Media Releases | 29th Mar, 2005

Murray levy could save dying river

Tuesday, 29 March 2005

Victoria’s peak conservation group has called for a levy on goods produced along the Murray River to help save the dying waterway.

Environment Victoria said a river health levy on products, such as dairy foods, could contribute to the $1 billion the waterway needs to survive.

“There’s already an 11 cents per litre levy on milk that’s raising $1.6 billion for dairy farmers. Why not use a similar scheme to raise money to save the Murray?,” said EV’s Healthy Rivers Campaign Director Dr Paul Sinclair.

“The Murray is Australia’s food bowl. But all the industries that rely on the iconic river are under threat if we don’t halt its rapid decline. Industries have benefited from the Murray so it’s time they started owning the problem.

“Supermarkets and food processors that make profits off the back of agricultural products grown from Murray River water should put something back into the river.”

Dr Sinclair said supermarkets and food processors could contribute to the restoration of the Murray by: requiring suppliers to be water efficient; contribute money and water to environmental flows programs; and put a river health levy on products.

The call comes a week after a report showed the Murray Mouth needs to be dredged indefinitely – at a cost of $7 million each year – to keep the river connected to the sea.

“This is the latest symptom of a river in unprecedented decline. The cause of the Murray’s decline is the use of billions of litres of cheap water to produce food.”

But he said if Australia had any hope of saving the Murray business, governments and consumers all needed to contribute.

“Governments must now recommit to a decade long plan to recover at least 1500 billion litres for the Murray. At least $1 billion will be needed to: buy back water; aquire water through tender processes; make water-saving investments in irrigation systems that are economically and environmentally sustainable; and create a chain of protected national parks along the Murray floodplain.

“Consumers have to start asking questions about what they’re eating. They need to be able to buy products that are not destroying our greatest river system; and they need to ask supermarkets and food processors what they’re doing to protect the Murray.”