Watershed moment for a better Baaka and Bidgee

Media release | 23 October 2021

Significant progress was made today for communities across the Murray Darling Basin, with a new proposal presented to communities on two of the most significant projects associated with the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey said the re-scoped Menindee Lakes and Yanco Creek Offtake projects, two of the major projects within the Basin Plan, were key to getting the Murray Darling Basin Plan back on track delivering important benefits for cultural, productive and environmental users.

“Most of the criticisms of the Plan originate with shortcomings around these two projects,” Mrs Pavey Said.

“Despite community concerns with these projects they were pulled into the Basin Plan and Gazetted in 2010, and decades later, these same concerns still existed

“Today is a historic moment in the Basin Plan, changing both the Menindee Lakes and Yanco Creek Offtake projects to better meet community needs.”

Several proposed initiatives were released today under the Better Baaka and Better Bidgee programs, including the rescope of the Menindee Lakes and Yanco Creek project.

“The Better Baaka program brings together millions of dollars of initiatives and infrastructure options that, if supported by communities, will contribute to stronger environmental, economic and cultural outcomes for the Darling-Baaka,” Mrs Pavey said.

“Rather than focusing on individual projects that never had the support of our communities, the program allows us to take a holistic, system-wide approach to water planning for the benefit of the environment, the community and First Nation people.”

The proposed initiatives include:

  • Morton Boolka Enhancement, which will investigate options to upgrade the Cawndilla Creek weir and pipeline to maintain a reliable flow of water into the Cawndilla Creek.
  • The Menindee Weir modifications proposal, which would improve fish passage connectivity along the lower Darling-Baaka
  • A series of initiatives, including new fish passageways and screens that will open up more than 1,000km of the Murrumbidgee for fish migration and breeding, as well as measures to address cold water pollution and improve water quality
  • Weir upgrades and renewals along the Darling-Baaka, including at Pooncarie, Bourke and Collarenebri to improve town water supply and deliver better environmental outcomes

Member for the Legislative Council Wes Fang said these new modified projects would get boots on the ground if communities accept what is being proposed.

“We have learnt from mistakes of the past. We will not be like previous Governments and tell communities what is best for them, but rather work with them to determine which projects they feel are in their best interests,” Mr Fang said.

Member for Albury Justin Clancy said the critical part was the NSW Government putting the communities along the Darling-Baaka front and centre of planning for a Better Baaka, and the projects would not proceed without broad community support.

“These projects are still in their early stages and are in response to years of passionate feedback from communities,” Mr Clancy said.

“They still have a long way to go, which is why we are asking people to talk to us, to stay engaged so we can continue to tailor the projects to best meet their needs.”

Consultation on the Better Bidgee and Better Baaka programs starts this week, with the first of a series of information and feedback sessions to be held in early November.

For further details and to have your say, visit Better Baaka www.dpie.nsw.gov.au/better-baaka and Better Bidgee www.dpie.nsw.gov.au/better-bidgee