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Encouraging signs of progress on Murray Darling Basin Plan but we can’t afford further delays

In response to today’s Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Council (MINCO) meeting hosted by the Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek – Environment Victoria, NSW Conservation Council and Conservation Council SA responded:  

Jono La Nauze, CEO of Environment Victoria, said: 

“We are encouraged that Minister Plibersek has reaffirmed the Commonwealth’s commitment to recovering the 450 GL but it is concerning that she has left the door open to further delays. Taking longer to recover environmental water increases the risk of mass fish kills and toxic algal blooms. 

“Victoria and NSW never intended to give the Murray-Darling the water it needs so they cooked up the world’s first water offset program then proceeded to sit on their hands. It appears to be little more than a delay tactic 

“It is the environment that bears the cost of delayed water recovery. We may be in El Nina now but the next drought is just around the corner. If we haven’t recovered enough water by then, the outcomes could be catastrophic for our rivers and native fish populations.” 

We further welcome the commitment to working more closely with Indigenous communities to deliver meaningful First Nations water rights and the renewed commitment to the Aboriginal Water Entitlements Program.“ 

Jacqui Mumford, CEO of Nature Conservation Council of NSW, said: 

“We are grateful to have a new Federal Minister who is committed to delivering the Murray Darling Basin Plan in full. We encourage her to stick to the Plan’s deadlines. 

“If NSW hadn’t delivered the goods after a decade, they were never going to. 

“It’s time to drop the fanciful engineering projects that were designed to fail, and buy back actual water for the rivers. 

“Too much time has already been wasted. The next drought is getting closer every day, and only real water will help rivers and wetlands survive. 

“We all need the rivers and wetlands of the Basin to be healthy, including the irrigation industry.” 

Craig Wilkins, Chief Executive, Conservation Council of SA, said: 

“We are coming to the pointy end of the Murray Darling Basin Plan, and there is a huge amount left to be done. 

“South Australians are genuinely concerned the bottom end of the River will again be dudded by delays and a lack of commitment by all Basin states to the 2024 deadline. 

“We strongly welcome Minister Plibersek’s commitment to keep all options on the table to deliver real water to the river in line with the original plan, including voluntary buybacks, to make up the difference if the other parts of the plan fall short. 

“We also applaud the crystal clear position of the SA Government and Water Minister Susan Close, and her withdrawal of support for the controversial 2018 ‘socio-economic test’ that has made it much harder for all states to deliver efficiency and constraints management projects.” 

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