NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey tells South Australia to bear drought load

NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey speaking at the NSW Farmers conference.
NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey speaking at the NSW Farmers conference.

The new Minister for Water Melinda Pavey has admitted she is fighting resistance in her own department to building dams as she tries to find solutions to the growing water crisis in NSW.

Mrs Pavey said she would be taking a stock of options to the Ministerial Council Meeting (MINCO) on August 4, calling on South Australia to do more to reduce its reliance on the Murray-darling water, and bring its desal plant in Adelaide to full production to save Murray water.

Meantime, the floor of the NSW Farmers conference has narrowly supported a motion to seek a Royal Commission into "the failings of the Murray Darling Basin Plan". The vote in favour came despite some irrigator delegates saying they feared a Royal Commission would only mean a worse outcome for irrigators.

Those in support of the Royal Commission, said the risk was worth taking if it eventually provided a better outcome for allocations to irrigators.

Mrs Pavey said she was working hard to defeat an attitude within the bureaucracy of the Department of Industry and Water that new dams were not the solution to the water crisis. She said she found it extraordinary that an election promise to raise the dam level of Wyangala dam was not even mentioned in her departmental briefing notes.

She promised, as had her leader nationals boss John Barilaro, that work would start on new water infrastructure such as the expansion of Wyangala dam, within the next three years.

She said there were no quick fixes to the water crisis.

She said she had established goodwill with her Victorian Labor counterpart, indicating that the heat was on South Australia to come to the party on water savings and time for South Australia to share the load of the drought. Building new water infrastructure would be time consuming, she warned.

"We will get started on the ground within the next three years," she told NSW Farmers.

"The big issue is deliverability and we are not going to promise things and water allocations that cannot be delivered," she said.

"We also can't promise you can take more water out if that can't be delivered." This will have to be addressed at the MINCO meeting, she said. She said parts of the Menindee water plan could not be delivered in current circumstances.

There was no point in water reform unless all communities and stakeholders were involved.

"The message is South Australia has to do more."