Media Releases | 18th Oct, 2023

Environment groups welcome progress of Water Bill with support of independent regional MPs

Leading environmental organisations from Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland have welcomed the progress of the Water Amendment (Restoring our Rivers) Bill through the House of Representatives today, saying it gives our rivers a chance of restoration after years of delay tactics.

The groups have highlighted that this Bill has the potential to get the Basin Plan back on track by allowing the 450 gigalitres of water for the environment to be purchased – an essential ingredient to delivering water to the river ahead of likely upcoming droughts.

Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze said:

“We welcome the amendments proposed today from Rebekha Sharkie which would add greater accountability to the Plan by including regular annual reports on progress towards the 450 gigalitre target. We also welcome the amendments from Helen Haines to strengthen the Inspector-General’s role in auditing water recovery progress.

“It is noteworthy that independent MPs representing regional river communities at both ends of the Murray support the substance of this Bill, which contrasts with the position taken by the Coalition and the Victorian government backing vested corporate interests over communities.

“However, we believe the Bill could be further strengthened with amendments in the Senate. The Bill needs to include guarantees that water promised for the environment is actually delivered, and to fulfil Labor’s election promise to increase First Nations ownership of water entitlements and greater participation in decision making.”

Nature Conservation Council of NSW CEO Jacqui Mumford said:

“During the last drought entire communities ran out of water, and we saw ecosystems collapse before our eyes in the form of mass fish kills.

“We welcome this important step in delivering water for inland communities and ecosystems.

“We also welcome Helen Haines’ acknowledgement that the Darling-Baaka River needs water too, and believe it is critical that urgent action be taken to provide the rivers of the north with the water they need to see them through the next drought.

“This bill does nothing to return water to First Nations Peoples through the provision of Cultural Flows. Aboriginal People can’t wait another four years to have their water returned to them.”

Conservation SA Campaign Co-ordinator Char Nitschke said:

“The Basin Plan as it stands is, in part, unlawful and not based on the best available science. This Bill would contribute to recovering the 450 GL, through voluntary purchases, which is crucial and the absolute bare minimum.

“We welcome more rigorous and comprehensive modelling to determine the water needed to ensure the survival of the Basin for the millions who depend on it.

“We urge members of parliament to see this as the first step in securing the long term future of inland communities and ecosystems.

“The next drought is coming, and without a meaningful increase in real water for both the southern and northern basin, we will see even further catastrophic ecological collapse.”

Queensland Conservation Council Water Policy Officer Nigel Parratt said:

“Our rivers, wetlands and wildlife have suffered through ten years of fish kills, dry riverbeds, algal blooms and other environmental disasters because too much water has been taken from the river.

“Importantly we need real water that flows down the river and across floodplains, rejuvenating the landscape, not just more delays and dodgy schemes.

“We also need legally binding assurances that the required water recovery will be achieved within the extended time frames in this Bill.”