Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Berrigan Shire Council wants tourism prioritised

Berrigan Shire Council is calling on Murray-Darling Basin Authority to come up with a new model on river control.

May 28, 2014 3:23am

A new model on river control should be developed to prevent tourism losses and negate safety concerns, according to Berrigan Shire Council.

Berrigan Shire general manager Rowan Perkins has called on the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to come up with a new system to suit all stakeholders.

He said the authority’s position that irrigation supply and demand should be the only deciding factor on river levels is not good enough.

‘‘We believe, as a community, that the relevant authorities should be able to coordinate the release of environmental flows with tourism needs,’’ Mr Perkins said.

‘‘If the MDBA is concerned about river safety, the river certainly isn’t safe at such a low level.’’

Inflows into the Murray River at Tocumwal reportedly dropped from 8000 megalitres to 2000ML on Good Friday alone, which saw a notable drop in the river height.

Mr Perkins said with many holiday makers already using the river at that stage, the significant drop could have been dangerous.

He said considering councils were advised river levels would be maintained during the Easter period, the drop came as a shock.

Mr Perkins said MDBA chief executive Rhondda Dickson told Riverina and Murray Regional Organisations of Councils members there should be sufficient inflows during Easter.

Three weeks before Easter, however, the end of the irrigation season was declared and increased rainfall reduced the need for water to be sent down the system.

Council had worked tirelessly in the lead up to the holiday period to secure river levels to benefit tourism, and Mr Perkins said it would continue fighting for that result.

However, MDBA head of river management David Dreverman maintains the authority is bound by water supply and demand.

‘‘We operate the River Murray as directed by New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Commonwealth,’’ he said.

‘‘This means we release water down the river when irrigators and environmental water holders order it.

‘‘We can’t deliver their water unless they’ve requested it.’’

When quizzed further on the chance that inflows could be secured for peak tourism times, Mr Dreverman referred the Southern Riverina News to its website.

While it states the MDBA has an obligation to consider community safety, environmental, cultural and socio-economic factors, it says ‘‘the MDBA is required to maximise water availability for the southern Basin States and to deliver their water entitlements’’.

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