Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack believes the Murray-Darling Basin Plan needs to be “tweaked” after mass fish deaths in NSW.
The Nationals leader said he was committed to the bipartisan water management plan, but the rare event meant there was cause to revisit and improve it.
“It took us 100 years to reach this stage. Of course there needs to be some tweaks,” Mr McCormack told ABC radio on Thursday.
“We’ve got the experts coming together later this month. We’ll listen to the recommendations.”
Up to a million fish are believed to be dead in the Darling River at Menindee as the result of a cold front killing off an algal bloom which sucked oxygen from the water.
Mr McCormack said the fish deaths at Menindee were the result of unprecedented drought conditions.
“It will rain again. When it rains it will come down in such torrents that people will probably say ‘what are we going to do with all the water?’,” he said.
“That’s Australia. That’s the weather patterns and the climate of Australia. It’s been going on since year dot.”
He said the river system needed water to flush through it to stop more fish kills.
“The government can’t make it rain, the opposition certainly can’t make it rain,” Mr McCormack said.
The Greens have called for a royal commission into the management of the river system after the deaths, pointing the finger at “corrupt” irrigators.
But Mr McCormack hit back at that criticism, saying cotton and rice farmers were among those targeted by “unfortunate” memes and “dreadful” social media posts from city-dwellers.
“They do not know, they do not understand regional Australia and the great role our farmers play,” Mr McCormack said.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the party would introduce to the upper house legislation for a royal commission when parliament resumed next month.
“The mass fish kill that has struck the Lower Darling in recent weeks is just the latest in a long list of problems with the management of the Murray-Darling Basin,” Senator Hanson-Young said on Thursday.