Prime Minister John Howard’s commitment to “confront head-on” the over-allocation of water in the Murray and Darling River systems with a $3 billion package was welcomed today by Environment Victoria.
“The best science available has concluded the Murray needs 1500 gigalitres to have even a moderate chance of returning to health and 3000 gigalitres to have a good chance,’’ said Dr Paul Sinclair, EV’s Healthy Rivers Campaign Director.
“The money promised by the Federal Government really starts to match the scale of the problem we have to overcome – the death of our greatest river system.’’
The $3 billion commitment to address over-allocation is part of the Federal Government’s $10 billion National Plan for Water Security announced today.
Dr Sinclair said there was an urgent need for the Federal Government to begin buying back irrigation water entitlements.
“The Murray is in a critical condition because of the failure of previous governments to act in the interests of the river and future generations of Australians. We would urge the Federal Government to give irrigation industries the opportunity to sell water entitlements back to the river immediately.’’
Dr Sinclair said environmental groups looked forward to the Federal Government detailing when and how much water it intends to return as environmental flows to the Murray and Darling River systems.
“It is clear the Murray and Darling rivers desperately need environmental water allocated to them. Decades of dithering by governments has proved that the river systems won’t be saved by speeches and government reports – they need water and stewardship over floodplains and wetlands.”
“What we must not have is governments bogged down in fighting over who should control the river systems”.
Dr Sinclair urged State and Federal governments to urgently resolve their differences in the interests of restoring the rivers and forging sustainable irrigation industries.
“In principle it makes sense to manage the Murray Darling as a connected system. However there are important details regarding how this would work. State governments should approach those discussions with an open mind”, said Dr Sinclair.