Government pledges action in response to fish deaths report
The federal government has responded to an independent report into the 2018–19 fish deaths in the lower Darling region, pledging over $70 million to enact the report’s recommendations. Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud announced several action points in response to the Vertessy Report.
As recommended by the report, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has committed to:
- work to secure A-class licences to protect low flows in the Barwon–Darling River into the future, in consultation with community and NSW Government;
- federal government investment up to $25 million for metering in the northern basin in the form of a 25% subsidy for AS4747 compliant meters;
- $5 million for cameras to livestream river flows to ensure transparency;
- $20 million to expand research on the Murray–Darling Basin to improve water and environmental management and address knowledge gaps;
- work with NSW to allocate additional water to Indigenous communities;
- provide $10 million in funding to help restock rivers and lakes with native fish species across the basin and establish new hatcheries in the northern basin to kickstart fish recovery;
- invest an additional $5.24 million in the Toorale Water Infrastructure Project to better connect the Warrego and Darling Rivers to improve flows and build fishways.
The report found that the primary cause of fish deaths in the lower Darling in 2018–2019 was sudden reductions in air temperature and increased wind associated with storms. These conditions caused weir pools to suddenly destratify, resulting in low concentrations of oxygen throughout the water column and no escape for the fish.
Describing the government’s commitment to actioning the report’s recommendations, Minister Littleproud said, “This is a $70 million-plus response, which goes to research, connectivity and compliance. We’ve listened to the scientists.
“This report is based on scientific assessments conducted by a panel of distinguished water scientists. I’m grateful to panel chair Professor Rob Vertessy and the entire panel for their work on it,” he said.
The final report is available here.
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