Media Releases | 22nd Nov, 2022

As our rivers decline, new conservation campaign calls for urgent action to restore the Murray-Darling to health

On the ten year anniversary of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, peak conservation groups covering every basin state have today released a new animation and five-point vision to revive Australia’s biggest river system.

Environment Victoria, NSW Conservation Council, Queensland Conservation Council and the Conservation Council of SA have launched a new campaign to respond jointly to the challenges facing the Murray-Darling, including releasing a five-point plan that sets out a vision of how to restore the Murray-Darling to health.

Representing close to half a million supporters in east coast cities and rural communities, the groups will be working together on a massive people-powered campaign united behind a vision to restore rivers from SA to QLD to health by standing up to vested agricultural interests and profiteering.

After years of neglect and mismanagement, the groups’ five-point plan for the renewal of the Murray-Darling Basin includes:

  1. Setting and enforcing clear targets to return water to rivers. Making sure they have the flows they need to support freshwater ecosystems in a hotter, drier climate.
  2. Restoring the rhythm of river flows, enabling the cycle of small floods that wetlands need, working with river communities to upgrade and relocate flood-prone infrastructure, and returning to natural flows rather than re-engineering the floodplain.
  3. Returning water rights to Traditional Owners who have cared for the rivers for tens of thousands of years, and making sure they have a say over how water is managed.
  4. Building resilient river communities by providing well-targeted policy to create employment, income, education, health care, decent housing and a high standard of living to communities on the front lines of climate impacts, disappearing river flows and erratic flooding events.
  5. Bringing the water market within ecological limits by making sure water trade doesn’t adversely impact natural flows, water quality and cultural heritage.

Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze said:

“We’re two years out from major deadlines in the Basin Plan. It’s time to get serious, speak directly to the challenges rivers are facing and directly to the challenges regional communities are facing.

“2024 is a political deadline. But in ecological terms, we’re already years behind. Rivers have lost their life-giving flows and native species are increasingly disappearing.

“The Basin Plan is a first step, and we’ve had 10 years to see what the real challenges are. But frankly, we can’t waffle through another ten years. We need to return water to the river, make sure it can flow into wetlands, and make water management fair.”

NSW Nature Conservation Council CEO Jacqui Mumford said: 

“For almost ten years, the Basin Plan implementation has been derailed, as the ecological condition of our iconic rivers has collapsed in front of our eyes.

“In NSW, water management has gone backwards, with the governments’ attempts to licence vast volumes of floodplain harvesting, undermining the early gains achieved through water recovery under the Basin Plan.

“While we recognise that unprecedented severe flooding is causing hardship and loss right now, we know the hard droughts are coming back, and that without swift action, we will not be prepared.

“We have only until 2024 to make up for almost ten years of next to no water recovery. It’s time to supercharge the Basin Plan, and voluntarily buy back the water the rivers need from willing sellers.”

Conservation Council of SA Chief Executive Craig Wilkins said:

“As the state at the end of the River, we’ve always been the ones with the most to lose if the Murray Darling Basin Plan fails.

“We know that rivers die from the bottom up, and river communities face huge challenges if not enough water at the right time flows through the rivers, lakes, floodplains, channels and wetlands that make up the extraordinary Murray Darling system.

“The water that has been returned so far under the Plan has already delivered significant benefits. This is a real cause for hope if the full Plan is delivered, and a better job is done at taking into account the impact that climate change will have.

“But there is a huge way to go, and time is running out. It is promising to hear that Water Minister Tanya Plibersek is willing to consider the voluntary buy back of water to make up the shortfall that currently exists.”

Queensland Conservation Council Water Policy Officer Nigel Parratt said:

“With the 2024 deadline looming, it’s imperative that governments fast track delivery of their obligations under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan not only to restore the failing health of the Basin’s rivers, wetlands and floodplains, but also to ensure that communities across the Basin are able to economically and socially thrive into the future.”

Download the 5 point vision for the Murray-Darling here

View the new Murray-Darling animation below:

Media contact

James Norman, Media and Content Manager

Phone: +61451291775