Media Releases | 7th Oct, 2022

Peer-reviewed science - not obfuscation - needed to advance Murray Darling Basin Plan

In response to the The Frontier Economics report released by Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Environment Victoria’s Healthy Rivers campaigner Tyler Rotche said:

“This latest report from Frontier Economics is fundamentally flawed in that it only considers the costs of reducing water consumption and returning water to the environment – without considering the costs of inaction.

“This is deliberately biased analysis, that we might expect from an irrigation lobby group but it’s reprehensible that it’s being commissioned by a government department, paid for by everyday Victorians.

“This tactic is reminiscent of the behaviour of the fossil fuel industry – releasing data pointing to the costs of transitioning away from fossil fuels while ignoring the massive costs of NOT taking climate action.

“The Basin Plan came from a recognition that we’re facing an ecological disaster. The only way to save the river is to recover water for the environment. The target in the Plan is less than half of what the environment needs. It was a flagrant violation of the Water Act.

“The Victorian government has consistently worked to delay and undermine water recovery in the Basin – this latest report is just their latest salvo.

“According to peer-reviewed research from ANU’s Centre for Water Economics, Environment and Policy, purchasing entitlements from the many irrigators willing to sell is the most reliable, cost-effective way to keep inland river ecosystems alive.

“Research has shown that it’s drought — not buybacks — that causes the largest impact on farming communities in the Basin.

“It has further shown that climate change is the biggest cause of farmers leaving the industry. In combination with decreased commodity prices. Meanwhile, changes in water trade had no significant association with farm exits.

“There are two key problems. First, farmers are facing financial pressure, made worse by drought. Second, the Murray-Darling is dying – water birds and native fish are disappearing.

“The next drought is likely just around the corner, and if we haven’t brought resilience back to the system by then, it could be the drought that pushes species and ecosystems past irreversible tipping points

“The Victorian government’s approach won’t work for the river. And it’s not giving regional communities the support they need in a hotter, drier climate. Let’s call it what it is: a delay tactic.”

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