The Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s proposed increase to water extraction limits signals a visionless retreat from the Authority’s mission to restore sustainability to the basin, the Australian Conservation Foundation said today.

“Prime Minister John Howard created the Authority to ‘address once and for all water over-allocation in the Murray-Darling Basin’ but the body charged with that task appears to have given up,” said Jonathan La Nauze, ACF’s Healthy Ecosystems Manager.

“Rather than act in the interests of all basin communities and future generations, the Authority seems to be listening only to a select group of upstream irrigation lobbyists.

“What the Basin Authority proposes in its Northern Basin Review is without precedent and is potentially against the law.

“The Authority’s legislated mandate is to set at scientifically determined sustainable levels the amount of water that is permitted to be taken out of rivers for irrigation.

“Instead the Authority proposes to increase the amount of water upstream irrigators can take, harming lakes, wetlands, rivers and communities downstream.

“This is a visionless retreat from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s core business.

“If this proposal goes ahead it will cause ongoing harm to threatened species of native fish and waterbirds and to the wellbeing of Aboriginal communities, river towns and businesses, floodplain graziers and the recreational fishing industry.

“At particular risk are the floodplains of the Culgoa and Barwon-Darling and internationally significant waterbird breeding at the Narran Lakes.

“The positive impacts of the Basin Plan started to show recently, with fishers reporting bumper catches of Murray Cod in northern Victoria and South Australian communities benefiting from the flushing of salt out the Murray mouth.

“Allowing upstream irrigators to take more water out of the system will jeopardise its ongoing recovery.

“ACF calls on the Authority to rethink its dangerous plans to increase water extracted in the Northern Basin and urges all Australians to speak out against this proposal.”

ACF Media Enquiries

Journalists with enquiries may call Tom Arup on 0402 482 910 or email tom.arup@acf.org.au. For all other enquiries please call 1800 223 669 or email action@acf.org.au.