Yanco Ck, Menindee off table for now: Pavey

Projects must wait, Barmah Choke reinforced with fill, says Pavey

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NSW has no water left to give, water minister tells federal senate.

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YANCO Creek and Menindee Lakes proposed water savings projects are not deliverable in their current forms.

There are alternatives that can deliver similar water savings, but these will not be ready for the current 2024 Murray Darling Basin Plan deadline.

And fill is being used to repair environmental damage caused by unnaturally high flows at the Barmah Choke on the Murray.

These were blunt messages delivered by NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey to the federal government's senate last week.

"We have no more to give in NSW," she said.

She told the senate select committee on the multi-jurisdictional management and execution of the MDBP that NSW was stepping up engagement with its communities.

"If we genuinely listen to what our communities are saying we can achieve outcomes," she told the committee.

Ms Pavey said moving from roads to the water ministry had been an eye opener and behaviour at her arrival had been akin to "secret water business".

"Things have certainly changed in the past couple of months," she said.

SOUTH Australian senator Sarah Hanson-Young took umbrage at Ms Pavey's statements about NSW and its water, asking her what it was she wanted from the committee.

"On the one hand you're asking for a delay in the timeframe, but actually what you've said to us is you have no more to give, which is it?" Ms Hanson-Young asked.

Ms Pavey told the committee that NSW could not afford any more water to be taken from its productive sector.

"You have to understand, to be in NSW, to see the impact, that we have achieved a lot.

"We have actually assured South Australia didn't run out of water through one of the worst droughts, it's actually worked.

"But there is challenges and there's been reports showing that you're, South Australia, is going to have to do some of its own work too.

"With climate change, with climate change modelling, there's a recent report that's come out showing that even with the water we have given, you're going to be challenged in the Lower Lakes unless some other major work happens in South Australia.

"Our farmers don't want to give up more water and take it out of production in NSW, having impact on our communities.

"We've given 1000 gigalitres, we've seen salinity levels fall, we've also seen South Australia not run out of water during the severe drought."

SENATOR Hanson-Young persisted: "Are you asking for more time, or are you asking to give less water?"

"I am asking for more time and some environmental considerations to the benefits of other work that we could do that could be the equivalent in water savings," said Ms Pavey.

"We've got to move away from the numbers.

"We actually have to look at the science and river health."

Senator Hanson-Young said: "just to be clear, you're asking for a delay in the timeframe and to reduce the amount of water to be given back in terms of allocation?"

Ms Pavey replied: "I'm asking for the best outcome which will require, because we're not going to meet those timetables, those targets of 2024. There needs to be legislative change and I'm asking for better environmental outcomes that will also create investment in our communities, listening to what our communities want and those communities include South Australia, Victoria and NSW, so we can be more collaborative

Senator Hanson-Young said: "You talk about not basing this on numbers, but where in what you are pleading for is any of this based on science?"

Ms Pavey said : "there needs to be an understanding of . . . we've got to look at the evidence, we've got to be looking at the fact carp is still 90 per cent of the fish in our river system, that is not healthy . . . "

Senator Hanson-Young cut in: "you're asking to cut the environmental flows, you want to give less water to the environment, it's bonkers."

Ms Pavey replied: "I'm sorry senator Hanson-Young, I'm actually asking for other views to be able to be aired, and important views to river health, to river connectivity and accepting that we have given an enormous amount of water back.

"There's still more that can be achieved with the finishing of our SDL projects, our SDLAM projects and that's what we want to work to, and we need to change the dates of those projects because they're not going to be met and to say otherwise is misleading our communities."

NSW federal senator Perrin Davey asked what affect pushing SA water entitlements and environmental flows for use in SA through the Barmah Choke was having locally: "are we just doing it to the detriment of our environment?"

Ms Pavey said: "we've both heard to the stories of the busting, there's real pressure, and I think it was last week they had to go and put some fill in at some point on the river, that's not good.

"We do not want that."

Ms Pavey said communities were being driven to despair by the continual focus on numbers contained within the MDBP that "leaves threats hanging over everybody".

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