• The SA government wants an investigation into Murray-Darling Basin water use. (AAP)Source: AAP
Indigenous coalition of communities have reacted with anger after shocking revelations that top bureaucrat was sharing information with irrigation lobbyists.
Robert Burton-Bradley

25 Jul 2017 - 10:10 AM  UPDATED 25 Jul 2017 - 10:12 AM

Indigenous groups have demanded an urgent overhaul of existing water planning and regulation after the top water bureaucrat in NSW was recorded revealing plans to abandon the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

The recording which aired on the ABC's Four Corners' program shows Gavin Hanlon secretly offering to share government information with irrigation lobbyists, to help them to lobby against the water management plan.

The Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations which represents 25 first nation groups said the revelations were "damning". 

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‘What we have learned tonight is that the system is broken in parts of the Murray Darling Basin,’ said MLDRIN Chairperson Mr Rene Woods. 

‘Water that has been dedicated to protect our environment and paid for by Australian taxpayers, is being sucked up and turned into profits for a cabal of wealthy agribusinesses."

Under the existing plan for the river system there is an acknowledgement of the need for cultural flows for Indigenous communities, however, Mr Woods said Indigenous communities were being misled while river health continued to decline in the Murray-Darling basin area.

"Aboriginal communities have watched as their sacred rivers are degraded, impacting on community health and threatening our ability to sustain our unique culture."

"We have participated in water planning processes in good faith. But tonight we learned that the system is being exploited, rigged and undermined to provide exclusive benefits to big irrigators."

Call for investigations into revelations

A key crossbench senator wants an urgent inquiry after the top water bureaucrat in NSW was recorded revealing plans to abandon the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

The program also reported how billions of litres of water earmarked for the environment was being used to irrigate NSW cotton farms.

It has sparked calls from South Australia for an independent judicial inquiry into how much members of the NSW government knew.

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Federal senator Nick Xenophon said what was revealed undermines the entire agreement the commonwealth and states thrashed out in 2013.

"That effectively will mean that the $13 billion of taxpayer funds committed to the Murray Darling Basin Plan will be a waste of money with this sort of undermining," he told ABC radio on Tuesday from Bali.

"There needs to be an urgent investigation as to these very serious allegations."

Senator Xenophon said there should be a Senate inquiry when parliament resumes in a fortnight.

He also said it was a test of leadership for the federal government, which needs to make sure the states do the right thing.

Asked about the use of water by cotton farms, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on Monday said it was a state issue.

Additonal reporting by AAP