Media Releases | 3rd Aug, 2023

Victoria has been the key blocker in delivering the Murray-Darling Basin plan, new report reveals

Victoria has been singled out as the state most to blame for ‘sabotaging’ the national plan to return water to the Murray-Darling river system, according to a new report Debasing the Basin Plan released by Environment Victoria today. 

Since the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was first implemented in 2012, the Victorian government has consistently preferred to ‘go it alone’ on water policy and prioritised costly and ineffective efficiency projects resulting in the inability of the Plan to meet its water targets.

Even after the federal government warned last week of a delay to the Basin Plan, raising concerns not enough water would be recovered ahead of a future drought, the Andrews government continues to oppose water buybacks from willing sellers, the more economically and environmentally effective way to return water to our rivers.

The report highlights five ways that successive Victorian governments have undermined national water policy:

  • Holding the Commonwealth to ransom over the original Water Act
  • Proposing irrigation upgrade schemes as an alternative to genuine water recovery
  • Reducing the amount of environmental water in the Basin Plan
  • Instigating an ‘offsets’ scheme to further reduce environmental water
  • Pushing for an unworkable socio-economic test, making it impossible to recover the remaining 450 GL of water for the environment

“While alleged water theft in NSW has generated national headlines, Victoria has actually played a bigger role in ripping off the river and this report is the first time Victoria’s shortcomings and negligence of our river system has been comprehensively documented,” said Environment Victoria’s Policy and Advocacy Manager Bronya Lipski.

“This report shows how the Victorian government took steps to undermine the Water Act and has instead repeatedly argued for substantially reduced water targets that have left parts of the Murray-Darling dry and depleted following devastating droughts.

“To give one example, the biggest tranche of water that hasn’t been delivered is 450 billion litres that was promised to improve the environment. And the main barrier to achieving that is a completely unworkable ‘socio-economic’ test, which the Victorian government instigated at the urging of the irrigation lobby.

“Since it was elected in 2014, the Andrews government has refused to support water buybacks from willing sellers as the most cost effective way to return environmental water to the rivers, and has remained fixated on ineffective water offset schemes, resulting in wetland engineering projects that are often being carried out without Traditional Owner consent.

“Other states might have been more blatant in their sabotage, but Victoria’s insidious undermining of the Basin Plan has been ultimately more damaging. If the failure to recover enough water for rivers ahead of the next drought results in more mass fish kills and massive toxic algal blooms, the Victorian government will deserve a large share of the blame.”

Download the report

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