Media Releases | 1st Nov, 2023

Water Bill must go further to deliver for the Darling

Leading environmental organisations from Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia will today present evidence to a Senate Committee on the Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Bill.

As it stands the Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Bill would allow 450 GL of water to be purchased for the environment. However the Bill must be strengthened to guarantee that water is recovered, First Nations People have a seat at the table and that more water is available to flow down the Darling/Baaka River.

“We are calling on members of the federal parliament to step up and guarantee real water will be returned to the rivers for the sake of communities and ecosystems across the whole of the Murray-Darling Basin,” Nature Conservation Council Water Campaigner, Mel Gray said.

Members of the Murray Darling Basin Conservation Alliance will give evidence in the federal Senate today urging the Committee to extend the Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Bill to ensure there is additional water for the Darling/Baaka River by:

  • Returning water to Traditional Owners.
  • Reversing the Northern Basin Sustainable Diversion Limit Amendments.
  • Ruling out the Menindee Lakes ‘water saving’ offset project immediately and getting real water flowing down the Darling/Baaka River.
  • Fix or remove the old weirs that are stopping native fish from migrating.
  • Ensure that publicly owned environmental water is protected from pumping.

Mel Gray, Nature Conservation Council NSW Water Campaigner said today:

“As it currently stands this Bill will not stop communities running out of water and fails to address mass fish kill events along the Darling/Baaka River.”

“The Productivity Commission report out yesterday confirms the dodgy offset projects won’t deliver for the environment, singling out the controversial Menindee Lakes ‘water saving’ project.

“Our five point plan recommends the dodgy Menindee Lakes project be stricken off the list of offset projects and that the water promised to the environment be returned upstream of the Lakes, to get the Darling/Baaka flowing again.

“Unless we address the many loopholes and accounting tricks that have been developed for multinational cotton interests, the Darling-Baaka will not flow, more communities will run out of water, and more mass fish kills will occur.”

Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze said:

“We will use our opportunity at today’s Senate Committee hearing to call on the government to improve this Bill so that it delivers for people and communities of the Murray-Darling

“The Productivity Commission has clearly stated that purchasing water is by far the quickest and most effective way to obtain environmental water entitlements and that Basin governments need to publicly and transparently report how the water resources will deliver benefits for First Nations communities.

Conservation Council SA Chief Executive Craig Wilkins said:

“It’s critical that sides of politics remember what happened during the Millenium Drought. It’s seared into the memory of all South Australians.

“So far, too much of the Murray Darling Basin Plan has been a series of broken promises that has failed to deliver what is required.

“The Bill currently before the Senate is the opportunity to create real water essential for a healthy river system.”

The Living Baaka Five Point Plan is a road map to rescuing the Darling/Baaka from crisis. Download the full document here >>

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James Norman, Media and Content Manager

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