The passage of a massive reduction in the southern Murray-Darling Basin water recovery target is premature and risks the long-term health of inland Australia’s river lifeblood, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) says.

ACF Director of Campaigns, Dr Paul Sinclair, said the 605 billion litre reduction to the southern basin sustainable diversion limit was being shunted through despite:

  • Concerns from the Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commissioner about the legality of the Basin Plan because it may not meet the environmental objectives of the Water Act.
  • Significant concerns from technical experts that the water efficiency projects underpinning the southern basin target adjustment may not stack-up.
  • Ongoing investigations and inquiries into alleged water rorting across the basin.
  • Serious concerns about the current health of the lower Darling River.

“The trust many people have in the management of the Murray-Darling Basin is at one of its lowest points because governments and their agents have seemingly turned a blind eye to alleged mismanagement and rorting by some vested interests. Those same governments are now saying ‘trust us, we’ll make the river healthy again by holding back water and pouring more concrete for infrastructure projects.’ It’s not credible,” Dr Sinclair said.

“The lack of due diligence and scrutiny over the projects underpinning the southern basin target reduction raises serious questions about the use of public funds and integrity of the Basin Plan.

“This is not sound policy making. The cuts to the river’s water are premature and reckless, and puts at risk the health of floodplains, wetlands and wildlife that call the basin home, and the communities that rely on a healthy river to thrive.

“ACF continues to recognises the Basin Plan remains an important reform for restoring our rivers. But we need to see an end to the industry-dominated and one-sided approach from the Turnbull Government and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to the management of the river system.

“We recognise and welcome the elements of the agreement between Minister Littleproud and Mr Burke to commence expressions of interest for the additional 450 billion litres of water, advance the interests of Indigenous water rights and organisations, and linking payments to states to the delivery of efficiency projects.

“We call on all parties to make clear commitments that if they’re successful at the next federal election they will restore integrity and trust to our public institutions, ensure promised water is returned to rivers and floodplains, and enforce laws to protect environmental water, forests and wetlands.

“ACF will continue to work with people across the basin to insist on the restoration of our rivers, wetlands and communities, be it through the full implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan or alternative programs.”

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.