After Federal Water Minister Keith Pitt’s announcement today on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze said:
“Federal Water Minister Pitt appears to be walking away from any real commitment to a healthy river system in the Murray-Darling.
“The Minister is doubling down on the most risky and scientifically dubious offset schemes in the Basin Plan while refusing to recover real water for rivers.
“He might say ‘we’re all in this together’, but unless you have an irrigation licence there’s not much in this announcement for you but dry riverbeds and dead fish.”
“By stopping water buybacks and even on-farm efficiency works, the Minister is making it all but impossible to meet Basin Plan water recovery targets and keep rivers alive and flowing.
“Without this water, we will see more towns running out of water, more fish kills, more algal blooms and waterbird populations continuing to plummet.
The government is committing to controversial offset projects with unclear water savings and irrigation infrastructure subsidies that the Productivity Commission has found cost up to four times more than buying back water from willing sellers.
“Reviving our rivers means we’ll need to spend smarter. We shouldn’t be wasting money on questionable infrastructure projects that deliver minimal jobs or water when compared to smarter alternatives.”
“A key finding in the Socio-Economic Panel’s research was that every dollar spent on health, education and community care services creates four times as many jobs as irrigation infrastructure spending. If we want regional jobs and a living river, we should buy back water, give money to farmers to spend locally and invest in local services.
“Too many politicians continue to make river restoration and water buybacks a scapegoat for deep-seated rural challenges. We should be putting politicians up to the task of re-thinking how to support regional towns in a drier future.
“While the Minister pays lip service to community resilience, he glosses over the impacts of climate change, which has caused flows into the Murray River to drop 50 per cent over the past twenty years compared to the century before.”
Jono La Nauze, Environment Victoria CEO
Office: (03) 9341 8100 Mobile: 0402 904 251