In response to news that the federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek is considering delaying the Murray-Darling Basin Plan past its 2024 deadline, Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze said today:
“As we’ve seen with the massive fish kills in recent years, delaying water returned to the environment has devastating consequences.
“Denying water to the floodplain over the last decade has allowed organic matter to build up before being flushed into the river system all at once, creating toxic blackwater events.
“While mismanagement and alleged water theft in NSW generate headlines, the truth is that the Victorian Government is the biggest blocker of returning water to our rivers in the Murray-Darling and has been for years.
“It was the Andrews Government that originally proposed the unworkable ‘socio-economic’ test that has meant only a fraction of the 450 gigalitres of water for the environment can be delivered on time.
“Before that, it was the Victorian Government that first cooked up the dodgy ‘environmental offsets’ scheme known as SDLAM. These engineering works were proposed to justify denying Murray-Darling rivers and wetlands another 605 gigalitres – more water than is in Sydney Harbour.
“Murray-Darling Basin Authority CEO Andrew McConville recently described these projects as ‘like a credit to water users, at the expense of the environment. The credit has been banked, but the payment still needs to be delivered’.
“The prospect of further delay on the Basin Plan is devastating news for the environment, particularly with an El Nino looming and the next drought just around the corner.
“John Howard introduced the Water Act to take over management from states like Victoria which were bleeding the river system dry. The Albanese Government needs to show the same resolve and stare down states like Victoria which are trying to weasel out of their responsibilities.
“The Albanese Government made an election commitment to deliver the 450 gigalitres of water for the environment and Minister Plibersek has pledged no new extinctions. Any significant delays to water recovery in the Basin Plan would represent a failure to deliver on those promises.”