22 November, 2016

Murray-Darling Basin Plan doomed for wildlife and communities

Key environment groups in NSW condemn the recommendation of the Northern Basin Review to reduce environmental flows by 70GL, calling on the Turnbull Government to reject the findings. A reduction in water flows is a backward step that jeopardises the environmental health of the Murray-Darling wetlands, birds, fish and downstream communities.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has today released the Northern Basin Review, a 4 year project to assess the environmental, economic and social impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. The review has recommended to reduce the volume of water available for the environment by 70 GL putting at risk the gains made by the Basin Plan.

‘Stripping 70 gigalitres of water from the environment and downstream communities is the next nail in the coffin of a once successful Murray-Darling Basin Plan,’ said Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski.

‘Our Federal and State Government’s responsibilities under international treaties will be compromised if less water is returned to improve the health of Ramsar wetlands and important migratory waterbird habitat,’

‘The Ramsar listed Narran Lakes, Macquarie Marshes and Gwydir wetlands are particularly threatened by the proposed reduction of water from the Northern Basin. The health of the Darling River, its Aboriginal cultural heritage connections and the downstream communities such as Wilcannia are sacrificed by this poor decision.’

‘The NSW Government has been a key player in blocking successful environmental outcomes for the Basin Plan’, said Inland Rivers Network President, Bev Smiles.

‘The Basin Plan is a $15 billion natural resource management strategy that dedicates significant funds to private property and irrigation schemes to improve efficient water use on farms. The saved water is to return past over-allocations back to the rivers.’

‘The bias towards the socio-economics of up-river communities that still rely on wasteful flood irrigation is sacrificing the future health of downstream communities.’

‘The aim of the Basin Plan was to restore the balance of over-extraction so that rivers, wetlands and their dependent native animals could recover from a serious level of decline. The proposal to remove 70 GL from the environment in the Northern Basin is not a balanced outcome.’

‘This decision will further compromise the Basin Plan and not meet the Turnbull Government’s promise to meet the plan in full and on time,’ concluded Bev Smiles.

Contact: Daisy Barham 0402 335 664

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