Nationals should be stripped of water portfolio after damning report

Monday, September 11, 2017 | Jeremy Buckingham

The NSW Greens today called on the National Party to be stripped of the water portfolio after the interim report by Ken Matthews sparked by a 4 Corners investigation found “water related compliance and enforcement arrangements in NSW have been ineffectual and require significant and urgent improvement” and revealed that ICAC was investigating allegations of corruption; Kevin Humphries may have told irrigators to pump during an embargo; and that a ‘systemic fix’ is required, including a new independent ‘Natural Resource Access Regulator’.

NSW Greens water spokesperson, Jeremy Buckingham said:

“The National Party should be permanently stripped from holding the water portfolio.  We cannot have the fox in charge of the henhouse, especially when National Party donors are getting favourable treatment by ministers, MPs and senior public servants.

“The current government made a massive mistake in putting the Department of Primary Industries in charge of water.  There is an inherent conflict of interest of making water allocations subservient to the interests of the agricultural industry.

“The role of Troy Grant’s office and former minister Kevin Humphries is extremely concerning and highlights the role of the National Party in mismanaging water resources and potentially corruption the administration of the Water Act.

“The Greens welcome the recommendation to set up an independent Natural Resources Access Regulator, and believe the water portfolio should be held by the environment minister.

“The government should move swiftly to implement all the recommendations made in this report.  Mr Matthews is correct in saying that the irrigation industry’s social licence is at stake and that restoring public confidence will require more than incremental change.

“The last three National Party ministers have all worked to undermine the Murray Darling Basin Plan and to implement legislative and regulatory changes in favour of big irrigators.  This is having real impacts on the health of our rivers and has totally undermined public confidence in water management in NSW.

“I am concerned that Water NSW failed to give the Matthews Inquiry access to supporting documentation until the 24 August, with further deliver on the 29 August – possibly contributing the delay of this interim report until after Budget Estimates hearings where Minister Blair continually dodged questions citing the impending interim report. 

“The Greens support recommendations to require meters on all pumps, publishing meter readings in real time, remote sensing of crops and water holdings, and strong enforcement of the law.” 

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