Media Releases | 27th Nov, 2023

A win for the Murray Darling - agreement to strengthen Restoring our Rivers (2023) Bill offers our rivers a lifeline

Leading environmental organisations from Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland have strongly welcomed an agreement between the Australian Greens and the Albanese Government to strengthen the Water Amendment (Restoring our Rivers) Bill, saying the proposed amendments will give Basin rivers a chance of restoration after years of delay tactics.

The groups have highlighted the agreement offers rivers a lifeline on the brink of drought by guaranteeing the remaining 450 gigalitres of water for the environment and delivering more flows for the Darling-Baaka. The agreement also acknowledges significant work needs to be done to recognise First Nations water rights.

The agreement comes after years of grassroots action by Murray-Darling communities including farmers, irrigators, First Nations leaders and environmental groups, and creates a pathway for a healthy river and First Nations water justice, the groups said.

The Alliance looks forward to seeing the final details of the Bill, which we hope with the support of the crossbench will deliver for communities, rivers and First Nations communities.

Conservation SA Chief Executive Craig Wilkins said: 

“This is a long overdue and extremely welcome recognition that the 450 gigalitres that SA secured in 2012 is a core component of the Plan, and not some optional ‘nice to have’.

“Guaranteeing the full delivery of the 450 gigalitres is essential for the survival of the river, particularly the Coorong and Great Southern Lakes.

“Despite the claims of many upstream, the 450 gigalitres will benefit the whole river system, and will help return the bare minimum amount of water scientists argued 10 years ago was necessary to give the river a fighting chance.

“While it is extremely disappointing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is so far behind after a decade of obstacles and deliberate ‘go-slow’, this package of changes negotiated between the Greens and the Albanese Government offers a genuine chance for a re-set.

“We congratulate Minister Plibersek and Senator Hanson-Young for their willingness to work together to find a way forward.”

Nature Conservation Council of NSW CEO Jacqui Mumford said:

“We commend the Federal Government for wanting to cancel the Menindee project, which was never going to work. Now we need to see how they intend to return real water to the rivers, in particular the Darling-Baaka in the leadup to the next drought.

“We’ve seen time and time again that the devil is in the details. We are still waiting to understand how the government is planning to ensure the Darling-Baaka is protected.

“Communities along the Darling-Baaka have borne the brunt of decades of water mismanagement, and have done an amazing job of advocating for the rivers.”

Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze said:

“The hard work of communities on the river has resulted in real progress today, putting critical issues on the map including the plight of the Darling-Baaka and the need to negotiate real outcomes for First Nations people.

“There is still a huge amount of work to do to secure a liveable future for the Basin. After a decade of delay and inaction, this agreement gets the wheels moving in the right direction again.”

Queensland Conservation Council Water Policy Officer Nigel Parratt said:

“The Murray-Darling Basin Plan was a bold vision but has been undermined by mismanagement. We’re pleased to see additional measures to increase accountability including an expanded role for the Inspector-General of Water Compliance and more public reporting.”

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