Media Releases | 9th Aug, 2007

Victoria right to stand strong against weakness of national plan

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Environment Victoria supports the Victorian Government’s continued opposition to the Prime Minister’s national water plan, as the Water Bill is rushed through Federal Parliament this week.

“The Victorian Government is right to be cautious. We all want to see good outcomes for the Murray-Darling Basin, but the Water Bill lacks the detail required to put the Commonwealth’s promises into action,” said Environment Victoria’s healthy river campaign director, Dr Paul Sinclair.

“The Federal legislation still needs more work if it is to deliver on its promise to fix the problems of overuse and over-allocation of our river systems. We need real action, not just more statements of intent.”

Of key concern is ensuring the Water Bill enshrines the independence and power of the new Murray-Darling Basin Authority to keep water use at a sustainable level and make sure the environment gets its fair share.

“We need to see a strong, truly independent authority that has the power to enforce a sustainable cap on the amount of water taken from our rivers and to deliver the water needed to restore river health.”

The Murray-Darling is facing ecological collapse:

  • 90% of wetlands have been lost from the Murray Darling Basin
  • Water bird populations collapsed by 90%
  • 75% of river red gum forests in the lower Murray are dead, dying or highly stressed

“Dead trees, toxic algal blooms and saline soil don’t help anyone. Healthy rivers are vital to our state’s prosperity: they underpin good food production, give us places to love and enjoy and sustain regional economies,” said Dr Sinclair.

Environment Victoria welcomes the Commonwealth government’s recommitment to international conventions such as Ramsar through the Bill.

“A recommitment to Ramsar holds promise for bringing Victoria’s iconic Murray sites such as Hattah Lakes and Gunbower Forest back to life. But the Water Bill will be meaningless without a commitment to timelines and targets for water recovery. The Murray needs at least 1500 billion litres by 2014. This will only be achieved if Federal and State governments get serious about buying back water entitlements.”

“If this legislation is to be effective the Commonwealth needs to conduct proper consultation and work cooperatively with the State governments rather than rushing to pass the Bill in an election year.”