Media Releases | 12th Sep, 2004

Coalition’s water fund falls short

Monday, 13 September 2004

The Coalition’s $2 billion Australian Water Fund was a soft option, providing paltry promises for stressed waterways, according to Victoria’s peak conservation body.

“There needs to be more rubber on the road. Without firm targets and a statement of what the Coalition will do with the money, the danger is the fund will become a wish list, a slush fund for throwing money at marginal rural seats,” said Environment Victoria Healthy Rivers Campaign Director Dr Paul Sinclair.

“The fund, announced today, is a vague grab-bag of promises. When scientist after scientist tells us rivers need more water, this fund is a disappointment. There is nothing the Australian public can take away from this announcement that will guarantee the nation will have healthy waterways and a sustainable irrigation industry. There’s nothing from which we can take heart.”

Dr Sinclair said the Murray River alone needed $1.5 billion to make it robust and it was “breath-taking” how the fund ignored the river’s needs.

“Today’s announcement makes no specific guarantees. It ignores the needs of Australia’s greatest river, the Murray. The science is unambiguous – the Murray is seriously degraded and will continue to degrade rapidly until it gets the water it needs.

“Australia’s top scientists and independent researchers are in no doubt about the severity of the problems facing the iconic river. It will take $500 million to deliver 500 billion litres which is a first step for the Murray.

Science says another 1000 billion litres is needed if the river is to have a chance of being healthy.

“With 30 big dams and 3,500 weirs dotting the Murray-Darling Basin the simple fact is we have taken too much water from the river, slowly fouling, sucking dry and choking its flow.”

Dr Sinclair welcomed the allocation of funds for the Wimmera-Mallee pipeline.

“But the Coalition must guarantee the pipeline’s water savings are used to put more water back in the Wimmera and Glenelg rivers.”