By ERWIN CHLANDA
The controversial water allocation to the family property of CLP candidate for Lingiari, Tina MacFarlane, has been made in a “rigorous process” and “due process has been followed”.
This is the opinion of John Childs (pictured), who, before his retirement in 2008, spent a decade as the delegate of the Territory government’s Controller of Water Resources in the southern half of the NT. He has a doctorate in civil engineering. The doctorate work was on the modelling of water resources. He lives in Alice Springs.
“It is a very thorough job,” says Dr Childs of the MacFarlane water allocation. “All the ‘t’s are crossed and the ‘i’s dotted.”
The allocation is a key issue in the Labor Party’s campaign for the re-election of sitting Member Warren Snowdon. Supporters have claimed Mrs MacFarlane is “tainted” by the allocation, sought to expand a horticultural venture on the MacFarlanes’ Stylo Station.
Environmental activists have said the river and groundwater systems around Mataranka, where the station is located, will be affected by the allocation.
The Alice Springs News Online asked Dr Childs not for a comment on the political issues, but strictly on the process by which the allocation was made. We provided him with documents supplied by the NT Department of Land Resource Management and a note supplied to it by the Bureau of Metereology, and Dr Childs made his own enquiries.
This is what he says:- “The public record shows that a rigorous process has been followed: on the departmental website at the first entry in the table headed 2012 is a link to the detailed decision behind the granting of this particular licence.
“From my reading of the detailed decision and of the draft Mataranka water allocation plan 2011 together with its background document, all due process has been followed.
“Indeed the information from the Department to [the Alice Springs News Online] dated 22 August 2013, which explains why the maximum annual extraction limit will be increased almost double over that in the draft plan, is irrelevant in that the total of all licences granted in the area, including this particular one, is still within the lower limit originally proposed in the draft plan.
“The draft plan made several conservative (cautious) assumptions, and effectively combined the effects of them to make the limit very conservative.
“The updated thinking is more realistic, although it does then require a more on the ball approach to monitoring and adjusting annual usage; this is known as adaptive management and is enshrined in allocation plans and presumably in licences (which do not appear to be publicly available on the website).
“Note that the licences are not for a guaranteed amount, and will vary from year to year depending on the actual rainfall in the previous wet season, and in many years licensees will not get the maximum amount specified on their licence.”
By ERWIN CHLANDA