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Australia river agency pilloried amid mass fish deaths

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The authority that oversees Australia’s largest river system was accused of “maladministration”, “gross negligence” and ignoring climate science Thursday, as its waterways were carpeted with hundreds of thousands of dead fish.

A Royal Commission report into the Murray-Darling Basin Authority — which happened to coincide with a series of mass fish kills — was scathing in its assessment, accusing the body of illegality.

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The Murray-Darling Basin is a river network sprawling for one million square kilometres (400,000 square miles), about twice the size of Spain.

It affects the livelihood of millions of people, but it had been over-exploited for years and seriously depleted by drought.

A South Australian inquest said the authority acted unlawfully in setting water levels while it “completely ignored” climate change projections.

“Politics rather than science ultimately drove the setting” of limits on the amount of water that could be taken out of the river, the report said.

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The commission charged that the authority failed to be guided by “environmental priorities”, as required by law. “It is an unlawful approach. It is maladministration.”

An investigation by the national broadcaster the ABC in 2017 found billions of litres slated for environmental flows was being used to irrigate farmland in New South Wales.

A review of water management compliance in 2017 found inconsistent and poor enforcement in some states.

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The report comes as debate rages over a series of mass fish kills over the past few weeks in rivers connected to the Murray-Darling.

Up to a million were killed last month — with scientists pointing to low water and oxygen levels as well as possibly toxic algae — in drought battered eastern Australia.

The royal commission recommended a complete overhaul of the water river management plan, with revised levels based on “the best available scientific knowledge”.

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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