Decisions made at the Murray Darling Ministerial Council meeting in Mildura today risk making it harder to deliver the Basin Plan in full and could mean losing the benefits of improved river health, Environment Victoria said today.
Water Ministers today decided to commission fresh research into the social and economic impacts of water recovery, but it is unclear how much this research will consider the very considerable benefits that healthy rivers bring. They also agreed to consider including so-called complementary measures in the Basin Plan as a substitute for environmental water recovery.
Environment Victoria’s Healthy Rivers Campaigns Manager Juliet Le Feuvre said:
“Our rivers, our wildlife and our river communities need the Basin Plan delivered in full with the full volume of water recovery. We’re encouraged that the recovery of the 450 GL is still on the table, but we’re yet to see a detailed plan to deliver it.
“We’re concerned that the prime focus of their study will be on the negative impacts of the Plan, without giving enough weight to the broader community and economic benefits of improved river health, such as increased tourism and recreational and cultural opportunities. The CSIRO has valued these benefits as being worth $3-8 billion.
“Unfortunately, the very real costs of not fixing the river system are too often disregarded. The Water Ministers, especially those from then upstream states, seem to have forgotten the economic and social damage that sick rivers cause. Which is why we needed the Basin Plan in the first place.
“The Ministers seem to be suggesting that complementary measures like carp control and riverbank fencing are substitutes for environmental water recovery. While these measures provide environmental benefits, saying they are the same as providing the water our rivers so desperately need is like offering a thirsty man a sandwich – good for you, but not the main thing you need.
“The Ministers say they have a plan but have not revealed any details. Until this happens we remain concerned about what is going to happen to our precious rivers and everything they support.”
Juliet Le Feuvre, Healthy Rivers Campaigner
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