Despite years of effort and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars spent to save the iconic Snowy River we still have unreliable flows, and now no-one to monitor what is actually happening. The Snowy Scientific Committee (SSC) originally provided independent oversight – it was disbanded by the NSW Government in 2014 because it was critical of their efforts.
Before abandoning the SSC, the NSW Government promised to create a new Snowy Advisory Committee to replace it and provide additional community input – this has still not happened after 3 more years.
In the absence of any committee the Snowy Water Initiative has been managed by staff of the NSW DPI for the past 17 years. Last week (24th March 2017) the DPI management advised the remaining scientific and cultural staff that they were redundant. So as far as the NSW DPI is concerned nobody should be managing the river and no ongoing science is needed.
With all the money that’s been spent, notionally to return 21% of the original flow back to the river, and now there is nobody with a scientific background to monitor the responses and manage the process.
This is gross negligence by the NSW Government, who in a letter from the Minister Hon Niall Blair to the Deputy Premier (Hon John Barilaro) in December 2016, advised categorically that the staff of the Snowy Water Initiative (SWI) team would be transferred from his ministry to that of Minister for Environment and Heritage (Hon Gabrielle Upton). It is now clear that this is not going to happen.
Every year since the increased flows commenced in 2002, the response of the river environment has been monitored and evaluated. Each year the timing and magnitude of the flows has been varied to change the impacts and achieve particular objectives. Scientific papers have been written and published, which is all part of the important process required to optimise the returns on the water put back into the river.
One could almost be excused for thinking its a conspiracy to remove anybody who knows how the river system should function, in order that the Snowy River additional flows could be removed.
Is Snowy 2.0 (the new pumped storage hydro scheme) now going to be used as an excuse to claim the water recovered from the irrigated catchments for the SWI and use it to top up the new hydro generators? Who knows. The local communities from Dalgety to Orbost cannot help but be cynical about the motives of our elected representatives.
An increased flow of 21% of the original river was legislated to be in place by 2012. 5 years later and typically all that is received is 14%. DPI water have stated that in 2017 21% will be released, but that is on the back of a very wet 2016 when all NSW catchments received their full allocations. The 2017 release is based on 2016 rainfall and its record wet winter. If 2017 is a drier or average year (highly likely), then flows will be back down to 14% in 2018.
All this is way short of the original target of 28% which was supposed to be delivered by now, but which can never happen. This was the figure nominated in the original Commission of Inquiry as the minimum necessary to improve the downstream river environment.
Write or email your local member and complain that the Snowy again is being ignored or worse, and they must ensure the existing scientific and cultural staff remain in NSW Government employment looking after the health of the river.
On 26th Feb 2013 the NSW Government proposed to replace the Snowy Scientific Committee (SSC) with a new group. Unlike the SSC the proposed Snowy Advisory Committee would not be independent of Government as it would report directly to the Minister for Primary Industries. The loss of an independent scientific voice would be a major backward step. For more information about the Government’s proposal, please visit the Department of Primary Industries website.
Comments on the proposal are required by April 1st 2013, and should be addressed to Snowycomments@water.nsw.gov.au
The Alliance strongly opposes this proposal and asks supporters to write to the NSW Government objecting to the removal of the Snowy Scientific Committee. Environment Victoria has suggested a few important points that could be addressed in a submission in the attached article on their website.
On March 20th Greens Senator Hansen/Young proposed a motion in the Australian Senate calling on the NSW Government to reverse its decision and to reinstate and fully fund the independent Snowy Scientific Committee and all its legislative functions. The motion was defeated by 38 votes to 10, with most labor senators abstaining.
The Alliance published a press release on March 19th outlining the issues. Media release 19 March 2013.
Welcome to WordPress. We will be upgrading this site over the next few weeks.
You can still access all the material from the old site on this link