t used their water rights and they haven’t used the storages and levees on the property to force the Warrego’s floodwater out onto the plains.

Mark Etheridge says it’s something that’s been possible because the flow in the Warrego hasn’t been at major flood levels.

MARK ETHERIDGE: The issue at Toorale is that when the storages are full and the pipes in the storage banks can no longer handle the influx then water will spill out onto a flood plain; which in itself is not a bad thing. I guess more water would spill onto that floodplain given that the banks are there.

Now in a moderate flow as we’ve just had, the banks and the pipes can handle the amount of water. In a larger flow then I think we need to look at altering the structures to allow more water down the channel of the Warrego itself.

SHANE MCLEOD: While water’s flowing through Toorale, further upstream in Queensland so-called sleeper licences are being activated on the Warrego.

The Minister says it’s being dealt with but keeping in mind the legal rights of those upstream.

PENNY WONG: No, look these licences in Queensland are already existing property rights. Whether or not people agree with that, that is the position of those entitlements. What we have done through purchasing Toorale is return water to the river that would not otherwise have been in the Darling River and that is a good thing for the environment.

TONY EASTLEY: Penny Wong, the Minister for Climate Change and Water speaking there with Shane McLeod.

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