Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment
Topics: Menindee Lakes annoucement
Transcript: ABC Riverland - Interview with Edwin Cowlishaw
13 December 2013
EDWIN COWLISHAW: Joining the program this morning is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment Senator Simon Birmingham. Good morning to you Senator.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning Ed and good morning to your listeners.
EDWIN COWLISHAW: Senator, I guess when it comes to this project how much overall is it going to cost? Because it's just for planning isn't it?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: That's right Ed. This is a good step forward in a project that has been talked about for a very very very long time, but there is still a way to go and what this step forward will do is see the project planning and detailed design work undertaken for the types of infrastructure works that could talk place at Menindee Lakes to generate water savings. Now the total sum of required funds will be established by these works, but we are talking many millions of dollars that will untimely be required to undertake them, but a potential saving that could be realised of around 80 gigaltires or of course 80 billion litres of water on average per annum.
EDWIN COWLISHAW: There's been a lot of talk about this project in the past for many a year now, why now?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well it is a really important project Ed, and it's disappointing that it's taken so long to get to this stage but I'm very pleased that as a new Government we've managed to strike this agreement with New South Wales and have the cooperation to move forward. It's important to deliver for two reasons, firstly because the potential 80 gigalitres of savings can go towards bridging the gap in achieving the Murray Darling Basin Plan for which we are working hard to achieve some 2750 gigalitres of additional environment flows through the system. But it can do that of course without having to go and buyback water off infrastructure, off of irrigators or take water out of productive use in anyway. So it really is an important project for us because it's one where we can get savings, get efficiencies by reducing evaporative losses from the operation of those lakes without harming the productive capacity of irrigation communities.
EDWIN COWLISHAW: How does this project affect us here in South Australia, especially in the Riverland?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well the most important aspect of it is that it will provide a good step towards full implementation of the Basin Plan and that that will of course provide a more secure environment for the Murray-Darling system going forward. But ultimately there may be some impacts and New South Wales is part of the contract we've signed with them will be undertaking consultations with the other states. Some of the water that South Australia accesses is stored in the Menindee Lakes, so New South Wales with have to work through those issues with South Australia to make sure that any changes that are undertaken are fair and reasonable and agreed by all parties.
EDWIN COWLISHAW: So the monies used there for the planning project and I guess to really get it up and going. What's the timeline for this project in the long term?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: So the work being undertaken needs to be completed within twelve months, so I hope that they might be able to do it a little sooner, but certainly be early December next year. The New South Wales Government in work with the Commonwealth already has identified a number of specific measures in terms of installing new regulators or other particular reforms around the Menindee Lakes, which are a four lake system operating not far from Broken Hill. They will now look at those four specific proposals and work up the really detailed design work so that we can get to a point where we know how much it will cost, exactly how much water we anticipate can be saved, how long it will take to do and given that of course there are always variability's around the weather in doing those sorts foo works as well.
EDWIN COWLISHAW: Senator, we thank you for your time this morning and best wishes for the New Year.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Thanks Ed, always a pleasure and indeed to you and your listeners all the best for the Christmas season.