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Broken Hill rally to save the Barka (Darling River)

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Nick G.

More than 400 people marched through Broken Hill to Sturt Park Reserve today in a rally to save the Barka (Darling River).

The rally brought together residents of Broken Hill and the surrounding region, including Barkindji nation traditional owners and pastoralists.

The rally was organised with the support of the Broken Hill District Council and the local paper, the Barrier Daily Truth.  Quite a few people carried “Pigs in the River” placards, a reference to a John Williamson song of the same name, the lyrics of which include:

Pigs on the river
You started a war
You’re going to get more
Than you bargained for

Broken Hill residents are furious that water diverted in the northern Darling Basin for cotton irrigators, many of whom are large foreign multinationals, has led to the drying up of the Menindee Lakes which used to allow the Barka to keep flowing and supply the town with water.  They are furious that a $500m 270km pipeline has been built to bring Murray River water to the town from Wentworth – a short-sighted plan that does nothing to address the real cause of the Lake’s drying up, and which will see their water rates rise despite a government promise to cap them for the next four years.

Pastoralists and graziers along the Barka (Darling) have been in the forefront of the battle against the upstream cotton-growing water thieves and their National Party henchmen.

Barkindji Community elder Badger Bates said the plan ignored the native title claim that the Barkandji people successfully established in 2015.

"What's the good of land without water? They may as well take the land back off us," he said.

"If we don't have the Barka flowing, we have nothing. That's our name, that's our lifeblood.

"Why destroy all our history, our culture, just to let those fellas up the top take all the water?"

The Barka’s supporters feel vindicated by South Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission. Last Tuesday, counsel assisting the Commission, Richard Beasley, presented his final submission in which he stated that the Murray Darling Basin Plan breached the federal Water Act, and that a Medindee Lakes Project proposal prepared by Deloittes was unlawful. The final report of the Royal Commission will be released in February 2019.

Earlier this year, in February, about 70 residents of Wentworth rallied against the pipeline.  Barkindji youths have staged their own rallies in Wilcannia.

There is no doubt that anger about the Barka and the wasteful and unnecessary “cotton-growers’ pipeline” is widespread across the region.

The fate of the Murray Darling Rivers water system is a national priority, but our outdated Constitution does not allow a unified national response to the management of our rivers. 

That and the neo-liberal “reform” that saw water turned into a marketable commodity opened to control by foreign investors raises once again the demand for genuine independence and freedom  from local and overseas monopoly capital.


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