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Federal budget fails to deliver urgently needed Murray-Darling recovery funding


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.”

NCC welcomes court decision on water theft, calls for stronger sentencing in the future


30th March 2023 


NCC welcomes court decision on water theft, calls for stronger sentencing in the future 

The Nature Conservation Council of NSW (NCC), the states peak body for climate and environment, has today welcomed the finding of criminal liability for Brewarrina irrigators Peter and Jane Harris.  

At a sentencing hearing on Tuesday the Land and Environment Court upheld the finding of criminally liable for stealing over two billion liters of water in 2016 .  

The perpetrators were fined $60,000 and ordered to pay around half a million dollars in costs incurred by WaterNSW in bringing the case.  

NCC Water Campaigner Melissa Gray welcomed the decision, which she noted will have implications for a number of cases currently awaiting trial.  

“What this case has done is shown the rogue operators that if you illegally steal water, you will be held accountable. There was a lot of concern that the burden of evidence would be too high, so this is great outcome in terms of making it clear to those rogue operators who think they can steal water that this will no longer be accepted in NSW.” 

“Most irrigators do want to do the right thing, but the outliers who have been prepared to steal water have done so at eyewatering scale. It has taken a mountain of work by locals, community groups and environmental organisations to bring these cases of large scale water theft to light.” 

Gray also expressed concern at the scale of the fine.  

“A $60,000 fine between both of the offenders is woefully inadequate when compared to the impact that the theft of that much water has on communities and the downstream environment.  

“Penalties for significant water should be large enough to be a deterrent, and include loss of water access license.” 

“The concern I have is that some irrigators will see this potential fine as just the cost of doing business, especially when the likely profits from outweigh these fines”.  

“It’s great to see Premier Chris Minns has already visited the far west and shows the people that improving the health of the Murray Darlin Basin is a priority of his government.  

After 12 years of neglect, it’s time to get serious about water theft” 



Media contact –  

Clancy Barnard 

E: [email protected]