In response to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s review into river compliance and water theft allegations, Australian Conservation Foundation Director of Campaigns, Dr Paul Sinclair, said:
“This is a massive wake-up call that has again exposed significant failures at all levels of government on water compliance. The community should be furious about how its elected representatives have failed to protect the public good and the health of our rivers.
“Our rivers are the lifeblood of our communities. They feed the wildlife, wetlands and communities that make the Murray-Darling Basin a resilient and wonderful place.
“It took the hard work of concerned community members, environment groups and the media to bring these compliance problems to light. State and national authorities sat on their hands while some powerful interests are alleged to have profited at the expense of all others.
“The findings of this review have shown that in NSW and Queensland river compliance is basically non-existent. These are the same states that are now pushing to cut the amount of water that is returned to the river under the Basin Plan.
“In NSW, Queensland and Victoria the review findings also show there is a disturbing lack of transparency. And there is also a frank admission from the Basin Authority that it failed to properly escalate concerns about water breaches in the Murray-Darling.
“These problems are not failures of the Basin Plan, which is our best chance to restore our rivers. They are failures of authorities to hold to account those who seek to profit from exploiting our precious rivers at the expense of nature and our communities.
“All Basin governments must move swiftly to implement the recommendations of this review. But it should not be the end of the investigations into these issues.
“This review tells us that the system has failed because state and national authorities are not doing their job properly. What is not answered is why our elected representatives have ignored their compliance responsibilities and whether vested interests have captured the system for their own gain.
“Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull must establish a national, independent judicial inquiry to get to the heart of these problems.”