Environment, indigenous, farming and community groups are calling for a full independent audit of spending and environmental outcomes under the Murray Darling Basin Plan following explosive ABC Four Corners report.
“The crisis affecting the Murray-Darling is a consequence of state and federal Water Ministers ruling out water buybacks and relying on untested infrastructure projects,” said Environment Victoria CEO, Jono La Nauze.
“All Basin governments should support a full independent audit of water recovery and expenditure under the Basin Plan.
“If the audit shows these infrastructure projects are ineffective and a massive waste of public money, then all governments must acknowledge the current approach isn’t working.
“What we need is further water buybacks, supported by greater efforts to diversify regional economies and help communities adjust to a hotter, harsher climate.”
Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said: “Once again, Four Corners has blown the lid off the failure of federal and state governments to properly manage and implement the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
“The experiment of subsidising big corporate irrigators to become more efficient has served only to line their pockets.
“It appears the current approach to recovering water for rivers has utterly failed to benefit the environment and failed to help regional communities prepare for a drier future.
“State and federal Water Ministers need to deliver a rigorous and independent audit of the Basin Plan’s implementation so the public knows where the water and the money have gone.”
Conservation Council of South Australia CEO Craig Wilkins said: “Right now, it looks like both taxpayers and the environment have been the losers.
“Our rivers need real water. Our governments should stop distributing handouts to corporate irrigators until they can demonstrate money spent on expensive infrastructure is benefiting the environment.
“Voluntary water buybacks are the only proven way of effectively recovering water for the environment.”
Mr La Nauze concluded: “We are pleased the socio-economic panel established by Minister Littleproud is considering how to support economic diversification across the Basin.
“Getting this right will be critical to ensuring regional communities survive and thrive as climate change forces us into a much drier future.
“There can be no doubt that rivers need more water than they currently have to survive.
“Without healthy and functioning rivers, many rural communities will struggle. It is not jobs versus the environment – it is neither or both.
“We call upon the state and federal governments to adopt our 7 point community action plan to restore integrity to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.”
The Lifeblood Alliance consists of environmental, Indigenous and community groups committed to keeping the rivers, wetlands and aquifers of the Murray-Darling Basin healthy for the benefit of current and future generations.
Jono La Nauze, Environment Victoria CEO
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