Media Releases | 22nd Nov, 2016

Basin Plan unravelling from both ends​

The proposed reductions in environmental water recovery in the Murray-Darling Basin will be a disaster for rivers and communities throughout the Murray-Darling, Environment Victoria said today.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) this morning announced proposals to reduce water recovery in the Darling River and its tributaries by 70GL, an 18 percent reduction in total water recovery in the northern Basin. Coupled with the withdrawal of Commonwealth government support for further water recovery in the Murray system, the Basin Plan is under attack both upstream and downstream.

Environment Victoria Healthy Rivers Campaign Manager Juliet Le Feuvre said today:

“Today’s MDBA announcement means the Basin Plan is unravelling before our eyes. Decades of water reform and co-operation between governments to improve the health of our ailing rivers and improve the sustainability of the irrigation industry are now going backwards.

“Reducing water recovery targets in the Darling and its northern tributaries mean that the river and downstream communities will suffer. Internationally recognised wetlands like the Macquarie Marshes, which has already lost more than half of its area, will continue to shrink and floodplain graziers, Aboriginal communities and downstream users will all be disadvantaged. The impacts will be felt all the way down the rivers to the mouth of the Murray.

“The MDBA’s announcement comes on top of the Murray-Darling Ministerial Council meeting in Adelaide last week where water ministers failed to agree on measures to provide agreed volumes of environmental water for the Murray. Water that’s required to keep the Murray mouth open and flush salt out of the system is now in doubt and upstream interests are being prioritised over downstream benefits.

“The Murray-Darling is Australia’s largest and most productive river system, yet we continue to treat it as a series of disconnected streams and make trade-offs between upstream and downstream users. The river needs to function as a whole and be healthy from headwaters to the sea to provide for all its communities.

“In 2007 when Prime Minister Turnbull was Minister for Water he said, ‘Water planning in Australia has been bedevilled, particularly in the last three decades or so, by a lack of long-term vision and long-term planning. There has been a tendency to make very short term political decisions in order to seek a particular electoral result on a particular occasion and to deny the type of long-term vision that the country needs.’ Despite almost 10 years of reform and $13 billion investment, not much has changed.”

For interview and further comment:

Juliet Le Feuvre, Healthy Rivers Campaigner
Direct: (03) 9341 8106 Mobile: 0428 770 019