Farrer member Sussan Ley said it’s widely known irrigators downstream in the Murray Darling Basin plan have been disadvantaged by the removal of water, even when farmers play by the book.
Her comments came after a 4Corners report claimed some farmers were taking more water than entitled.
Charles Sturt University’s senior ecologists said the majority of irrigators were not pumping excessive water but there was room for improvement.
Dr Lee Baumgartner said people should think of the ecological affects of pumping large amounts of water.
“Extracting excessive volumes of water will inevitably destroy the fish and other aquatic animals that live in the rivers and native trees and plants that rely on this water,” he said
“It has been estimated that there are millions of fish extracted each year; many more than are annually re-stocked in the entire Murray Darling Basin.”
Ms Ley praised the government’s inquiry into the scheme but said the ABC program should not be taken as “gospel” and warned against a repeat of the ban on live cattle exports which she said “should have never ever happened”.
“It’s been generally known water was being taken out of the Murray-Darling in accordance with the rules for the system in a way that may disadvantage irrigators on the way down,” she said.
“4Corners should not determine government policy but if a question is raised the right examination of an issue should take place – and it is.”
States involved in the Murray Darling Basin scheme might not always co-operate, Ms Ley said, but it was important to have them all at the table, as under the Constitution the issue could not be put in federal hands.
“States must be willing participants and NSW must act in the interests of NSW, residents won’t accept anything else,” she said.
Albury state member Greg Aplin said he supported the appointment of Ken Matthews to hold an inquiry into the scheme and it would examine any deficiencies in compliance and enforcement by the water board.
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