The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has called on the Morrison Government to end the industry-dominated, one-sided approach to the management of the Murray-Darling Basin following recent heart-breaking mass fish deaths.
ACF’s Chief Executive Officer, Kelly O’Shanassy, said the fish deaths were largely a consequence of governments allowing corporations to take too much water from the Murray-Darling’s rivers for too long.
“After 18 months of allegations of water theft, government mismanagement and undue influence of powerful corporate interests, a responsible government would step in and look after the interests of our rivers, wildlife and communities,” Ms O’Shanassy said.
“We welcome the NSW opposition’s commitment to an inquiry and note South Australia’s Royal Commission into these issues, but ultimately it is up to the Federal Government to address the problems facing Australia’s most important river system.
“The Federal Government has bent over backwards to avoid responsibility. It has blocked its officials from appearing at the South Australian Royal Commission and led the charge to slash the amount of water returned to these rivers. And the Murray-Darling Basin Authority has been missing in action amid allegations of water theft.
“While drought is one factor in the heart-breaking death of these fish – and climate change means we can expect more devastating droughts – these fish are dying because water they need is being taken by industry interests, like big cotton corporations, with the support of political leaders.
“The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is supposed to ensure our rivers survive dry periods. A million dead fish shows it is not working.
“The one-sided industry-dominated approach from governments and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to the management of the river system must end.
“Rivers are the lifeblood of inland Australia. We need an independent Federal Environmental Protection Agency to ensure compliance with national environmental plans, including the Basin Plan.”