Where to from here?
In the final of our four-part series about The Murray Darling Basin, possible solutions are raised and The Moderator reflects on the pastoral visit.
The next stop is an overnight stay with Barb Arnold, owner of Bindara Station in an isolated area on the Darling River between Pooncarie and Menindee, a three-hour drive from Broken Hill.
Having sold off the station’s stock, Barb’s main income is from tourism. She depends on the river for visitor’s recreation and her livelihood.
Barb is worried about running out of water in the coming months but “drilling a bore is unaffordable and carting water is expensive.”
In another injustice, Barb and others in the district live outside the area where water is paid for in subsidies by the Government. But Bindara is self-sufficient, using solar energy and recycled water. Even fuel is made from recycled fish and chip oil from Pooncarie. Ironically, it’s not local fish, though. The lower Darling provides habitat for many fish species… but they barely survive.
The visit nears its end, leaving behind new friends and pondering their future. For Louis Smalbil, “the visit has highlighted a greater understanding for the needs of the area, not in just a business sense but in a spiritual sense, as well.”
“As to the solution, the general consensus seems to be a need for a buyback by the government to reduce the water allocations and allow more water to get back into the system. It sounds simple to solve — but there are stakeholders involved in all areas who have a resistance towards that.”
If life is to continue along this part of the river, one thing is certain: the need for hope and a voice of reason in the major decisions that affect future generations.
Change flows but issues remain
In the weeks following the Moderator’s Lower Darling pastoral visit, the NSW Government announced $350m to fund a 270km pipeline to carry water from the Murray River to Broken Hill. As a result, that regional centre will no longer need to rely upon Menindee Lakes for its main water supply. Not everyone is happy downstream, though.
Also, in early July, unexpected rains in the upper catchment suggest flows will head down the Barwon-Darling system to offer some relief. Water releases are expected for the Menindee Lakes system and Lower Darling in mid-July. Welcome news to struggling communities and towns along the river, however, much more needs to be done if there is to be any sense of certainty for their future.
Just as the Holy Spirit flows, the water must flow in this parched region to nourish and renew life.
The Moderator reflects on the pastoral visit
“We often have a very limited interpretation of the water issue,” says Rev. Myung Hwa Park. “This trip has helped me to understand this issue as being very much human-made.”
“We have heard the cause of the issues and that it is not just about the irrigation farmers or people working with mines and other business and the environmentalists.
“[But] there is also a huge element of injustice in this. There has not been enough consultation with the people affected and their voices have not been sufficiently heard.
“I encourage people to pray for the anxiety experienced by those in this area and also their uncertainty about the future.”