Media Releases | 6th Sep, 2023

Environment groups welcome progress on Murray-Darling Basin Plan, but guarantees needed to ensure real water reaches rivers

In response to a new bill allowing water purchases being introduced to federal parliament today, environment groups from across four states have welcomed progress on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, but warn that delays will be costly to the health of our rivers.

The groups have renewed their criticism of Victoria for refusing to join the new national deal, instead clinging to the Barnaby Joyce-era of water management that has had disastrous consequences on river health.

Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze said:

“This new bill opens up the potential to recover real water for rivers and wetlands. It could finally get the Basin Plan back on track, provided the Albanese government follows through on delivering their commitment to return the additional water promised for the environment.

“While we support the direction of the bill, we have some concerns about significant delays proposed and allowing new water ‘offsets’ into the mix. We also need to see firm assurances that real water can be delivered urgently as we head into a dry spell.

“We are pleased to see national progress on the Plan after years of delay, but remain concerned Victoria will miss out on some benefits from being part of the deal including significant federal funding for regional communities.”

Nature Conservation Council of NSW Water Campaigner Mel Gray said:

“While it’s great to see the Basin Plan moving again, it’s important to remember how far behind the Plan is. It is imperative for the Basin rivers and all of the life that relies on them that the 3,200 billion litre water recovery target is reached as soon as possible.

“Water purchases are the most straightforward, cost-effective and reliable method to return water to wetlands and wildlife and we’re glad to see this option is now back on the table.

“The amendments to the Water Act that we are seeing introduced to Parliament today would be enough to kick start the Basin Plan again. However they don’t begin to address the impacts of climate change, or water justice for First Nations.”

Conservation SA Campaign Co-ordinator Char Nitschke said:

“South Australian rivers urgently need more water, especially as we approach an El Nino summer. Water reform has been so badly stalled for the last decade, this feels like a huge step forward.

“While we are relieved that the Basin Plan is moving again, we remain concerned that in three years time we could be back to where we were eleven years ago. We simply can’t afford to let that happen – for the sake of our most important river system.”

Queensland Conservation Council Water Policy Officer Nigel Parratt said:

“The next drought is coming, and if it’s another climate change fuelled shocker, then we will need as much of the 3,200 billion litres returned to the river as possible to minimise serious environmental, cultural and economic harm.”

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