And come we did, about 20 of us from right across the Basin, from the Coorong at the Murray mouth to the headwaters of the Darling system in Queensland. Seven of us came from Victoria, representing ACF, VNPA, Friends of the Earth, Goulburn Valley Environment Group, Environmental Farmers Network, the Environment Defenders Office, and of course, yours truly from Environment Victoria.
We talked of many things – about the desperate state of the rivers in the Basin, the strong community support for action to repair the environmental damage, the many benefits that healthy rivers bring (especially by removing accumulated salt) and the opportunities they create for agriculture and regional communities, and the opportunity for this federal government to leave a legacy that will be appreciated for generations to come. In summary, we gave the Minister a strong message that we want a Basin Plan based on sound science that delivers enough water for all the rivers of the Basin to survive and thrive.
The Minister had some strong messages for us too – about his own commitment to ‘a plan that gives us healthy rivers’ based on strong and readily accessible science. He said that the main threats to genuine water reform were delay – he expects a Draft Basin Plan to be released m id-year – and the calls form the irrigator lobby for amendments to the Commonwealth Water Act. And he said that he wanted to hear the environmental side of the story just as loudly as he is hearing the irrigators’ side.