The Australian Conservation Foundation has welcomed comments by Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce that he will consider reinstating the Sustainable Rivers Audit.

Minister Joyce told the ABC:

I would consider the reinstatement of the [Sustainable Rivers Audit] … An audit process I think is crucial. I like processes that are based on science, as long as people have an honest appraisal of it and don't just pervert the science or use the science for another alternative or direction.

The regular audit was cancelled by state governments three years ago.  The most recent audit found 21 of the Murray-Darling Basin’s 23 river valleys were in a poor, very poor or extremely poor condition.

“Millions of Australians depend on a healthy Murray-Darling for their lives and livelihoods, so closely tracking its long-term health is vitally important to a large number of people,” said ACF’s healthy ecosystems program manager Jonathan La Nauze.

“In places where environmental water has been delivered we are seeing many positive signs of recovery with native fish and waterbirds breeding in rejuvenated rivers and wetlands.

“This weekend just passed I canoed through wetlands in the Gunbower Forest that are coming back to life after receiving environmental water.

“Ecosystems are complex and the effects of how we manage rivers can take a long time to appear; to get the full picture it’s important to track their health over the long-term and manage the river system based on the best available scientific evidence.

“Restoring the Sustainable Rivers Audit would complement an important investment this government has already made in the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder’s strong scientific monitoring program, which looks specifically at environmental watering results.

“In our 2014 review of the Basin Plan ACF praised the federal government for funding the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder’s monitoring program through to 2019.  

Putting the river and irrigation industries on a sustainable footing is a difficult journey, making reliable scientific evidence all the more important,” Mr La Nauze said.

“ACF commends Minister Joyce for recognising the importance of the river audit and encourages the Turnbull Government to prioritise funding for scientific monitoring.”

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