Media Releases | 12th Jul, 2023

Failure to return water to Murray-Darling poses major ‘extinction risk’ for Victorian threatened species – new report

Failing to return more environmental water to the rivers and wetlands of the Murray-Darling Basin places 140 Victorian threatened species at increased risk of extinction, according to a new report released today by Environment Victoria.

The Doomed without a Drink report reveals that Victoria has been a major roadblock to delivering water to rivers and wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin, and this uncooperative approach further endangers threatened fish, birds, frogs and plants that depend on freshwater flows for their survival.

Species at very high or extremely high risk of extinction in Victoria include the Australasian bittern, painted snipe, Sloane’s froglet and Murray cod (full list available in report).

The report shows the Victorian Government’s opposition to Commonwealth water purchases is a ‘major concern’ because alternative methods of returning water to the river – such as efficiency schemes and wetland ‘engineering’ offsets – are too expensive and unlikely to deliver the claimed water savings.

Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze said:

“This report reveals the shocking truth that by denying water to the rivers and wetlands of the Murray-Darling, the Andrews Government is increasing the likelihood that 140  threatened species will become extinct.

“The Basin Plan is way behind delivering water for our rivers and key decisions will be made in the next month ahead of a Murray-Darling Ministerial Council meeting. For the fish, frogs and water birds of the Murray-Darling, this is a life or death moment.

“Threatened species need real water returned to the rivers and wetlands where they live, and the most straightforward and effective way to do that is buying it from irrigators.

“Instead the Victorian Government has preferred to give subsidies to irrigators and avoid water recovery targets by relying on dubious offsets. These options are far more expensive than simply buying the water and unlikely to deliver the claimed water savings.

“Subsidies to irrigators and clever accounting schemes might look reasonable on paper but they won’t trigger bird breeding events or fish movement. River red gums can’t wait through another drought for these dodgy projects to deliver water savings that may never materialise.

“If the Victorian government is serious about bringing these animals and plants back from the brink of extinction, they need to revise their position on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to allow the Commonwealth to purchase more water for the environment. Failing to do so is a choice to put those species at greater risk of extinction.

“The Andrews Government has a positive story to tell on climate and recently announced an end to destructive native forest logging. But when it comes to caring for the 140 Victorian threatened species that depend on the Murray-Darling, the Andrews Government is actually the biggest problem.

“Victoria’s current position on water policy in the Basin is closer to that of Barnaby Joyce than a progressive Labor government.

“If nothing changes there will be little hope for some of these Victorian threatened species and the government will only have itself to blame.”

Header image: Adam Fry

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