The fish kills we've seen over the last few weeks are absolutely horrible. These terrible events are a result of a cool period which killed off blue green algae, which sucked the oxygen out of the water.
NSW data reveals there have been 600 freshwater fish kills in NSW since 1970, though of course not of the magnitude we've seen recently. I'm advised there is a high likelihood of more fish kills very soon.
Whilst the states own resources including water, it's important we work together and do all that we can.
The Federal Government has already been in contact with the independent Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, the NSW Government and the independent Murray Darling Basin Authority about the recent fish kills.
Today I propose $5 million for a Native Fish Management and Recovery strategy - a basin wide strategy to look after native fish. I'll ask my basin state colleagues to agree to this money coming from Murray Darling Basin funds.
I've also asked the MDBA to convene a meeting of state and Federal Water Managers and Environmental Water Holders this week, to look at:
- The immediate risk of further fish kills and how we can mitigate that risk including through the release of environmental water;
- Reviewing Federal and state environmental watering priorities to see if adaptation is needed;
- And to inform me of what else can be done to avoid, mitigate and respond to fish kills.
We've also offered NSW, which controls water flows, any assistance it requires as it responds to these incidents, and to rebuild fish stocks when it rains.
The reality is we're in a serious drought and the only silver bullet is rain.
- The $5 million is Commonwealth money but is held in a joint account.
- Inflows into the northern Basin catchments and storages are at historic lows. Inflows since August into Burrendong Dam in the Macquarie and Cudgegong systems are just 26 per cent of the previous record low inflow, and inflows into the Namoi Valley are the lowest since 1918.
- General security allocations to irrigators are at zero per cent of entitlement in the Macquarie, Gwydir and Namoi systems.