Media Releases | 11th Apr, 2024

Victoria must demonstrate real action to restore rivers after new ‘commitment’ to revamped Basin Plan

News that Victoria has made a new ‘commitment’ to the revised Murray-Darling Basin Plan could be a significant step forward for returning much needed water to Australia’s biggest river system, but only if the Allan government matches its words with real action, Environment Victoria said today.

In August last year, Victoria refused to sign a new agreement (PDF) to deliver the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in full, despite all other Basin states and territories being on board. Commonwealth legislation passed late last year, and now Victoria has signalled that it will cooperate, agreeing to the same terms as other states.

“Victoria has been holding out on this new deal to return 450 billion litres of water that was promised for the environment ten years ago but never delivered. Now they’ve finally acknowledged that the Commonwealth has a mandate to get on with the job,” said Environment Victoria’s Rivers and Nature Campaign Manager Greg Foyster.

“More than 140 species of fish, birds, frogs and plants are at risk of extinction in Victoria without enough water flowing to rivers and wetlands in the Murray-Darling. Delivering this remaining 450 billion litres promised for the environment could provide a crucial lifeline during the next drought, which might be just around the corner.”

“Now Victoria has returned to the negotiating table, we need the Victorian Water Minister to demonstrate real progress by removing barriers that are currently blocking water from flowing naturally to the wetlands and floodplains that need it.

“This is hundreds of millions of dollars invested in upgrading bridges and roads to let the river flow to habitat for frogs and native fish, triggering their breeding cycles. Victoria needs to do this work to reap the environmental benefits of this new deal.”

“But instead of allowing water to flow more naturally, the Victorian government wants to re-engineer wetlands to survive with less water. These wetland engineering projects are expensive experiments, turning complex ecosystems into big irrigation bays, and we’re concerned funding is available for them again.”

“If the Victorian government is now serious about delivering on the Basin Plan, they must match their words with action and let the water flow into a depleted river system.”

This would require the Victorian government to take a number of key steps:

  1. Identify a credible pathway to relax constraints on rivers, allowing water to flow more naturally into wetlands and across floodplains
  2. Assess alternatives to wetland engineering projects along the Murray River
  3. Improve studies into the socio-economic impacts of water recovery to follow best practice, genuinely addressing actual drivers of regional economic trends
  4. Establish an independent audit to calculate actual water savings from infrastructure upgrades and review accounting methods. Ensure future water recovery delivers value for money
  5. Properly consider the impact on threatened species and environments when making decisions that affect the Murray-Darling, as required by Victoria’s biodiversity laws

Media contact

James Norman, Media and Content Manager

Ph: 0451291775