I just returned from almost three weeks in Hong Kong. It is a city that I fell in love with some five years ago when I worked there with Oxfam Hong Kong.

A ram's skull at Trilby, on the intersection of the Murray and Darling rivers. Pic: AAP / File

There is a great deal that Australia’s major cities could learn from Hong Kong: it is a city that promotes and rewards efficiency, cleanliness and creativity – aspects that we often neglect.

This is clearly evident in the integrated design of the public transport system that is regular, clean, safe and on time. (Please note NSW State Rail Authority: the definition of ‘on time’ does not change at regular intervals but is kind of set). For example, last Saturday I missed a bus – my irritation was subdued when I informed the next one was ‘four minutes’ away. We can compare this to the two-hour gap between busses on the 370 route between Leichhardt and Coogee which I was faced with only a week later: and this is in the eastern suburbs if Sydney – the best served public transport corridor.

Since my last visit to Hong Kong there are some signs of Chinese mainland influence and nationalism. I was informed, however, that these have been accompanied by increasing political involvement and demands for greater democracy. Despite outward appearances, there is a democratic culture here and I was lucky enough to work with some of the most passionate and competent social justice advocates I have ever come across.

There are also downsides to Hong Kong. One of these has become the increasing reliance on air conditioning set at a temperature of about 21 degrees.

Yes, Hong Kong is a tropical city but historically buildings have been designed to keep naturally cool. Over the last 20 years this has changed and Hong Kong residents are likely to switch the air conditioning on as soon as they walk through the door. This creates both noise and heat for the neighbours who respond by shutting their windows and switching on the air con.

Just how much the city relies on this technology was highlighted in an attempt to have a ‘no air con night’. The idea was to encourage residents to turn off the air conditioning so that they could find alternative ways to cool down and also limit the noise pollution. As up to 60 percent of Hong Kong’s electricity is used on air conditioning, it was also about limiting pollution.

The night was not quite successful with only 50,000 households taking part (not many as Hong Kong has a population of approximately seven million residents). Many others who intended to take part eventually turned the air con on because of the noise of their neighbours or ended up getting too hot and could not sleep.

The problem is that there are no so many air conditioning units that it has actually made the city hotter. Buildings are now designed with air conditioning in mind and so everyone has one running continuously. The heat that comes out of the unit actually gets trapped between the buildings and it becomes intolerable. The response is that more people get air conditioning and the spiral continues.

There are now about 20 hotspots in the city: that is, locations that do not get below 28 degrees either during the day or night all year round – which are estimated to increase by 30 more in the next 20 years.

This is a classic ‘progress trap’ – a term coined by historian Ronald Wright in his book The Short History of Progress.  A progress trap refers to the aspects of our civilisation that have made us successful and comfortable but can ultimately lead to our downfall. Success here refers to economic, social or even cultural. The problem is that we have become so used to relying on such technologies or processes that we cannot see a way around them: they seem natural and inevitable and so we get stuck along this path even when the consequences become increasingly obvious.

This creates tunnel vision for policy making and we cannot see a way out because the changes to this path seem too politically risky and radical – so they are best avoided.

Australia is confronting a number of its own progress traps – with water allocations along the Murray-Darling Basin being one example on everyone’s mind at the moment.

Whole communities have come to rely on the over-allocation of water rights that has made many (though not all) successful. As it has become increasingly obvious that the river is dying, any policy to reverse this has never been successfully implemented.

There is a need to remember that water is an important input to almost every industry. There is a strong link between water availability and agricultural production as well as mining production including exploratory drilling and site rehabilitation.

The history of industrial and agricultural water rights in Australia is complicated with details significantly varying across States. In general, however, allocations are provided directly to users. While water agencies technically have the power to alter or even cancel licences, this has rarely occurred and, in most circumstances, water have come to be viewed by holders as rights in perpetuity.

Even by the 1970s it was evident that many water systems had been over-allocated, and levels that could be extracted by entitlement holders could exceed any realistic measures of sustainable. NSW, for example, had licences and water allocations that were estimated to equal 120 percent of total available water resources.  Though reforms have been implemented at different times, these fail to meet sustainability requirements.

Despite much fanfare, one commentator described The National Water Commission’s biennial report on water reform that was released late 2009 as one of the “most dispiriting government reports ever compiled”.  Amongst other things, the Commission criticised the provision of assistance for irrigation infrastructure that if felt distorts the decision-making process for investors and irrigators.

I am not some inner city hippy demanding water cuts – what I am trying to highlight is that we need to confront this issue. There is a need for some serious structural adjustment here – and despite promises made to irrigators as late as the 1960s that water supply would be continuous, this has to change.

What is fundamental here, however, is that these communities not be abandoned: we need to ensure both our state and federal governments work with the local population when implementing any strategy but ensure that one is implemented regardless.

Alternatives are possible – and we need to find them or the Murray Darling will wither – and progress will cease altogether.

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    • Jimmy says:

      06:20am | 18/10/10

      Hong Kong rewards cleanliness? Really? Need to relook the rewards.

    • Brad of Bentleigh says:

      11:01am | 18/10/10

      Clearly the author spent too much time with “progressives” in HK and so has limited understanding of how the city actually works.
      Public transport for example, doesn’t have timetables, they just have lots and lots of busses, trains, trams and taxis.
      A/C being set to 21? in Hong Kong? He’s kidding! Try, “as low as it goes”. So much so, that on a hot, humid summers day, you need a jacket for whenever you go inside any building.
      Nothing is set up in HK for sustainability, and everything is geared around the fact that there are so many people in such a small place. The heat island effect, especially in places such as Mong Kok is a genuine problem, A/C (condensing units) plays into this, but population density is the number 1 issue here.

      I love it how lefty types see one thing, and call it another. Hong Kong is a tribute to capitalism, not some greenie’s utopian ideal of sustainability.

      Does the author understand that large parts of southern china suffer power rationing, just so HK can keep the lights on?
      Does he understand that the bulk of their water supplies are pipped down from Shenzhen (and the delta)?

    • Just Sayin' says:

      02:58pm | 18/10/10


      Maybe you didn’t read the article.  The author never said HK was a model of sustainability.  Indeed, he was was using HK aircon as an example of a non-sustainable system as an anology to Australia’s water problem.

      HK Public Transport doesn’t have timetables?  They certainly go to a lot of effort to pretend they do - http://www.mtr.com.hk/eng/lr_bus/schedule/schedule_index.html

    • Bep says:

      03:29pm | 29/05/11

      Brad got owned.

    • Garth says:

      06:59am | 18/10/10

      But we can just divert all the water from northern rivers and pipe it up from Tasmania. When that runs out we can ring the continent with desalination plants. When that runs out we can purify our urine. When that runs out we can tow icebergs from the Antarctic. When that runs out we can have spaceships collect ice laden comets from space. When that runs out we can surround the Sun with solar panels and use the energy to build water atoms. Clearly Australia could easily support a population of a hundred trillion trillion.

    • AJ says:

      01:24pm | 18/10/10

      This is a great response - very amusing.

    • T.Chong says:

      06:59am | 18/10/10

      The problem is vested interest groups all see their area of concern as the most important issue, and anything that changes the situation as unacceptable.
      Those at the top of the system cant do without x amount of resource, while those in the middle , and lower regions say exactly the same.
      All claim that without   x litres they will fail, but there is not enough water left for all to let things continue on the same.
      Unfortunately that has led to the curent impasse.
      The often irrational anger and emotion from all sides cannot change the facts, but may force the whole evaluation to be put away for another day, till one day it will be too late.

    • Adam Diver says:

      07:26am | 18/10/10

      Thats why there needs to be less consultation and more action from a third party, not involved, with clarity of the situation, like, you know a government. I think the digital age has made the major parties giant pansies to afraid to make a decision because the retribution from a small minority now echoes loudly across the country.

    • Jim says:

      11:51am | 18/10/10

      When you’re not ranting about politics T.Chong you actually make a lot of sense raspberry
      The proposed plan has irrigators up in arms…justified to some extent. But they really have no case when it can be pouring down rain and you drive past a property that has the sprinklers on!
      They need to be smarter before they can negotiate anything.

    • Liz says:

      07:20am | 18/10/10

      If every home and business was responsible for saving ti’s own water we’d be winning!

    • CJ Morgan says:

      07:56am | 18/10/10

      Good article.  Australia has no alternative but to face this critical issue head on.  We simply cannot continue to over exploit our scarce water resources.  Yes, those communities that depend on unsustainable irrigation will suffer - but better some pain now than total disaster down the track.

      I’m not an inner city greenie either.  I live in the upper headwaters of the Darling system, where unsustainable water exploitation of the system starts.

    • Peter Oataway, Hay, NSW says:

      10:15am | 18/10/10

      Meeting this head on should include putting pumping, pipeline and irrigation water use efficiencies on the table rather than just buying back theoretical irrigation water licences most often water that hasn’t even fallen from the sky as rain yet.

    • CJ Morgan says:

      07:04pm | 18/10/10

      Agree completely, Peter - although I think that there’s been substantial progress towards more efficient use of water already.

    • Joan says:

      07:56am | 18/10/10

      You can do without airconditioning but you can’t farm without water. And I hope we never have the population density of Hong Kong in order to give me bus service every 4 minutes.- I`ll rather just make sure I get to bus stop on time for the 2 hourly service.

    • iansand says:

      08:00am | 18/10/10

      Restrict water use and help people transfer to more efficient storage and delivery systems.  My theory is to hammer people with charges but offer rebates if they improve efficiency.  And if they choose water-intensive but high profit crops like rice and cotton, part of that profit can go to paying market price for a scarce resource called water.

      I also think that drought relief should be in the form of loans that are forgiven to the extent that money is used to drought proof properties.

    • Mr Grumpy says:

      08:15am | 18/10/10

      The most dispiriting thing is not the report, its the current bush hysteria.

      Here we have the supposedly self-reliant, ruggedly independent, reliably practical blokes from The Bush. For a hundred years or so, they have systematically abused the land in their trust and over decades drained the Murray Darling to a criminal state, sucking up the water wastefully through a network of open unlined drains they call irrigation, endlessly over-allocating a finite resource.

      The result was entirely predictable and has been warned of for what, the last forty years?

      And yet, according to these bluff, practical, self-reliant folk its not *their* responsibility at all. Nup, not their fault, no way. And no, they won’t fix it, neither.

      Somehow these sensible, practical bush folk reckon its all the fault of the dad-gum Socialist Gummint and some dad-gummed shiny-bum desk jockeys and a bunch of fruitloops in white lab coats.

      News flash, bluff, sensible, practical, self-reliant bushies: you abused the mighty Murray for year after year after year, for decades until it damn near choked.

      You are the problem. Got that?

      It’s our flaming river, not just *yours*.  You broke it. Now you’ve gotta help fix it. We have to fix it all together.

      And that’s what gummint is for, cos so far you sure haven’t tired to fix it yourselves.

    • Matt says:

      09:41am | 18/10/10

      Another clueless comment from an uninformed city dweller who thinks he knows more about the rivers than people who live there. One, no one in the basin has said that nothing should change - everyone realises there has been over-allocation.

      It was the sheer magnitude of the cuts and the acceptance of the Wentworth groups ambit claims that has seen this anger erupt. Combine this with the dismissive attitude of the MDBA to the social and economic impact of cuts, in practical terms of over 50% in some places, and yes, people will be upset.

      Finally, being lectured on environmental sustainability by city folk does tend to grate. Melbourne, Sydney et al are the most environmentally degraded places in Australia! Demolish 36-45% of these cities to restore the native tree cover, wetlands etc. and city folk would scream too!

    • Barry says:

      10:36am | 18/10/10

      Ah, ignorance is so entertaining.  I think one of the major problems with the situation was that the MDBA did not fully engage the community in the process so far.  Anybody who has ever studied any kind of university degree in environmental science would know that to achieve the highest standard of environmental conservation you must have the support of the stakeholder groups who are involved in the issue.  Authoritarian, and command and control methods are just not that successful in these situations.  This is just standard theory they teach at uni these days.  Are the cuts necessary?  Probably, but the way they have carried out the process so far was the MDBA’s own undoing.  In terms of blaming farmers for what has occurred, the government has always supplied allocations to meet a demand.  It was the government’s responsiblity to manage water allocations, and the removal of water from the system.  It’s collapse is the responsibility of the farmers, and the government.  It is also though the responsibility of all of Australia, who have reaped the benefits of Australia’s historical agricultural activity.  The country would not possess the wealth it now does without the agricultural activity that has occurred in the past.  I’m sure though Mr. Grumpy at your inner city fruit markets you make sure you don’t buy any Australian grown fruit, and look specificially for international imports, you wouldn’t want to support the industry that is killing our rivers. : )

    • Russell says:

      11:07am | 18/10/10

      @ Barry, good points, but forget the smily face punctuation. “Mr Grumpy” and other inner city greenies who just love to lecture rednecks simply would not understand you. Someone from Balmain makes the same points as old grumps in the letters page of today Hearld. Balmain! of course, Balmain…  These people do not recogonise their own role in our economy or ecosystem, they just know that it is all some one else’s fault. People less enlightened – the rest of us..

    • Fiddlesticks says:

      01:02pm | 18/10/10

      I don’t know about Grumpy, but I live in the Riverina and my wife’s family comes from Murray Bridge and Adelaide.

      All someone else’s responsibility, eh.  Where do you folk think existing demand for over-allocation came from? The Magic Bloody Pumpkin? 

      For goodness sake, its time all of us along the Murray Darling woke up to ourselves and admitted responsibility. Isn’t that who we are and what we stand for?

      How in God’s name can we justify any open channels and any shallow retaining dams to anyone living downstream, no matter what we “use” the water for?

      Grumpy is right. The Bush has to help fix the Murray. Now.

    • Mrs Agree says:

      01:40pm | 18/10/10

      Yep, you’re absolutely 100% correct Mr Grumpy & thank goodness some one can see what needs to be done - & I’m from the bush! What gets me is that the government and the water authorities all bellyache about the irrigators wasting so much water & wrecking the environment when the government & the water authorities never do one damn thing to repair the inland rivers that they themselves are using to channel the irrigation water from the big catchment dams to the irrigation farmers! The amount of water wasted & lost & the huge areas of riverine environment that the government & the water authorities are wrecking & losing on a daily basis is inexcusable! And then they have the hide to got out & tell the irrigators that they are the problem. I don’t think it is only the big flood irrigators who are to blame for the mess in Australia’s rivers - the problem has been there ever since the inland river systems were dammed & regulated by government & water authorities. And particularly since not one thing has ever been done to help repair or maintain the regulated rivers, which are used just like huge irrigation channels anyway to run the water from dams to irrigation farms.

    • Fiddlesticks says:

      02:07pm | 18/10/10

      Mrs Agree seems to be a bit muddled.

      The existing water system, and its misuse, came about only as the direct result of decades of lobbying by us, The Men on The Land,  full stop.

      Nobody *made* us ask for more than the River could give. No-one *made* us use it so wastefully.  We chose to do it.

      What we have now is a chance to talk about it.  That’s where we’re at.

      We’ve got A Guide to talk about, now. Later, we’ll get a Draft Plan to talk about. And after that, a Plan to think about and make work.

      We made the mess, nobody else. Best we roll our sleeves up and try to fix it, rather than blame some poor coots in the Big Smoke.

    • shep says:

      06:23pm | 18/10/10

      What a massively obnoxious, uniformed diatribe. 

      Government for many decades has systematically endorsed, encouraged, financed and in the last decade or so made unjustifyably large taxes from the ownership, sale and distribution of water.

      All governments now control the access to, and the allocation of water in each state, some far more successfully than others.  Government water bodies systematically mismanage this resource in order to maximise profit/tax and allow irrigators/farmers to suffer as year in year out they pay in full for a resource that they rely on absolutely but almost never fully receive.  There are not many irrigation schemes out there in which which irrigators have received all their allocations for many years now.  Though government makes us pay anyway or we lose all access.  Imagine paying for two loaves of bread everyday but only ever getting one - it wouldn’t happen in any other industry.

      Once Government (both state and local) got it’s greedy hands on the water cash cow, they opened up more and more land for agricultural abuse by all manner of managed investment schemes, corporate farmers and just myriad city-slickers looking for a tree change in the bush.  Hell water is pratically given away if it makes the government look good and to be seen to be progressive, even at the expense of well educated and sensible users.  Farming is after all pretty boring in the main.

      Government has massively overallocated water, not farmers.  Were it not an open-market on water which can be traded like a car - or shares at an absolute premium - the purchase cost of which goes directly to government - much of this overuse, misuse would never have happened.

      This is more than bush hysteria - this is also our lives you are talking about - most of us are not rolling in it - we exist ok sometimes from year to year and others not so well - we use the scare resources we have paid dearly for both in time, money and emotional committment to try be the best producers we can, we allow government to continually make our lives more and more difficult and our products less and less competitive on the world market given the regulartory restrictions and labour constraints placed on us and almost all of us try very hard to be both good citizens and good business people.

      So - you arrogant, ignorant tool, find out some facts before you shoot your stupid mouth off in future.  You add nothing to debate by ignoring the very real angst out there.

      Tell you what - I’ll give you a 10th of the actual value of your home and keep your car to boot and then you just walk away and start again somewhere else with nothing and your lifes work and worth sacrificed for the greater good.  Fool.

    • Troubling says:

      06:02am | 19/10/10

      Trouble is, Shep, Fiddlesticks and Grumpy were spot on, and you’ve pretty well made the case for them.

    • sheps says:

      09:33am | 19/10/10

      @Troubling - Trouble is those of you without vested interests just don’t want to see the damage caused by Government overallocation and not by farmer’s greed.  You don’t care about the people because you don’t know them. 

      Its not all kings-in-grass-castles stuff out here.  We struggle and bleed and stay trapped in the ongoing cycle of dispair that is often Australia agriculture.  We also have to put up with ignorance and often downright hostility from some of the over-educated self-indulged living in the cities we subsidize. 

      We can’t all tootle around in our enviro-friendly low-emission hydro bikes on our paved and shaded bike paths toward our air-conditioned shops to grab a sun-dried tomato and proscuitto foccacia and soy-latte before we hit the farmer’s market to pick up our weekends supplies of organic veg.

      Where on earth do you think that stuff comes from - do you think there are food fairies out there - how do you think we grow it - and yes many of us are involved in the organic food industry - and how do you think it gets to you insultated pampered apologists.  None of this happens without the use of the land and water and we know very well how to do it to its absolute best advantage both or we just don’t last very long.

      That’s why we have to tough to put up with the crap we cop from people like yourself and Grumps.

      No-one (least of all users) wants to see these resources degraded beyond repair.  But these were not our decisons to make.  All this pretence of stakeholder consultation - even 10 - 15 years ago was and is still rubbish -  we individual farmers have been used the whole way as scapegoats and whipping boys.  I am not Cubby do not include me in that kind of nightmare. 

      But don’t tell me that I deserve what I’m getting from either you or my government - my standard of living is every bit as important as yours.  Pay me my due worth and I’ll happily bugger off to retire on the beach somewhere so I too can whinge about everyone else.  This was Government created and needs to be government fixed - full stop. 

      The case I was making, should you choose to broaden your narrow-minded self-indulgent attitude is that Farmers have never had any say in alllocations - we’ve just funded the Governments mismanagement.

      There is evidence of scheme after scheme where irrigators have put forward strong cases for caps on the sale and allocation of any more water and acknowledgements of the under-valuing of water and the desire to ensure no more is made available for sale even if it meant paying a premium.  These almost to a one have been ignored by the Government bodies who manage and profit from these schemes.

      Walk a mile in my shoes before you pontificate.

      Now don’t you have a hand-wringing rally to get off to somewhere - off you go!!!

    • Jordan Rastrick says:

      11:59am | 19/10/10

      @sheps: You’ve accused past governments of mismanagement through overallocation. Now government is flagging that it may propose to buy the excessive allocations back from anyone prepared to voluntarily sell them - so wouldn’t you support this newfound responsibility on the government’s part?

      Anyway, I’m just a city slicker with, I’ll admit, no real stake in the Murray-Darling’s survivial beyond food prices and a vague and abstract regard for Australia’s ecosystems. If the river system fails, I won’t be especially badly affected, so of course you’re entitled to feel more passionately about this issue than I do. I won’t claim to speak for the Greens-voting latte drinking inner city (stereo)type….

      I do have to take issue with one thing you said, though:

      “We also have to put up with ignorance and often downright hostility from some of the over-educated self-indulged living in the cities we subsidize.”

      I am so sick to death of this line its not funny. The bush does not and never has subsidised the city; the exact opposite is true. Per capita government spending in regional areas is much higher; per capita tax takings are lower. Now that’s as it should be; it is only fair that government cross-subsidise areas of lower population density to try and maintain a level of equity in access to services. But the frequently-repeated, utterly-disconnected-from reality-claim that the reverse is true, which seems to crop up in every one of these debates, is, frankly, starting to get offensive. If you want to accuse people in cities of being both self-indulgent and ignorant, it really doesn’t help your case to take their tax dollars and then falsely claim they’re taking yours.

    • AdamC says:

      08:27am | 18/10/10

      I don’t believe our irrigation water system is a ‘progress trap’ at all. Rather, it is an example of historical mismanagement of resources by governments that needs to be addressed to make our agriculture more sustainable. It is not the progress of irrigated agriculture that is the problem, it is the excessive allocation of water rights.

      Another thing, HK is great. We could learn a lot from HK. Low taxes, less government regulation and no trade barriers are good examples. And the public transport is absolutely fantastic, as is the shopping. Western hand-wringers complain about our caucasian materialism, but emerging Asia is where the consumer utopia is really at. 

      Lastly, I don’t believe HK is actually a tropical city. You are thinking more of somewhere like Singapore, which must just about be the aircon capital of the world!

    • M says:

      09:23am | 18/10/10

      That would not be a pleasant 28 degrees in Hong Kong! Good point James, we have to do something for the Murray while we still can.

    • Anjuli says:

      09:48am | 18/10/10

      Not one comment has mentioned about $43 billion being spent on the NBN when alternative would service .Slowly we are running out of water but allowing more people into the country ,in Perth those using scheme water are allowed to water one day a week during the summer ,during winter none .Yet we can stand with a hose for hour watering the garden where it just goes on the one spot, with a sprinkler system it serves many areas at the same volume all the garden done in 30 minutes tops.

    • iansand says:

      10:11am | 18/10/10

      This is because water does not flow through the NBN.

    • Roja says:

      04:03pm | 18/10/10

      Errrr… You mentioned the NBN, but I’m not even sure why.

    • Judith Vinn says:

      10:27am | 18/10/10

      I can;t think of this chaps name but he had a cotton farm down in the Murry area and because it was short of water he decided to go North, way up north where there is plenty of water and ended up going into grapes(I think), he said he has never looked back. Cotton and rice, two very thirsty crops should not be allowed in this area, common sense should come into this situation, and by the way, I am a Macadamia grower so I know about water and what it means.

    • Mrs Agree says:

      04:36pm | 18/10/10

      Yes Judith, flood irrigated cotton should certainly not be grown with our limited fresh water supplies in this predominantly dry continent. I don’t know about rice but at least we can eat rice, but you can’t eat cotton! And anyway, cotton can easily be grown by dry land methods just like wheat is & in fact cotton has been grown successfully by dryland methods for many years. The only reason the cotton growers want to use so much fresh water on cotton, is because they want to make more money for themselves, which is not such a bad thing exept that the fresh water they are using is effectively being taken away from everyone else who perhaps would like to see the fresh water resources of inland Australia left well alone thank you very much. Flood irrigated cotton is a shockingly thirsty crop & the fact that it continues to be grown by massively wasteful flood irrigation in Australia is a reflection of the power that the cotton industry has. But we should all remember that power corrupts & so maybe it’s time that the cotton power over water was more balanced & environmentally sustainable, instead of simply being a given to all those big thirsty flood irrigators? Water control should be returned to all the people of this country & to the environment where it came from in the first place. No one group of users, farmers or anything else, should ever have been given such a huge amount of access & control to Australia’s limited fresh water resources. We all need water to survive & it’s good to see people thinking about water & thinking about what is okay to do with it & what is not okay. We do live in a democracy after all, don’t we? So freedom of thought is a good thing, surely. And the issue of fresh water is about the most important thing on this planet. It would a terrible pity if the big boys all jumped up & down & made such a fuss that common sense on the water issue was drowned out. Frankly, it would be a good thing for this crucial issue of water use was decided by a referendum by all the people in Australia & not by just by vested interest alone.

    • Warwick says:

      10:47am | 18/10/10

      It would be good if the Federal Government were to set up a body to inquire into the costs of establishing nucleur fuelled water desalination and pumping plants across Australia. I have been told that atomic powered plant could desalinate and pump water to huge areas of Australia at a very low cost.
      Since we have, here in Australia, abundant supplies of nucleur fuel this seems to be a project that would enable us to establish huge areas of land to be used for agriculture and wildlife habitat.

      One could expect that the green response would be NO, NO, NO, but we must have the courage to ignore the ideologically motivated naysayers.

    • Duff says:

      01:24pm | 18/10/10

      @Warwick.  Ok, forget the environmental dangers and inherent risks associated with nuclear power, what about the cost?  Who will pay to build these Nuclear Plants + Desals?  Also the means to move it around.  We’re talking billions and billions.  Is it worth it?  Rain is free.  Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to simply conserve it a little bit better, at least as a first option, and see how we go?  Seems to me that is the real problem here.

    • Richard says:

      11:30am | 18/10/10

      Use it or lose it morons~ it falls from the sky. Lately it has done so in such huge quantities that it has done damage. We are confidently told to expect much more to be falling this summer. “The return of the wet season” they’re calling it.

      The Murray river isn’t “dying”. Its merely a topographical groove in the landscape. When there is enough water falling from the sky; it runs. In times of drought, it doesn’t do so well. Big surprise there huh? The issue is weather patterns, and with top forecaster’s predicting a return of the 30 year wet cycle in Australia, I think all these talks about cutting irrigation rights might be a moot point.

    • Mattb says:

      07:14pm | 18/10/10

      Ignorance is bliss…..

    • Gregg says:

      11:56am | 18/10/10

      Though we are not Hongkong James and thankfully so, another term that has been around long before the progress trap is the downwards spiral and that unfortunately is where Australia is headed and not just because of one side of politics or the other, the rugged blokes in the bush who have sucked the life out of the Murray etc. or those that need to be hammered over not drought proofing their farms etc. but it is our collective inaction and inability to realise that free lunch Paul Keating told us about is not free again even though government splurges of late would have you think otherwise.

      On another water article and there have been a few of late, I posted on how the focus on the future had been dropped.
      It was nearly half a century ago that the Snowy Mountains snow thaw/water management and hydro electricity works were drawing to an end, at a time when our population was probably not even half of what it is now.
      Still, we have had some massive flooding of the Murray and I can rember on a houseboat holiday in mid seventies from Renmark it was possible to virtually head bush away from the Murray, up tributary creeks and actually crossing paddocks all in a sizable houseboat, shallow of draft I must admit.
      Another flood is tipped to be building some, evacuations in various regions this past weekend and reports of expect the early wet season of the north to morph into a few cyclonic activities and heavy rain.
      And so we’ll have those rugged and resilient people out on the flooding plains contending again with being isolated, flooded, crops sodden, topsoil washed away and whatever else which will mean also possibly mean their livelihood again gone down the drain and perhaps not just for one year but more depending on the banks and it will also likely mean that most city folk will be paying substantially more for food.
      Perhaps some city people will relish the thought! and be able to communicate verly clearly and rapidly about it using the NBN and maybe the message can even get through the minders of some politicians that a structural change does need to occur.

      ” The problem is that we have become so used to relying on such technologies or processes that we cannot see a way around them:
      This creates tunnel vision for policy making and we cannot see a way out because the changes to this path seem too politically risky and radical – so they are best avoided. “

      I would see it as something else James and that is people have become softer, perhaps the growth of our cities and perhaps also even the influx of immigrants, some from countries with vastly different landscape and rainfall and where developments have occurred in more populous countries over many more years than what Australia has been settled by Europeans.
      Could that be why there seems to be a great contentment with spending this countries future on cyberspace rather than doing the most we can with new infrastructure to both reduce flooding and also harvest/store and reticulate water so as to support our food producers and other industries and communities.

      As soft people, many soft politicians and lets say some in the media too.

      ” I am not some inner city hippy demanding water cuts – what I am trying to highlight is that we need to confront this issue. There is a need for some serious structural adjustment here – and despite promises made to irrigators as late as the 1960s that water supply would be continuous, this has to change.
      What is fundamental here, however, is that these communities not be abandoned: we need to ensure both our state and federal governments work with the local population when implementing any strategy but ensure that one is implemented regardless.
      Alternatives are possible – and we need to find them or the Murray Darling will wither – and progress will cease altogether. “
      All too right James and perhaps collective praying to the ghost of our Saint Mary may give us some leadership but then we have a PM who is an athiest and she probably takes directions from other sources!
      But just as the Snowy region has been harvested for water, there is much much more that should at least be investigated and that may include applying what has been learnt from the Snowy to the Barrington tops and north through the whole New England ranges for starters.

    • thatmosis says:

      12:35pm | 18/10/10

      Water allocation is a hot topic but thats no surprise to people from the bush. Up here the farmers pay for their full allocation but sometimes receive about 20% with no refund????? People in the bush know how to handle the available water as most have rain water tanks and an old adage here is “if you build something with a roof put a tank in to collect water. ” whereas the people of the cities bleat if they are forced to conserve water by using “only” 145 litres per person a day. For an average family of 4 thats about 211,700 litres a year which is insane for a country so reliant on rain fall. The reason that I am laying these figures on you is to show that its not always the farmer or the country person that is to blame for the water useage that goes on. If the Government is serious about water then make it a whole of country approach and not just the farmer and those that live out of major cities.

    • Razor says:

      01:08pm | 18/10/10

      All you need to do to get a public transport system like Hong Kong is create the same population density.

      Do you really want that?

    • Ned says:

      01:31pm | 18/10/10

      It is time the federal government put in place long-term strategies to conserve water (and fix public transport - but that’s another issue). There will be some short term pain, but we must immediately place some controls of water usage from the MD system. Then we need to look at sustainable agriculture. We do not need to be farming cotton and rice - we just can afford it. Perhaps we can then look at major infrastructure programs such as covering irrigation channels to prevent evaporation, building dams to catch the volumes of water we are seeing at present and harvesting storm water in metro areas. All expensive, but all nation-building.

      As for airconditioning, I think we are heading down the Hong Kong path. We no longer build houses suitable to our climate. Rows and rows of mcmansions totally unsuited to hot summers. We should be building thick-walled, single story houses with wide verandahs. However, I’m not holding my breath for any of the above to come to pass. We just don’t have political vision any more.

    • fairsfair says:

      01:56pm | 18/10/10

      totally agree Ned. I live in the tropics and council covenants make it nye on impossible to build a house with a white or light coloured roof in built up and elevated areas. You build your dream home up there to catch the breezes, but apparently it is an eyesore. They then present you with a vast aray of choices from charcoal though to ironstone. Very tropical and cool indeed. Idiots.

    • AJ says:

      02:21pm | 18/10/10

      Its no surprise surely that Australia has a water shortage problem….hasnt it always been so…the land of sweeping plains remember? So suddenly we have realised this!? Come on!! Mismanagement of community resources like water commenced with thwe move to privatise community assets - that and the inevitable poltics that has been part of rural life since colonisation. Its no surprise at all that we have this issue….now what are we doing about it? Isnt 200 years enough time to fix this?

    • James Hunter says:

      02:58pm | 18/10/10

      water is over allocated and underutilised.
      we have pleanty of water ,just not where we need it. Unfortunately since the fifties any serious attempts to dam our water to make environmentally sound electricity and/or to divert ocean going water to inland rivers has been met with howls of protect the last wandering owl or striped goldfish.
      every one wants clean energy and pleanty of water just so long as the production,collection happens else where.
      Just shows how stupid we are as a collective of consumers.


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