May 10th, 2023
The Albanese Government has committed $146.8m in this budget towards their election promise to complete the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, but failed to commit the funds needed to deliver on the final 450 gigalitres (GL) of water for the environment.
Australia’s peak conservation groups covering every basin state have warned more funding will be needed to reach Basin Plan targets and restore our rivers to health after a decade of delay.
Environment Victoria, Nature Conservation Council NSW, Queensland Conservation Council and the Conservation Council of SA said the Albanese Government has clear election commitments to deliver the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in full - but this budget doesn't include the additional funding needed for water recovery.
Tyler Rotche, Environment Victoria’s Healthy Rivers Campaigner said:
“The rivers and wetlands of the Basin can’t wait.”
“Under the Coalition, we lost years and billions of dollars on bloated handouts and dodgy offset schemes. Now water’s more expensive — the Albanese government needs to allocate more money for water recovery.”
“The Albanese government has some leftover funding. The bulk of the $1.575 billion to recover 450 billion litres went unspent while the Murray-Darling faced mass fish kills and toxic blackwater events.”
“The government needs to get the most water for the funds already set aside. Purchasing water from willing sellers is the most reliable option. It’s by far the most straightforward, aboveboard and cost-effective method on the table.”
Craig Wilkins, Conservation Council of SA Chief Executive said:
“Federal Water Minister Tanya Plibersek has so far shown genuine commitment to deliver more water under the Murray Darling Basin Plan.”
“But this budget hasn’t committed the additional funding required to return the system to health.”
“As a nation, we won’t be able to do what is required to improve the health of Australia’s greatest river system without the federal government entering the market to purchase water from willing sellers.”
Jacqui Mumford, CEO of the Nature Conservation Council NSW said:
“While the decision not to fund the dud Dungowan Dam near Tamworth is applauded, the money saved should have been repurposed for water purchases. Funding is critical if we are going to save the Murray Darling Basin.”
“Entire communities have run out of water, ecosystems are collapsing, native fish populations have declined by 90%, and even once common birds like the pink cockatoo are at risk of extinction.”
“The solution is simple. We need stronger laws to stop over-extraction, purchase more environmental water, and invest in regional communities.”
Nigel Parratt, Water Policy Officer for the Queensland Conservation Council said:
“Today's program funding is needed but the fact that there is no money for water purchases means the job of repairing the damage from years of neglect is going to get harder.”
“The previous government's lack of action pushed species to the brink of extinction and damaged many regional communities. We don't want to see this happen again.”