As a resident of the far west I have been watching the unfolding crisis on the Darling with a sense of immense sadness, but also with anger.
Like everyone else, I am moved at the scale of the fish kill that has occurred, and especially devastated to see to see such large and old fish, like decades old cod, dying.
I have also become increasingly sad and frustrated at politicians, so-called experts and commentators who have never bothered to come to the far west, sitting around and making sweeping, simplistic statements about who is to blame.
Of course, no-one blames themselves, there is no political points to be scored in a move like that. Its all finger-pointing, sneering and jumping on the most convenient set of misinformed opinions to suits ones own bias that seems to be the order of the day.
There is no question that we, collectively, have let our river system down. Arguments pointing out mass fish kills occurred in the river system in historical times, or that drought is the only reason this has occurred, are disingenuous.
On the other hand, calls to ban entire cropping industries and accusing all irrigators of being criminals for using their entirely legal allocation are not only misinformed, they are highly damaging. The latest crazy thought bubble is from a Senator in South Australia with precisely zero experience as a farmer to ban all exports of Australian cotton. As if that would fix the issue.
The Murray-Darling Basin Plan was implemented in an attempt to balance the waters need of the environment and other water users. It was also an attempt to get multiple states on board with a collective and collaborative vision as to the future health of the river.
It is evident that despite being in place for some time, we still have a long way to go in getting this right. The first step should be looking at the issue in detail and understanding what happened and what we can learn from, while resisting the urge to throw around emotive language and accusations until something sticks.
Once we have learnt these lessons it is also the time for us to stop screaming at each other about who is to blame. Its time to be courageous, show leadership and implement solutions.
Many groups, including the CWA of NSW have been proposing solutions for some time.
We strongly believe compulsory water metering of all water users within the Murray-Darling Basin should be implemented. Following that, there is a need for visionary infrastructure projects, such as dams to be established in the best areas to ensure the best use of water for all. We also need to have a hard look at environmental flows to make sure we are doing things the right way.
We welcome and indeed strongly endorse further full and comprehensive investigation as to what has happened in the Darling, but until that occurs, lets not keep throwing up simple solutions for what is a deeply complex problem.