The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) says the proposal to cut the Southern Basin water recovery target should be deferred to sort out legal concerns raised by the Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commissioner and ensure the projects underpinning the cut are properly scrutinised.

A vote to disallow the reduction of the Southern Basin water recovery target is due next Tuesday in the Senate. ACF Director of Campaigns, Dr Paul Sinclair, said given the legal concerns of the Royal Commissioner and the experts who have scrutinised the water efficiency projects underpinning the reduction, the Turnbull Government should withdraw the proposal until its house is in order.

 “The Murray-Darling Royal Commissioner has raised serious issues regarding the legality of the Basin Plan because it may fail to deliver on the environmental objectives of the Water Act,” Dr Sinclair said.

“There have also been substantial questions raised about the projects that would attempt to improve water delivery efficiency in the southern basin and lead to a reduction in the recovery target. The due diligence these projects have gone through is questionable at best.

“Given these concerns the move to reduce the Southern Basin environmental water recovery target by 605 billion litres is highly premature and environmental reckless and should be deferred.”

“We should not be rushing to cut water recovery until it is clear that it is legal, and the water efficiency projects will deliver real environment gains.

“Despite these problems the Murray-Darling Basin Plan remains the best pathway to ensuring the survival of the river. The plan took years to develop. We owe it to the communities and wildlife that depend on a healthy river to get this right.”

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