Clarence dammed by plan


THE Howard Government has finally laid its water plans on the table, and the Clarence River is now in real danger of being damned and diverted to Queensland.

Malcolm Turnbull, the man appointed to establish the Government's water policy, has unveiled a report outlining five options for pumping NSW water across the border.

Four of those five options involve sucking water from the Clarence or Mann rivers and sending it to parched areas of South-East Queensland.

Joining the widespread condemnation of the plan yesterday, John McGuren of the Clarence River Professional Fishermen's Association, said the proposal was a recipe for disaster.

"I don't suppose I should be surprised by all this, because the writing's been on the wall since October last year," Mr McGuren said.

"But it is a ridiculous proposal to dam the Clarence."

"The Clarence River, the biggest river on the east coast of Australia, is the lifeblood of many industries including, of course, the professional fishing industry."

"Now they want to suck 100,000 megalitres a year from the Clarence and send it over the border. It's crazy."

Mr McGuren said he though Mr Turnbull was smarter than that, but he was obviously wrong.

"There have been cases across the world where major diversions of river systems have had disastrous consequences," he said.

"This government is not learning from the mistakes of the past."

"It's very much a case of back to the future, I'm afraid. If this proposal goes ahead, it will have a massive negative impact on fisheries resources and the ecology in general."

"The complex life histories of fish, including breeding cycles, rely on the flow of a river. A major diversion like the one that's proposed for the Clarence will put many species at risk."

Mr McGuren said that if the diversion proposal went ahead, it would fail three key tests.

"The first is that it would be expensive and impractical. Secondly, it would jeopardise a fishing industry worth up to $30million a year. And it is also political rat poison. There would be a massive electoral backlash."

Broken Head-based Greens MLC Ian Cohen has also lashed out at the report, saying the proposal will be the next Franklin Dam issue.

"Damming the Clarence would be an obscenity," Mr Cohen said.

"It would simply prolong the profligate use of water in Queensland."

An environmental scientist at Southern Cross University in Lismore, Kristen Den Exter, said the dam proposal was a simplistic approach to a complex problem, and was definitely not cost effective.

"It's obvious, for instance, that the cost to the Clarence Valley fishing industry hasn't been taken into account," Ms Den Exter said.

"I'm also concerned about the negative impact building a pipeline from the Clarence or the Tweed to the Gold Coast would have on the environment."

Ms Den Exter said she questioned whether or not the Northern Rivers area had any water to spare, anyway.

"Local populations are growing rapidly and we need to look at ways of better managing our own supply. Besides, dams have been proven to be an ineffective way to store water, especially in a climate like ours where evaporation is a major problem."

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