The Australian Conservation Foundation has called for leadership when Murray-Darling Basin Water Ministers meet in Adelaide tomorrow amid increasing delays and distractions to the Basin Plan.

“After a few wet years, upstream state governments seem to have forgotten the pain and suffering caused by historic overuse of our rivers,” said ACF Healthy Ecosystems Manager Jonathan La Nauze.

“They seem to have forgotten the words of former PM John Howard, who in 2007 described water as Australia’s greatest conservation challenge and kicked off the Basin Plan process to ‘address once and for all water over-allocation in the Murray-Darling’.

“Australians have put $13 billion into the Murray-Darling and for that we expect a healthy river and decent, effective support for communities to adjust. Instead, New South Wales is running a mischievous and misleading campaign to give irrigators more water in exchange for restoring the funding for ‘complementary measures’ the state cut four years ago.

“New South Wales is also allowing its irrigators to divert environmental water onto cotton farms – water bought back from Queensland irrigators with public money.”

ACF is calling on Basin Ministers to:

  • commit the final 450 gigalitres of water recovery projects to keep the Murray flowing during droughts
  • find a resolution to the perverse situation where NSW lets its irrigators use environmental water to grow cotton crops
  • commit to work with basin communities to redesign structural adjustment programs to meet their needs and create real new jobs
  • give the Murray-Darling Basin Authority a clear signal ahead of Tuesday’s Northern Basin Review that unsustainable increases to water diversion limits are unacceptable.

“The rivers of the basin are still overallocated and global warming means the amount of water going into these rivers is permanently reduced, due to a reduction in rainfall.

“Basin water ministers must stay the course and address over-allocation in the Murray-Darling, place the irrigation industry on a sustainable footing and ensure a safe future for native fish, waterbirds and drinking water supplies for millions of Australians.”

ACF Media Enquiries

Journalists with enquiries may contact Tom Arup on 0402 482 910 or Josh Meadows on 0439 342 992. For all other enquiries please call 1800 223 669 or email action@acf.org.au.