Wentworth Group scientists quit ‘flawed’ Murray-Darling process

Good riddance say I.

A group of leading scientists contributing to the development of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s (MDBA) plan has pulled out of the process, calling the plan to fix the ailing river system seriously flawed.

The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists says it can not be part of a plan which it says will fail to fix the river system but waste billions of taxpayer dollars.

The group says no less than 4,000 gigalitres must be returned to the Murray-Darling river system in order to fix it, but says it appears that will not happen under the draft plan so it has resigned from the process.

Read on below

Scientists quit ‘flawed’ Murray-Darling process

By Alina Eacott
Updated Sat May 21, 2011 8:46pm AEST ABC Online

A group of leading scientists contributing to the development of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s (MDBA) plan has pulled out of the process, calling the plan to fix the ailing river system seriously flawed.

The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists says it can not be part of a plan which it says will fail to fix the river system but waste billions of taxpayer dollars.

The group says no less than 4,000 gigalitres must be returned to the Murray-Darling river system in order to fix it, but says it appears that will not happen under the draft plan so it has resigned from the process.

“There’s no point in us being part of a process if the process is fundamentally flawed, and unless there is an independent review of the science then we believe it is a fundamentally flawed process,” Wentworth member Peter Cosier said.

The group says the MDBA is now aiming to return less than 3,000 gigalitres to the system following angry protests by irrigators when the initial figures and cuts to water entitlements were released last year.

Authority chairman Mike Taylor stepped down not long after the Federal Government announced a review of the plan, prompting fears it would be watered down.

The Wentworth group says the MDBA is ignoring a recommendation to conduct an independent review on the science it is using to determine the amount of water being returned to the environment.

“It needs to do an independent review to check that that science is robust, and it is what we should spending $10 billion on,” said Tim Stubbs, another Wentworth member.

New MDBA chairman Craig Knowles says no decision on environmental flows has yet been made, and the Wentworth Group’s stance is part of the process.

He dismissed the scientists’ resignation as a bid for more power in negotiations.

“I think what’s really going on here is one or two of them have decided to throw a spear in the ground as part of the argy-bargy of the ongoing negotiations,” Mr Knowles said.

“I think what’s going on here is a bit of positioning, the Wentworth Group clearly have a lot of skin in this game and they’re trying to make their position known and stronger and I guess that’s their right.”

Mr Knowles says he has already planned meetings with individual members of the group next week.

Ray Najar from the Murray Darling Association says the scientists should have stayed inside the tent.

“I think they could do a lot more by contributing to a plan when it’s released than just by saying they’re not going to have any part of it,” Mr Najar said.

Opposition spokesman Simon Birmingham says the plan must be proven to be based on science, not populism.

The Government, when it releases an updated plan in a couple of months time, needs to guarantee its independence, needs to guarantee it’s based on robust science,” Mr Birmingham said.

Water Minister Tony Burke says the MDBA is an independent body and says he will not speculate on a plan under development.

A draft plan is expected to be released late next month.

2 comments to Wentworth Group scientists quit ‘flawed’ Murray-Darling process

  • debbie

    Yes, it does appear that the Wentworth Group have had a major dummy spit.
    I was amused to see that ‘Getup’ decided that would require a petition to force the government to let the Wentworth Group back into the process.
    Unless I missed something, I’m quite sure it was the Wentworth Group who walked away and therefore would be perfectly capable of walking back at any time if they so chose?
    If we were to believe Getup and their reaction, you would be forgiven for believing that the Government ‘sacked’ the Wentworth Group?
    You would aslo be forgiven for believing that the Wentworth Group were the only ones who knew how to ‘fix’ the basin?
    Neither of those asertations have any basis in reality and both the Wentworth Group and Getup are behaving like extremely spoilt children because ‘Mummy and Daddy, didn’t do what they wanted.
    They need to grow up and decide to be part of the process or just go away and sulk in silence. This public sulking is not attractive at all.

  • val majkus

    Debbie will be pleased about this:
    (copied from el gordo’s comment at Jennifer Marohasy’s site – thanks el gordo_
    Barnaby is renowned for his colourful expressions and here is his latest on the MDB.
    Sorry Val – but I can not find that quote from el gordo. So I have linked to press of BJ’s statements.
    “State governments have belled the cat on the plan. The complete confusion around the Murray-Darling Basin was exemplified today by the announcement that nothing will happen until 2019,” said Senator Barnaby Joyce today.

    “It’s like the Labor equivalent of the last statement by Jesus Christ in anticipation of his second coming, “Don’t do anything till I get back”.

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