The Australian Conservation Foundation has welcomed today’s clarification that despite the majority of the water portfolio moving to the Agriculture Department, the Office of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) will remain in the Environment Department.
“Environmental water should be used to protect and restore the rivers and wetlands of Murray-Darling Basin and therefore the Environment Department is its natural home” said ACF’s Acting Campaigns Director Jonathan La Nauze.
“It would have been a real conflict of interest to put environmental water under the auspices of the Agriculture Department given the push from some parts of the irrigation industry to sell environmental water to irrigators. We are pleased this potential conflict of interest has been avoided.
“However, unanswered questions remain about what the move from ‘environment’ to ‘agriculture’ means for the Water Act and the Basin Plan and therefore the tax-payers investment of $13 billion to restore the balance in the Murray-Darling Basin.
“We ask Prime Minister Turnbull, who was an architect of the 2007 Water Act to:
- Rule out any changes to the Water Act that would facilitate selling off environmental water to irrigators as demanded by the National Party at their Federal Conference last week;
- Rule out changes to the Basin Plan that would erode environmental gains;
- Re-commit to implementing the Basin Plan “in full and on time” including the full recovery of 450 GL in addition to the adjusted 2750 GL of water for the environment; and
- Commit to properly funding the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder into the future.”
“The community needs re-assurance that the huge investment and considerable progress that has been made in restoring the Murray-Darling Basin to health will not be lost in the maelstrom of political bargaining” he concluded.