Social Action Office


A briefing note for campaigners


The waters of the Murray-Darling Basin flow through four States. Regulations regarding the use of water differ from state to state. The regulations in one state may be undermined by regulations in another, or by no regulations. Provisions for cross-border management are being discussed. There is need for a grass-roots movement insisting on the need for such management structures.


Once again, the values that we wish to see preserved in this matter are those of concern for our neighbour and preservation of the integrity of creation.

An example of what should not happen is the situation in relation to Narran Lakes in northern NSW, between Walgett and Brewarrina. This is an internationally listed wetlands area of high environmental value. It is also an area of significance for local aboriginal people. The Lakes are fed by the Narran River, a terminating branch of the Balonne River, flowing from Queensland. Yet there is no agreement between the Qld and NSW government regarding water flowing into the Lakes. As a result, Cubby Station, which is located in Dirranbandi in southern Queensland, close to the Narran River, and is believed to be the biggest privately owned cotton farm in the southern hemisphere, has a licence to extract the equivalent of a Sydney Harbour-full of water each year. This is endangering the Narran Lakes system. It is also depriving downstream farmers of enough water for their operations.

This is just one example, albeit a stark one, of the need for water management structures that can reach across state borders.

There are structures already in place which should ensure that situations like the one described above do not occur. The Murray-Darling Basin Agreement, to which Qld subscribed in 1996, is one of these. Others exist in relation to the Paroo River, between Qld and NSW and in relation to the waters flowing into Lake Eyre.

The CoAG meeting in June 2004 agreed to establish a National Water Commission, which should prove an important vehicle in bringing about better cross border water management.

Campaign Focus

SAO is asking all candidates to support the development of water management structures which will ensure that water extractions from the upper regions of any catchment do not disadvantage downstream users and are not of such volume as to endanger ecosystems in the lower reaches of the catchment.


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