Wentworth Group and fake science

By The General on October 30, 2017
  • Wentworth Group and fake science

    Pelicans on the Coorong. They seem pretty happy with the Plan...

The Boss doesn’t like fake news much – at his age, he says, he needs to get to the bottom of things quickly because he doesn’t have much time.

He’s even more averse to fake science – or fudging science to use it in a fake way. He reckons scientists ought to be telling the truth, rather than being selective to push their argument.

Which is why he is suspicious of the so-called Wentworth Group of scientists, who have made a name for themselves pushing environmental issues around the Murray Darling Plan.

In the past, for example, they have blamed low Murray River flows on the state of the Coorong, which went a bit acidic during the long drought.

As he pointed out after his trip along it in April, the Coorong was traditionally fed by the swamps and low country north-east of Mt Gambier – country that was drained by a massive drainage scheme started in the late 1800s that takes the water that used to feed the Coorong out to sea.

The Murray flows in fact only affect a small portion of the northern Coorong. It's pretty obvious to anyone who looks at it that, for thousands of years before the artificial barrages were put up near the Murray mouth, very little fresh water from the Murray ever got up the Coorong.

So we do these "scientists" keep talking about the Coorong as part of the Murray River "problem?" The Coorong is a South Australian problem, created by South Australians when they drained the swampy plains that used to keep the Coorong healthy. 

The Wentworth Group also insists enough water should get to the Murray mouth to drain salt out of the system and avoid acidification of the lower lakes. Yet these lakes are artificial!  They evaporate some 1200 billion litres a year - around three times what the entire City of Melbourne uses annually.

The Boss can't understand why these scientists aren't appalled at this disgraceful waste of water when it is so precious. They seem to want it both ways.

Recently this mob have come out again, with more half-truths – this time about the wetlands of the Murray Darling, claiming the state governments have failed to make water available to them when they could have.

As usual, the picture is more complex than that: giving wetlands a drink means, in many cases, over-bank flows – so people will be flooded.

The Boss is very keen on over-bank flows too, like the scientists are, and would like to see a regime where that can happen occasionally. The trouble is, the federal government, which now owns the environmental water, doesn’t want the liability associated with over-bank flows – but expects the state governments to deliver its environmental water without causing any of that kind of trouble.

It can’t be done. They have to find a way to use the environmental water in ways that provide maximum benefit to the environment. Otherwise, what’s the point?

That will mean buying out landholders in some places, or agreeing to compensate them in exchange for the ability to periodically flood low-lying private property.

This is just as much as issue for the Goulburn, where a small group of noisy grizzlers downstream of Eildon effectively restrict the maximum flows to around 8000 megaliths a day. Around Shepparton we could handle well over double that without causing too much grief – and it would give many of our wetlands a decent drink.

These "scientists" also keep saying there has been no overall improvement to the health of the Murray Darling since the Plan commenced, when that is demonstrably untrue. Apart from anything else, the drought ended and the floods since have reminded us how resilient the floodplain is - compared to the communities living alongside it.

And the environmental monitoring being carried out is showing clear, evidence-based improvement in stream side vegetation and the banks as well as marine life and biodiversity. 

The Boss calls them the Wentworth Group of Concerned Advocates. They sure aren't scientists. Woof!

By The General on October 30, 2017

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