Media Releases | 24th Feb, 2023

Water purchases key to delivering Murray-Darling Basin Plan promises

With the deadline of June 2024 fast approaching, environment groups encourage Minister Plibersek to stand up to NSW and Victoria by purchasing water as the only cost-effective, practical way to return water to rivers.

Ahead of a meeting of Murray-Darling Basin water ministers today, Environment Victoria, Conservation Council of South Australia, NSW Nature Conservation Council and Queensland Conservation Council are urging Tanya Plibersek to remain steadfast in delivering the Basin Plan’s water commitments by the current deadlines.

Tyler Rotche, Environment Victoria’s Healthy Rivers campaigner, said:

“Until now, Victoria and NSW have joined the federal Nationals to block progress on delivering the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

“Instead of purchasing water, they’ve proposed dodgy alternatives that don’t work, and the river suffers as a result.

“We’ve known for a decade that the most reliable way to get water for rivers is purchasing it from irrigators who want to sell. The reason it’s not happening is recalcitrance led by the Victorian government in lockstep with the Nationals.

“It’s time for the federal government to call out this farce and for Victoria and NSW to step up and cooperate. State water ministers just need to follow the Federal Minister’s lead and get on with the job.”

Jacqui Mumford, CEO of NSW Nature Conservation Council, said:

“The NSW Nationals Water Minister wants to keep gaslighting and sidestepping the Government’s obligations under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

“He is recklessly pushing for even longer extensions of time for worthless projects that won’t return water to the river system.

“For rivers and wetlands to flourish, there is simply no substitute for water. The most effective way to boost water flows is through voluntary open tender water purchases.

“Basin rivers cannot afford any more delays to water recovery – the next drought is getting closer every day.

“Voters will punish the Perrottet Government at the coming election if it continues to stand in the way of a healthy and sustainable Murray-Darling Basin.”

Craig Wilkins, CEO of the Conservation Council SA, said: 

“Friday’s meeting is critical for ensuring water essential for the river’s health is delivered on time as promised.

“For years, upstream states have twisted and turned and done everything possible to delay water return. This game playing must be called out and stopped.

“We know the cheapest, simplest and most direct way to deliver water essential for a healthy river is through voluntary water purchases.

“We urge all Water Ministers to work together to ensure water purchases are on the table.”

Queensland Conservation Council Water Policy Officer Nigel Parratt said:

“With the deadline for the Basin Plan to be implemented rapidly approaching, it’s essential that the Australian and Basin State Governments work together to meet the shortfall of water that must be recovered for the environment.

“Any delays in fully delivering the Basin Plan will be an absolute disaster for rivers, wetlands and communities across the Murray-Darling Basin.”

Header image: John Morton. Available on Flickr under CC BY-SA 2.0 licence.

For comment

Environment Victoria
Greg Foyster
Phone: 0410 879 031