NSW Vegetation Mismanagement

A case study in metrocentric malgovernance of regional communities.

There is no better example of the way an illinformed, arrogant and callous metropolitan majority can deliver “Grande Mall” malgovernance to a disenfranchised regional community than the gratuitous planet salvation that is embodied in the New South Wales Native Vegetation Act 2003.  It is a process that started with fraudulent misrepresentation of the character, scale and intensity of tree clearing in the mid 1990s and proceeded on a long, sleazy and ecologically culpable policy and administrative decline to the point where there was no other choice but to draw the following conclusion in my submission linked below.

“the dissonance and inconsistency between the entirely laudable objects of the act, and the content of the legislation and the regulations, is of such magnitude and materiality that the very objects of the act itself constitute a gross misrepresentation of fact to both the parliament and the public.”

Those who might suspect this quote is a little long on rhetoric should reflect on the example of the regulations intended to protect and preserve Koala habitat. They actually produce a systematic and sustained degradation of koala food quality, quantity and consistency in any forest where those regulations are applied.  Those regulations have been in place since 2005 and were recently endorsed again, apparently without objection, by such representative bodies as Australian Forest Growers, Timber Communities Australia, New South Wales Farmers and the full sorry suite of squalid environmental groups like the Australian Conservation Foundation, The Total Environment Centre, and assorted Koala molesters.  With friends like these the last thing the Koalas need is enemies. And the prescriptions designed to ‘protect’ other species are just as negligent.

http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/vegetation/subs/NVRegSub432.pdf

Do take the time to get up to speed on just how badly the city has failed the bush in the very policy millieu that they so loudly claimed the highest moral ground.  It is the kind of comprehensive policy failure that simply could not have happened in a self governing region. And it is the kind of failure that we are doomed to have repeated for as long as we continue to have no state boundary between Sydney and the bush.

Ian Mott

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Another Poll, another new state mandate

Brisbane newspaper, The Courier Mail, (27/09/2012) ran another article on the quest by north Qld mayors for more autonomy in regional economic management.  http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/north-queensland-wants-to-go-it-alone-and-create-its-own-economic-zone/story-e6freon6-1226481379617

And an online poll was also conducted which shows, yet again, that support for a new State is very strong in the north and also has a clear majority support in the SE Corner as well.  By 4.30pm the following day some 4298 votes had been taken of which 58.17% were in favour. The poll also distinguished between northerners and residents of the urban south east and these responses were in the same proportion as the relative population of the states regions. Some 65% of responses were from SEQ while 29% were from the north.

As an aside, another 6% were apparently from NSW and were given the option of voting in favour of northern autonomy with a view to improving NSW’s chances of winning the state of origin series.

Some 933 (75.06%) of the 1,243 northern responses were in favour of regional autonomy. And so were 1,567 (56.06%) of the 2,795 responses from SEQ. All up, some 2,509 (62.13%) of all Queensland respondents favoured northern autonomy.

The story also attracted 260 comments, a very large proportion of which wanted to go much further than mere autonomy to create a full state within the commonwealth.  Many southern respondents cited the possibility of getting daylight saving if the northern voters were no longer included in any referendum on the issue.

The perennial issues of greater access to mining royalties for the north, and the possible loss of them by the south east, were also prominent. This reflects a very widespread lack of understanding of the role of the Commonwealth Grants Commission in ensuring that all states get an equal per capita share of all revenues. Any excess of revenues enjoyed by the north will be redistributed to the rest of the country in the same way that Western Australia complains loudly of at present.

It is also worth noting that the NQ commenters appeared better informed than the SEQ respondents.  There was no shortage of knee jerk metrocentric jingoism laced with a belief that the city had been subsidising the bush for years. And many who seemed to think the proposal was for North Qld to completely seperate from Australia.

It is surprising that no political party has ever had a two party preferred majority of 62%, yet we don’t have any party dedicated to serving this overwhelming preference of voters. Even Bob Katter’s Australia Party declined to include north Queensland statehood in its platform at the last election despite Mr Katter’s previous public statements in favour of it.

It seems that his ‘brains trust’ thought they would get more votes by bashing gays. One can only wonder how many more of these polls are needed before the penny drops.

See previous polls with similar results at https://regionalstates.wordpress.com/2010/08/12/feedback-reveals-why-bligh-rejected-new-state-referendum/ and

https://regionalstates.wordpress.com/2010/08/10/mayors-call-for-new-north-qld-state/ rejected-new-state-referendum/

 

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Our own State – Our own Gaol

Grafton Gaol is in the news lately. And it is well worth noting that if the parts of northern NSW that voted for a new state in 1967 had got their way then Grafton Gaol would be the only gaol they have. That region’s population is over 900,000 or one eighth of the NSW total so their taxes and fees cover 12.5% of the NSW prison system’s budget. But the Newcastle/Sydney/Wollongong government has tried to close the gaol down in the chase for minor savings that will ensure that 12.5% of the prison jobs created by their taxes will no longer be kept in their own region. Indeed, the demographic centre of gravity of “New North Wales” (without the Hunter Valley) would be South Grafton. And Grafton would be the logical place for its new capital as more than 90% of the new state’s population would be less than three hours drive from their own parliament.  The evidence is also clear that most capital city wages do not circulate much further than that same three hour drive.  For example, Brisbane folk rarely venture further than Byron Bay and Noosa, both of which are actually less than two hours drive from the CBD.

 

Furthermore, when considering waste and duplication, we need to look at both sides of the ledger. That region’s local members would no longer have to travel to Sydney and rack up expensive accommodation costs, only to sit through endless, wasteful, debate about Sydney’s dysfunctional, cost compounding, diseconomies of scale.  With their own parliament most of them will drive to work each day like everyone else and return to their home each night at minimal cost to the public purse. Take a look at https://regionalstates.wordpress.com/2012/01/27/policing-in-new-north-wales/  to see how a local seat of governance operates as a key economic engine in its own right. Folks all over New North Wales all know they couldn’t do a worse job than what is being done now.

Ian Mott

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Barrages and Murray Mouth Mirages

There is a vigorous campaign being waged by Jennifer Marohasy and her Australian Environment Foundation to remove the barrages at Lake Alexandrina and somehow “restore” what is claimed to be the area’s inevitable destiny as a barrier estuary. As if the Coorong was not such a barrier estuary already. And for some reason known only to themselves, the AEF have decided that any future mixing of fresh water that takes place inside where the barrages are located is more ecologically noble than current mixing that takes place outside the barrages.  Do the fish give a tinkers cuss?

This campaign has had a great deal of publicity recently due to some very ham fisted effort from ABC Media Watch to paint the AEF as some sort of dangerous foreign funded right wingers under the bed. This has turned Ms Marohasy into a ‘cause célèbre’ in some conservative circles but it has also drawn attention away from the very serious flaws in this proposal. And worse, it is also distracting attention from the real and present flaws in the science behind the MDB Plan. There are more than enough of these already without adding imaginary ones steeped in anecdote and vaudeville.

The AEF have borrowed from the standard green spin book by claiming that the benefits of removing the barrages and the assumed replacement of fresh water evaporation with tidal sea water evaporation are, a disturbingly vague, “up to 1 million megalitres a year”.  And it has been implied that this ‘saving’ will somehow accrue to the tax payer in general and upstream irrigators in particular. But no detail on how this figure has been calculated have been provided and the only semblance of disclosure has been on a blog site with reference to current net annual evaporation for both lakes. And just like the climate mafia MO, legitimate critique is dismissed as ‘junk science’ and the work of ill-informed opinionators with an axe to grind.

The reality is quite different. For a start, the “1 million megalitre” figure can only come from subtracting the mean annual rainfall figure from the raw pan evaporation total for that region. Ms Marohasy either didn’t understand, or chose to ignore, the fact that actual evaporation from a large body of water is generally about 20% less than the pan evaporation total that is obtained under experimental conditions.  Local pan evaporation is about 1565mm so the actual is only 1252mm.  So when we deduct the 468mm mean annual rainfall as recorded at the Meningie weather station we get a net figure of 784mm which, when applied to the 75,350 hectare surface area when the lakes are at AHD,  amounts to only 590,600ML. Even when the 1st decile (1 in 10 year drought) rainfall total is used the net evaporation rate only rises to 910mm and a total volume of 685,500ML.

Interestingly, there is a wide range of conversion rates from pan evaporation in the literature. The Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth Long Term Plan, Appendix 3 appears to have adjusted Pan to Actual evaporation by a factor of 0.92 while The MDBA’s modeling for end of system flows (Heneker 2010) uses 0.85.

But note that net evaporation would only produce a significant reduction in lake volume if there was zero flow in the Murray River over a full 12 months interval.  And it would only be at the end of that 12 months that the cumulative 685,500ML shortfall allowed the same volume of sea water to enter the open lake. We can assume that the CLLMM Long Term Plan has done a better job of estimating actual lake volumes at various lake levels.  It estimates the volume of the lakes when the surface has dropped to AHD at 1,288,000ML so the lakes would still be a notional 47% fresh after 12 months of no flow. And only in the second year of a combined no-flow and a second consecutive 1st decile annual rainfall (a 1 in 50+ year event) would the volume of fresh water evaporation drop below 322,000ML.

At this point the AEF/Marohasy logic starts to get even fuzzier. They suggest that the ebb and flow of the tides will produce a much greater mixing of the two water bodies so that much more of the evaporation comes from sea water. But they fail to appreciate that perfectly good fresh water that mixes with sea water and flows out to sea is just as ‘wasted’ as fresh water that is evaporated. And none of either type will amount to any benefit to up-stream irrigators.  They have also failed to explain how this mixing might take place through the narrow entrance to Lake Albert when the lake levels, sans Barrages, will have dropped by half a metre to AHD.  Achieving greater mixing through a shallower cross section is more than just a little bit problematic.

It should not be forgotten that this “up to 1 million megalitres” claim implies that it will be saved each year.  But when we deduct the mean annual rainfall figure from the actual evaporation it should also be obvious to most that 590,660ML average evaporation can be completely negated by a river flow of the same modest volume.  As long as the river flow is greater than the evaporation shortfall there is minimal scope for a permanent transfer of sea water into the lakes because the fresh water continues to push the sea water back.  But the fuzzy logic of the AEF appears to have a problem with the fact that the sea water that comes in on the few  high tides each month that exceed 70cm amplitude is the same stuff that goes back out six hours later, leaving the fresh water exactly where it was earlier.

When I explained that there can be no significant transfers of sea water while river flows were anything more than very modest, Ms Marohasy then asserted that significant intrusions could still take place during the low-flow half of the year. This actually sounds plausible at first reading but Ms Marohasy either did not know, or chose not to disclose, the fact that the lowest flows are in Autumn and Winter when evaporation is also lowest and, more importantly, when rainfall is highest.

From May to September in an average year local rain falling on the lakes themselves actually exceeds evaporation from them to produce a net outflow independent of interstate river flows.  This period also coincides with maximum run-off from local creeks that drain into the lakes. The combined outcome is substantially diminished capacity to accommodate tidal inflow at the very time when Ms Marohasy claims such inflows will be greatest.

At no stage does the AEF appear to have made any attempt to quantify the likely volume of tidal intrusion based on the atypical (to the point of yet more SA weirdness) tidal behavior in that location. There is generally only one tide each day, and that is only during the 50% of the lunar cycle when they even take place at all. And, aside from storm surges, they only exhibit a tidal range greater than 70cm on 4 or 5 days each month. There has also been no mention of the fact that in 9 years in 10 there will be a continuous flow of warmer, less dense river water that will occupy the surface of the lake while the colder, denser sea water forms a salt wedge underneath, where it obviously cannot evaporate.

This was not the case before the major storages were built. The annual melt water previously flowed quickly to the mouth and was colder than the sea water and produced much greater mixing with that denser sea water.

One must conclude that the above mentioned substantially reduced estimate of fresh water evaporation savings will be reduced a great deal further due to the occurrence of the salt wedge effect. It is highly unlikely that actual savings would amount to even 10% of the AEF claim and even then it would be a one in ten year event or longer.  And this would bring the actual annual average savings of fresh water evaporation back to only 1% of the AEF claim. They want farmers to get into a lather over just 10,000 megalitres of annual water savings.

So next time you hear those seductive, almost plausible, claims to “restore the estuary” and remove the barrages you would do well to keep in mind that the estuary only functioned properly with the help of every drop of water that is currently in storage upstream.  Without that average extra 12 million megalitres of river flow each year the Murray mouth would be almost continually closed.  The overwhelming geophysical dynamic in that location is the deposition of beach sand inside the mouth from the differing velocities of inflowing and outflowing tidal flows.  The AEF have consistently refused to accept the fundamental scientific reality that the capacity of flowing water to shift sediment is determined by the square of the flow velocity.  At most times the inflowing tides take 8 hours while the outflow takes 16 hours and that means the inflowing tides, in the absence of river flows, deposit four times more sediment than the outflow can remove.

An equilibrium of sediment movement is only achieved when river flows are sufficient to double the volume of outflows so the velocities of both flows are matched.  Prior to irrigation allocations this was usually the case but since then it has become a less frequent norm.  The barrages have been a very useful response to this by substantially reducing the size of the tidal prism so both tidal inflow volume and velocity have also declined and sand deposition has declined with it.

Nowdays, when storm surges which would normally dump tens of thousands of cubic metres of sand inside the mouth in a single event, the smaller tidal capacity produced by the barrages reduces both the volume and velocity of the inflow and the volume of sand it brings with it.   Enlarge that tidal prism by a blunt, unmeasured removal of the barrages and the scale, speed and frequency of mouth closure is increased. And that will only produce even more strident demands for yet more irrigator’s precious fresh water in a futile attempt to get the Murray mouth open again.

Normal tidal intrusion through a small mouth opening would be far too little, and travel far too slowly, to ever get much beyond where the barrages are today.  So the long term prospects for replacement of fresh water evaporation are dim.

More importantly, mouth closure would pose a very serious problem for every farmer in the MDB. An open Murray mouth and a healthy, tidal Coorong is a key ecological performance indicator. Farmers have enough trouble hanging onto the water they still have without further degrading that indicator and strengthening the arm of those who want even more water.

Accordingly, Ms Marohasy and the AEF must provide detailed estimates of the actual volume of fresh water evaporation they think barrage removal will deliver over the climatic cycle.  And she could then explain, in a context of continued outflows from the Murray mouth, how these “savings” will actually accrue to the taxpayer in general and farmers in particular.  Without such detailed substantiation of these claims the MDBA has a professional duty of care to ignore submissions that do not stand up to informed scrutiny.  Detailed critique of real, rather than imaginary, problems with the science behind the MDBA Plan is an absolute imperative.  It is the only way we can get real, rather than imaginary, alternate solutions.

Ian Mott,  First published as a formal submission to the MDBA on the Basin Plan.

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Policing in New North Wales

One of the difficulties in promoting the concept of a new state is identifying what will change and what will remain the same. So in this article we will look at the existing numbers and structure of policing in Northern NSW and use comparisons with other states to project how this is likely to change if the region was self governing within the Commonwealth.

For the purposes of this analysis we will assume that the new state comprises 906,000 residents, being 244,100 in the NSW Far North Coast, 348,900 in the Mid North Coast and 313,000 in the Northern Tablelands and Upper Darling River. It does not include the Hunter Valley or Broken Hill. It is a neat 1/8th (12.5%) of the NSW population of 7.253 million (as at 30/9/2010).

Current police numbers in NSW (at Dec.2011) are 16,092 or an average of one officer for each 434 residents. Some 12,958 (80.53%) are involved in field operations at the ratio of one officer to 560 residents. The remaining 3,134 (19.47%) can be classed as Head Office functions, such as 16 in the Commissioners office, 406 in Corporate Services and 2,712 in Specialist Operations (SWAT, prosecutions, Internal Affairs etc), mostly in Sydney.

Current numbers in the New North Wales region are 709 in the inland and 952 on the coast for a total of 1,661 officers at a ratio of one officer to 542 residents. There is a significant variance in the ratios, with one officer to 440 residents inland and one to 623 residents on the coast. The inland ratio appears to be due to reduced efficiency of smaller town units, distance between units, and a larger aboriginal population which is overrepresented in crime statistics. This region wide ratio is slightly lower than the state wide average for field operations officers.

If all police jobs were evenly distributed in proportion to population then the New North Wales region would have an extra 350 positions for a total of 2,011. This staffing shortfall of 17.4% is then exacerbated by the fact that the Head Office and Specialist salaries are significantly higher than that of field operations officers. If the average Head Office salary is 50% higher than the average field operations officer’s then the salary budget disparity will rise to 26%. This means that for the portion of each taxpayers Federal GST funds that go on police salaries, some 26% of the New North Welshman’s share does not circulate in the regional economy, leaking instead to Sydney where it remains in circulation, exacerbating congestion costs.

The same applies to office overheads. The cost of Sydney office space is at least double the cost of the same space in a regional city. And that means that for each taxpayers share of GST funds that cover office space, a larger portion of the regional taxpayers GST will leak from the regional economy and circulate in Sydney, creating additional jobs at the expense of regional jobs and further forcing up city costs and congestion diseconomies.

So how would that change in a new State?

A quick look at Tasmania will give us a good indication. They have 1,260 officers for their 503,300 population at a ratio of one officer to 400 residents. When another 400 non-police administrative staff are included the ratio drops to one officer to 303 residents.

Some would interpret this as evidence of the inefficiencies of small states. The corporate services section of Tasmanian Police appears to be the same size as the NSW one that serves a population 14 times larger. But the picture is far more complex than that. For a start, the Commonwealth Grants Commission (that knows quite a bit about state finances) is quite clear on the fact that only the Commissioner’s team constitutes the “fixed” portion of a state’s departmental costs. The rest are jobs that are in direct proportion to the number of services delivered. So it is wrong to assume that all the administrative staff are in the Head Office.

Furthermore, the differences in salaries and office costs between Sydney and Hobart means the Tasmanians have significantly greater purchasing power for their federal GST dollar. It would make eminent good sense to use the money one saves on lower salaries and office costs to employ additional support staff to keep the police in the field and to employ more of them to improve service delivery and reduce the stress and attrition rate of all of them.

And more importantly, because of the smaller size of that state, the proportion of the budget that is devoted to head office remains in circulation right through its economy with less regional distortion.

The same would apply in the new state of New North Wales. In general, the scale of specialist operations and corporate services is in direct proportion to the work generated by the field operations staff. The new Commissioner will insist on his 16 member team in the new state capital (as they do). But the numbers required in corporate and specialists roles is likely to be approximately 12.5% of existing numbers for the whole state. This would mean about 51 in corporate services and another 339 in specialist operations for a total head office staff of 406.

When this is added to the existing 1661 field officers we get a total of 2,067 staff at a ratio of one officer to each 438 residents. This is 56 officers more than the 2,011 officers that would constitute the neat 1/8th of the existing NSW total. But the cost of these is likely to be more than covered by the lower cost of office space in the new capital.

And if that new capital is located somewhere close to the demographic centre of gravity just south of Grafton, all of these salaries will circulate quite evenly throughout the new state’s economy. Over 90% of the new states population will be within the critical three hours drive of the new administrative engine of growth.

If these 406 newly transferred corporate and specialist roles maintain their relativities to field operations salaries they will deliver the equivalent economic stimulus of an extra 609 local police jobs which, under the standard 3.5 times economic multipliers, will generate somewhere in the order of 2,100 permanent regional jobs.

And that is from the Police Budget alone. Regional autonomy is the only proven effective means of decentralization. It maintains overall economic growth while reducing metropolitan congestion costs and avoiding further urban diseconomies of scale. It is the idea who’s time has come.

[update Jan 29 2012] Police Training.

The other obvious change will be to police training. The NSW Police Academy at Goulburn is attached to Charles Sturt University and has single accommodation for 816 trainees.  The new state, with 1/8th the police numbers of NSW, is likely to need only 102 places to meet its training requirements.  And some may argue that this service would be more efficiently delivered if New North Wales continued to train their recruits at that location.

But this is false economy as the distance of any educational institution from home has a major bearing on a students decision to use that facility. Goulburn is more than 12 hours drive from the third of NNW that lives north of a line drawn just south of Tenterfield, Casino, Lismore and Ballina. And that means that a third of the potential police recruits for the new state have had an alternative career path entry point just two hours away at the Qld Police Academy. This is obviously not a representative sample, but of the three yearly cohorts either side of 1973 from my own high school at Mullumbimby, those pursuing a police career were split 50/50 between the two options. And that was back when the NSW Academy was in Sydney, not 2 hours further away.

A smaller centrally located new state police academy that is less than 3 hours drive from 90% of potential recruits would not only keep these recruits in their own state but the recruitment losses in the rest of the state will also be reduced, helped in no small part by the absolute certainty that they will not end up being posted to Sydney or Broken Hill. The benefits from this vastly improved recruitment situation will overwhelm the minor costs of a duplicated institution that could just as easily be attached to UNE or SCU.

It should also be noted that New North Wales voters and tax payers are already the co-owners of every bit of software and intellectual property, including all lecture and training material, that is used at the current NSW Police Academy. And they would have the right to retain a copy of all such material for use in their new academy.  Only the hardware would need to be acquired up front but much of this is has a short effective life which is regularly upgraded anyway.

Ian Mott.

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So much Murray River flow and so little to show for it.

Some time around the 10th December 2011 the 14 millionth megalitre of 2011’s Murray River flows crossed the border into South Australia.  This is on top of what was needed to fill all the upstream storages and deliver some serious water to Red Gum Forests and wetlands along the way. After South Australia has taken its full 2 million ML allocation for Adelaide water and irrigation this leaves 12 million ML (12km3), or 240% of the 5 million ML long term average discharges, to flow into the sea.  The market price of this 12 million ML, if there was sufficient storage to capture it, is around $2.4 billion so there is no better time to judge the quality of the outcomes that the Murray Darling Basin Authority claims will be achieved by delivering additional environmental water.

You may recall that the primary purpose of the irrigation water buy-backs is to deliver additional water to “the environment”.  But contrary to the impression given by far too many media reporters, the environment already gets quite a bit, except in drought of course when nobody but city dwellers and townies in the Basin gets any at all.  In reality the water that is used by Adelaide and other towns of SA, and SA irrigators, is classified as an “extraction” and is assumed to deliver no ecological benefits, despite the fact that it flows 95% of the entire river length, delivering substantial ecological benefits to every river reach it flows through, even in the kind of droughts that once left the river bed bone dry.

And this is on top of the above mentioned 5 million ML of long term average annual discharge into the sea, which obviously flows 100% of the river length, delivering ecological benefits to every mile it flows through.  The same applies to all the irrigation water used at Mildura, Leeton, Griffith, Yarrawonga and every other extraction point in the basin, which has delivered ecological services to all the upstream catchment before it is diverted along channels, where it also maintains new wetland habitats, before it actually becomes an “extraction”.

So it is in this context that the greens and academics on the MDBA drip are claiming that the environment needs another 4 million ML each year to avoid ecological collapse. And the clearly stated end use for that extra water is to keep the Murray mouth open for nine years in ten and to eliminate hyper-salinity in the Coorong.

So this is why 2011 is the ideal year for examining whether these buy-backs, at a cost of close to $9 billion to the taxpayer, will actually achieve what their proponents claim they will do.

The Murray mouth is now open. The small dredge that kept the mouth open through the worst drought in a century at an annual cost of only $2.6 million stopped work as soon as the January floods became apparent.  But few people understand that it is not silt from upstream farms that normally restricts the river flow.  Rather, it is sand from the beach, deposited by the inbound tides and storm surges, that can undo all the corrective work of a million ML of river outflow in a single storm event.

And it is all to do with the asymmetrical tides in that part of the world. For two weeks in each lunar cycle the tide takes about eight hours to come in and sixteen hours to flow back out again.  The capacity of water to shift sediment is determined by the square of the velocity. So when the inflow is twice the speed of the outflow it means the inflow brings four times more sediment in than the outflow takes away.   And it is to correct this imbalance that the SA government and the MDBA wants the extra four million ML of upstream farmer’s valuable water allocation.

So after 12 million ML (12KM3) of river outflow in a single year we can say that, yes, it did its job. But was that $2.4 billion worth of water the best option for achieving it?  It is likely that the work of quite a few of those cubic kilometers was undone by storm surge tidal inflows in as little as a week later. And this then required another valuable cubic kilometer of fresh water to push it back out again.

Furthermore, the other two weeks in every four have a very modest tidal range and this produces much less sand deposition to be corrected. So half of each cubic kilometer that flowed out to sea in 2011 was wasted because there was no sand deposition to be counteracted while that outflow took place.

The underperformance of 12 million ML is even worse in respect of reducing salinity in the Coorong.  The generally accepted belief has been that large volumes of fresh water are needed to ensure that enough of it will “slosh” (yes, that’s a scientific term in SA) into the lower Coorong to correct the hypersalinty that was as high as five times that of sea water during the drought.

The total volume of the South Lagoon is only 140,000ML so only 1.166% of the 12 million ML outflow would need to “slosh” into the South Lagoon to completely replace the hypersaline water.  But for the record, the salinity reading at Parnka Point on the 8th December 2011 was still EC 80,019 (1.6 times sea water) and the reading at Cattle Island was still EC 110,761 (2.1 times sea water).  From this we can conclude that only about half the hypersaline volume of the South Lagoon (about 70,000ML) was actually replaced.

This 12 million ML of valuable fresh water was used at a delivery efficiency rate of 0.58 of 1%.  For each megalitre that made it into the South Lagoon, another 171 was wasted.  They basically “spent” $34,200 to deliver each $200 megalitre to the Coorong.  Is there any wonder that informed upstream farmers might get a little angry when it is they who are accused of using water inefficiently?

Don’t forget that this is the level of service delivery that has come from a one in twenty year flood. The actual achievements of the MDBA’s preferred average flow level will be a great deal less and at a much lower rate of delivery efficiency.  And it is all because they have consistently refused to look at any other alternatives.  At an opportunity cost of $34,200 per effective megalitre they could build a pipeline and pump it all the way from the Kimberley and still have plenty of change. In fact, they could back load bulk ore carriers with water from the mouth of the Yangtze and still do a cheaper job.

The alternatives to fresh water for both tasks are far more effective and come at a fraction of the cost. Just one large, unidirectional, 1km pipe under the dunes, of the same 6.4m diameter as the 22km Tumut-Eucumbene tunnel that was cut through solid rock,  would passively on each high tide, deliver more than a million ML of fully oxygenated sea water a year to the South Lagoon.  This would flow north to the Murray mouth, completely flushing the entire Coorong four times a year and returning that entire system to habitat values and water quality that it would only have experienced briefly in the past 10 millennia. See; http://www.mdba.gov.au/files/submissions/Ian%20Mott%20-%20Landholders%20Institute.pdf

Two more pipes on either side of the Murray mouth, with ocean intakes above the sea floor, will ensure that half of each tidal inflow gets inside the mouth without bringing any sand with it. And by blocking the pipes on the outflow the total volume will then flow out the mouth, taking the sand with it.  The higher the storm surge, the faster the water will flow through the pipes and the greater the volume of water that does not bring sand with it.  Unlike river flows that can take months to flow from Dam to river mouth, the “plumbing of the Coorong” will deliver the right volume of water for each circumstance and at the exact time that it is needed.

Local Federal MP, Patrick Secker (Barker), has estimate the cost of such pipes at no more than $30 million each, for an annual cost in the order of $2 million, delivering abundant, free and reliable sea water at a cost of only $2 per megalitre.   The MDBA has been informed of this option but to date has proceeded with their grossly inefficient, blatantly ineffective, and outrageously expensive, fresh water  monomania in breach of their statutory obligations to consider all relevant alternatives.  And we all need to ask, why?

Ian Mott

First published at http://www.quadrant.org.au/blogs/doomed-planet/2011/12/has-it-worked

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Live Cattle – a crucial test of collective wit.

Australia’s response to film of what appears to be cruel practices employed in the Indonesian meat processing sector is looming as a critical test of urban Australia’s capacity to exercise a majority mandate over the regional minority.  And the core of that test will be the extent to which the full circumstances behind the disturbing footage is investigated.

The footage was, after all, obtained by Animals Australia, an organisation that has a long and well documented history of partial and fragmentary respect for the truth. And the ABC, on which it was broadcast, is little better.  True to form,  much of the Indonesian cattle story just doesn’t add up.
For a start we don’t know the context in which the footage was obtained. Clearly, the owner or manager who gave someone permission to film on their premises would only have done so if they believed that the film crew was from an organisation other than Animals Australia and could be trusted to act in good faith.  They would also have believed that film of their workplace practices would not be detrimental to their company.

They obviously believed their own processes were neither cruel nor in breach of existing Indonesian anti-cruelty law passed more than 18 months ago.  They would hardly grant permission at all if this was not the case.

And no doubt the management instructions to the workers on the floor would have been to accommodate the film crew as much as possible.

And once filming had begun and a number of fully compliant kills had
taken place the workers would have become accustomed to modifying their normal practices for the camera. And from then it would only have taken a seemingly innocent question from the activists like, “what does the animal do if you don’t kill it quickly”? to give them the footage they were after all along.

These workers, all on less than $2 a day, would most likely have simply complied with the
strange foreigner’s request as per the directive from management. For all we
know those workers may well have gone home to their family with a story about the
awful cruelty they had to inflict on a poor animal to please some weird
foreigners.

One thing we can be certain of is that if AA had any more distressing footage they would have used it. So we can also be certain that the footage is much worse than the norm.  There is ALWAYS more to ANY issue raised by the animal nutters. And there is an urgent need to examine the footage to determine if there is any deceptive editing. This could include instances where the one action has been filmed on two cameras and then spliced together to make it appear as if the ordeal was drawn out.

At one stage Animals Australia and their network of blog trolls claimed that the crowding of live animals on the ships was terribly inhumane, until someone pointed out that sheep and cattle were herd species who take great comfort in crowding together in unusual circumstances.

Then they claimed that the supposedly high mortality rate on the journey to foreign shores was more evidence of inhumane treatment. But then someone pointed out that, in terms of passenger miles, it was no different to the mortality of pensioners on P&O cruises.

And of late we have the moronic claim that this whole live animal trade could be replaced by Australian meat processing facilities, as if our unemployed would flock to the top end to work for the $15 an hour that has already rendered many meat processors uneconomic in the domestic meat market, let alone the Indonesian one.  And of course, none of them would ever aspire to any of the mining jobs just down the road paying four or five times more with much better conditions.

The reality is that a substantial shareholding in these small processing facilities could be bought for just a fraction of the Meat and Livestock Authority’s annual levies.  Apparently, the brilliant minds who govern us are the only OECD officials who have never heard of vertically integrated marketing.  And why on earth the boxes were not already aligned with Mecca to save all that drama we will never know.

Urban Australia needs to get right to the bottom of this issue, and examine all the options before passing a rash, “ban the lot”, judgement on a complex issue.

There is a very real danger here that urban life won’t even imitate art. It may just imitate the worst kind of trash “reality” TV where a procession of pathetic vacuoids have been conditioned for no other response but elimination. Where an entire industry with $330 million in sales, $900 million in wages and more than a $billion in economic multiplier effect, gets voted off the economy with nothing more than a declaration that “the tribe has spoken”.

And if that is the case then urban Australia will have abrogated its obligations under the social contract with the regional minority.  They will have squandered their right to exercise a majority mandate on regional Australia’s behalf.

[UPDATE 10/06/2011]

What more can one say? Gillard applied the ban based solely on a single piece of unexamined film from a clearly biased source without any additional testing of evidence. A whole industry has been extinguished on the basis of trial by media and a totally disproportionate penalty has been imposed on people who have done nothing wrong to animals they no longer owned under a completely different legal jurisdiction.

Can there be a single scrap of doubt left that regional Australian’s have a very questionable future under continued metrocentric political domination.  Readers should read through the preamble to the American Declaration of Independence and compare the malgovernance that they fought a war to rid themselves of in the 1770’s and then compare it to what is taking place here in Australia in 2011.    Ian Mott.

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