Coulton’s Catch-up Week of 13th February
Right across northern New South Wales and southern Queensland massive flooding is taking place. In my electorate of Parkes we have seen flood levels that we have not seen for sixty years in the Moree, Gwydir and Narrabri Shire areas. The benchmark floods in Moree in my lifetime have been those of 1974 and 1976. However, these recent floods have exceeded those levels and are comparable to the flood of 1955.
The clean-up and recovery will be long and tenuous, and the cost to these communities will be enormous. Households have been flooded along with many small businesses. It is estimated hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage to crops, farm infrastructure and council infrastructure such as roads and bridges has occurred because of the flooding.
Communities downstream will feel the full brunt of the floods with water from NSW converging with water from Southern Queensland. The areas around Bourke, Brewarrina and Walgett will be cut off for many weeks as the water makes its way down the system.
I flew over the flooded areas to inspect the widespread damage and what was brought home to me is the massive force that is the Murray-Darling Basin. We are seeing that nature, not mankind, is in control of the basin. The flood waters are running with scant regard to man-made infrastructure, the way it has for hundreds of years. Yet we are intent with trying to control the Basin through the proposed Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
As we are rushing through this artificial time frame to come up with a Murray-Darling Basin plan, it is very important that we stop and think about what is going on. The Murray-Darling Basin was hit hard by a debilitating 10 year drought and now it has come to life with another major flood. The recovery of the Murray-Darling Basin has been nothing short of incredible. If you were to drive around the Murray-Darling Basin today you would see an abundance of pasture and great crops, with rivers flowing at the top of the banks (and sometimes over the banks), and the dams at capacity.
The fact is the Murray Darling Basin is really an extraordinary and complex ecosystem. Many of the rivers in the Basin are by nature ephemeral and the water levels in them have waxed and waned for hundreds of years. The Murray-Darling Basin is not a plasticine model in a laboratory where you can put water in at point A and it will come out at point B.
The Murray-Darling Basin Plan should not be rushed to fit in with the political cycle. We need a plan that is factually based, free from agenda of green lobbyists who have no connection with the Basin. Before implementing any recommendations, we need to remember it will be nature’s seasonal variations that will have the biggest impact on its health.
Instead of the Government continually trying to put restrictions in place, perhaps we should give the environment a chance. At times the Murray-Darling Basin may struggle but more often than not the Basin’s water levels will boom. The way Mother Nature intended it.
Dorothea Mackellar wrote in her famous poem, My Country, over one hundred years ago: “I love a sunburnt country, A land of sweeping plains, Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains.”