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Rescue the Darling-Baaka

The Darling-Baaka is suffering from neglect, over-extraction, pollution and mismanagement. 

Fish kills are ongoing, there is not enough water for the environment, and it has come to light that experts who work for the government are routinely silenced – unable to share their science with the public. 

The Darling-Baaka needs decisive action from the NSW Government to restore it to health.  

We call on the NSW Government to: 

  • Establish a 'drought reserve' of 4 years water supply for critical river flows and town water supplies in all large public dams in the northern Murray-Darling Basin. 
  • Establish 'flow targets' in the water sharing rules that mean rivers get the flows they need to meet the environmental targets in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. 
  • Protect all water that is meant for the environment from pumping. 

Image: Last year's fish kill event was catastrophic.

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Wetlands Quiz


Good news for communities and environment: NCC welcomes decision to rein in unregulated water harvesting.

7th December 2023 

The Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales (NCC), the state’s leading environmental advocacy organisation, has today congratulated the Minns Government, and commended Minister for Water Rose Jackson on the decision to reign in floodplain harvesting in the Namoi Valley. 

The Minister announced today that floodplain harvesting licences to be issued in the Namoi Valley will reduce the volume of water currently taken by up to 40 percent.  

Floodplain harvesting is the practice of using levee banks to divert water from the floodplain into private dams.  

This practice captures natural flowing water that would otherwise have become a public asset supporting community recreation, fishing and the environment, it has increased by 2.4 times in the Darling-Baaka since the 1990s. 

“After listening to the community and the evidence, Minister Jackson has thrown a lifeline to the people of downstream river towns like Narrabri, Walgett, Wilcannia and Menindee” Mel Gray, NCC Water Campaigner said today.  

“The evidence is overwhelming that floodplain harvesting needs to be scaled right back to sustainable levels. The NSW Parliamentary inquiry into floodplain harvesting found that ‘floodplain harvesting significantly impacts on downstream flows and river health, with economic, social, cultural and environmental consequences’. 

“Namoi Valley is the only valley where floodplain harvesting licences are not yet issued. This has allowed the Minister to ensure the huge, multinational irrigator consortiums who have constructed extensive earthworks and helped themselves to this water for decades can no longer simply take as much of this floodwater as they can capture.  

“This is also a win for communities and the  many farmers who are opposed to the building of hundred kilometre long dams walls to capture floods, or who rely on flood water to replenish the rich floodplains they graze stock on.  

 “Wetlands are shrinking faster than any other ecosystem in the world. As we enter another period of extended drought, it’s critical that we continue to reverse the many egregious examples of policy without evidence that is the legacy of the former government.  

“Floodplain harvesting strangles our rivers and starves our wetlands – the floodplains are still crossed with miles of illegally constructed levee banks.  

“The Inspector General of Water Compliance received more powers last week when the Restoring Our Rivers Bill was passed in the Federal parliament to address these scars on the landscape.   

“Governments right now have a choice to make. We can deliver enough water to the Murray-Darling Basin, or people will run out of drinking water and our ecosystems will die. 

If the Murray Darlin Basin collapses 70% of NSW and 2 million people’s home becomes uninhabitable 

Statement ends 

Media contact: Clancy Barnard 
E: [email protected]  Ph: 0438 869 332 

Note: NCC Water Campaigner Mel Gray is available for comment on request 


Breakthrough for Murray-Darling – new legislation throws rivers a lifeline after decade of neglect

MEDIA RELEASE

Breakthrough for Murray-Darling – new legislation throws rivers a lifeline after decade of neglect

The successful passage of the Restoring our Rivers Bill through the Senate heralds a breakthrough in efforts to revive Australia’s largest river system to health, leading environment organisations from Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland said today.

The Murray-Darling Conservation Alliance, which represents close to half a million supporters across all Basin states, today said this strengthened Bill delivers for the environment, providing a crucial lifeline for the river system on the brink of the next drought.

The Alliance congratulated Water Minister Tanya Plibersek, the Australian Greens and crossbenchers on this historic outcome and welcomed the Albanese Government’s commitment to urgently recover more environmental water.

The legislation comes after years of grassroots action by Murray-Darling communities including dryland farmers, irrigators, First Nations and conservationists, and creates a pathway for a healthy river and First Nations water justice, the groups said. 

Conservation Council of South Australia Chief Executive Craig Wilkins said: 

“As the state at the end of Australia’s greatest river system, South Australia is set to be a big winner from the passing of the Restoring our Rivers Bill.

“For the last decade it’s been incredibly frustrating having to justify and defend the inclusion of the 450 gigalitre component of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

“We always knew it was essential, and it’s exciting to see this Bill finally guarantee its delivery.

“Back at the start of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, scientists said the full delivery of the Plan – including the 450 gigalitres – was the absolute bare minimum required to give the Murray a decent chance of survival.

“Even now, dredging of the river mouth is about to re-start at the Coorong. This is a clear sign more water is needed to ensure the basic health of the river. We don’t have a moment to lose with dry summers ahead.

“We thank and applaud Minister Plibersek and Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young for working hard to create a circuit breaker in the challenging politics of the river, and for the many Senate crossbenchers for supporting a strengthened Bill. 

Nature Conservation Council of NSW CEO Jacqui Mumford said:

“Communities of Western NSW have been relentless in their fight for inland rivers, wetlands and the Menindee Lakes. Today they can be proud of what has been achieved. 

“The pressure on inland rivers of NSW has been immense, mainly because of long-term mismanagement under previous governments. Through the last drought we saw rivers dry up, wetlands on fire, communities without drinking water and mass fish kills all over the Basin.

“The Nature Conservation Council of NSW applauds the Federal Government, the Australian Greens and Independent members of the Senate crossbench for working cooperatively and getting the Restoring Our Rivers Bill across the line. 

“We still have many questions about how more water will be returned to the Darling/Baaka, we’ve learnt the hard way that the devil is in the details when it comes to water management.”

Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze said:

“This new legislation offers the Murray-Darling a lifeline, giving rivers, wetlands and wildlife a fighting chance of survival ahead of looming drought.

“Dodgy deals and delays have seen the Basin Plan grind to a halt this past decade, and our rivers have paid the price. This legislation allows the Albanese Government to start voluntary water buybacks again, a vital solution for river health that is supported by 63% of regional Australians.

“The legislation also creates a pathway for First Nations to have a much greater say over how their waterways are managed, an important acknowledgement of the crucial role they have always played in caring for country.

“This Bill now has the support of federal politicians of very different political stripes and every state and territory government in the Basin, with the exception of Victoria. The fact that the Victorian Government remains opposed to restoring our rivers will disappoint millions of Victorians.”

Queensland Conservation Council Director Dave Copeman said:

“The Basin Plan has been plagued by mismanagement, alleged water theft and political interference, so we’re pleased to see the changes include an independent audit of water recovery by the Inspector-General.

“Now that the bill has passed the Senate, Minister Plibersek must focus on implementing the power she has to return water to the environment to ensure wetlands, rivers, communities and industries survive the next drought.”

Statement ends

Media contact: Anna Greer 
E: [email protected]
Ph: (02) 7208 9482
 

NCC Water Campaigner, Mel Gray is available for interviews on request.


A win for the Murray Darling - agreement to strengthen Restoring our Rivers (2023) Bill offers our a rivers a lifeline

Monday 27th November

Leading environmental organisations from Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland have strongly welcomed an agreement between the Australian Greens and the Albanese Government to strengthen the Water Amendment (Restoring our Rivers) Bill, saying the proposed amendments will give Basin rivers a chance of restoration after years of delay tactics.

The groups have highlighted the agreement offers rivers a lifeline on the brink of drought by guaranteeing the remaining 450 gigalitres of water for the environment and delivering more flows for the Darling-Baaka. The agreement also acknowledges significant work needs to be done to recognise First Nations rights over water.

The agreement comes after years of grassroots action by Murray-Darling communities including farmers, irrigators, First Nations leaders and environmental groups, and creates a pathway for a healthy river and First Nations water justice, the groups said. 

The Alliance looks forward to seeing the final details of the Bill, which we hope with the support of the crossbench will deliver for communities, rivers and First Nations communities.

Conservation SA Chief Executive Craig Wilkins said: 

This is a long overdue and extremely welcome recognition that the 450 gigalitres that SA secured in 2012 is a core component of the Plan, and not some optional ‘nice to have’.

“Guaranteeing the full delivery of the 450 gigalitres is essential for the survival of the river, particularly the Coorong and Great Southern Lakes.

“Despite the claims of many upstream, the 450 gigalitres will benefit the whole river system, and will help return the bare minimum amount of water scientists argued 10 years ago was necessary to give the river a fighting chance.

“While it is extremely disappointing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is so far behind after a decade of obstacles and deliberate ‘go-slow’, this package of changes negotiated between the Greens and the Albanese Government offers a genuine chance for a re-set. 

“We congratulate Minister Plibersek and Senator Hanson-Young for their willingness to work together to find a way forward.”  

Nature Conservation Council of NSW CEO Jacqui Mumford said:

“We commend the Federal Government for wanting to cancel the Menindee project, which was never going to work. Now we need to see how they intend to return real water to the rivers, in particular the Darling-Baaka in the leadup to the next drought.

“We’ve seen time and time again that the devil is in the details. We are still waiting to understand how the government is planning to ensure the Darling-Baaka is protected. 

“Communities along the Darling-Baaka have borne the brunt of decades of water mismanagement, and have done an amazing job of advocating for the rivers.”

Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze said:

“The hard work of communities on the river has resulted in real progress today, putting critical issues on the map including the plight of the Darling-Baaka and the need to negotiate real outcomes for First Nations people. 

“There is still a huge amount of work to do to secure a liveable future for the Basin. After a decade of delay and inaction, this agreement gets the wheels moving in the right direction again.”

Queensland Conservation Council Water Policy Officer Nigel Parratt said:

“The Murray-Darling Basin Plan was a bold vision but has been undermined by mismanagement. We’re pleased to see additional measures to increase accountability including an expanded role for the Inspector-General of Water Compliance and more public reporting.”

Statement Ends

Media Contact
Clancy Barnard: Ph: 0438 869 332. Email: [email protected]

“We stand by our river” – irrigators, graziers, fishers, First Nations leaders speak out in support of water buybacks

November 21st 2023

With the Senate poised to vote on critical changes to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, an alliance of farmers, irrigators, First Nations leaders and environmental groups have come out in strong support of expanding water buybacks from willing sellers as the best way to return enough water to Australia’s biggest river system.

Today's announcement follows a presentation of a petition in Parliament House last week with 10,000 signatures from across the Basin states urging Federal Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek to stand up and protect rivers.

The Murray-Darling Conservation Alliance, which consists of peak environment groups across NSW, VIC, QLD and SA, is calling on the government to work with all members of the Senate to strengthen the Restoring Our Rivers (2023) Bill and ensure that enough water is returned to rivers to offer the Murray-Darling a lifeline in the face of likely droughts.

Justine Bucknell, a grazier from Macquarie Marshes in NSW said:

“As floodplain graziers in the Macquarie Marshes, our business has suffered huge financial losses due to too much water being extracted upstream. We strongly support voluntary buybacks as they're the most effective, efficient and economical way to restore real water, physical water, to the river system.”

Bill McClumpha, an irrigator from Red Cliffs in Victoria said:

“Most  irrigators  do  support  the  basic  elements  of  the  Basin  Plan  and accept the need for meaningful water recovery. Rural  decline  has many  causes, but water recovery is not one of them. The Basin Plan has been derailed by a populist Chicken Little scare campaign conflating it with rural decline. Buybacks are popular with the majority of irrigators who own entitlements, and they are not a factor contributing to irrigator exits.”

Garry Hall, a grazier from the Macquarie Marshes in NSW said: 

“As farmers who run cattle on floodplains in the Darling Basin, our industry contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to the economy and produces food for Aussie tables. Our community congratulates the current government for finally having the courage to address the failures of the Basin plan to date. We support a lot of the recommendations from the Senate inquiry, but it doesn't go far enough. We need this Bill to guarantee more for the Darling ahead of the next drought.”

Gloria Jones, a multi-generational fisher from Clayton Bay in SA said:

“Minister Plibersek, we ask you to be brave. Please, buy back the necessary water from willing sellers, sooner, rather than later. It becomes harder and harder and more expensive as the years get drier. There will never be a better opportunity.”

Major Moogy Sumner, a Ngarrindjeri/Kaurna Senior Elder said:

“The government needs to not just be listening, but actually hearing and implementing the teaching from First Nations people on how to look after our rivers and water systems. We need real water returned to the river to keep our waters clean and pure not just for us, but for everyone.”

Polly Cutmore, a Gamilaraay/Wirri/Anaiwan Traditional Owner said:

“We need to recognise the rights of the river as a source of life in our country and those rights need to be respected. Our culture would not exist without it but us murris have become alienated from the decisions that are made about how it is looked after.

“What we know about our country and the changes that the colonisers have brought, tells us that drier times are coming and now it is so important to listen to what Mother Earth and our Ancestors are telling us. We need to restore the flows that give life to the river and support our culture.”

For more stories of people across the Basin who support healthy rivers, visit www.standbyyourriver.org.au 

Statement ends 

Media contact: Anna Greer 
E: [email protected]
Ph: (02) 7208 9482 


‘We stand by our river’: First Nations leaders, fishers, farmers and environment groups unite in Canberra to demand real water for the Murray-Darling

Tuesday, 14th November 2023

With the Senate set to decide the fate of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, an alliance of First Nation leaders, irrigators, farmers, ecologists and environmental organisations today travelled to federal parliament to urge politicians from across the political spectrum to deliver for inland rivers and communities.  

The alliance is calling on the government to negotiate with all members of the Senate to strengthen the Restoring Our Rivers (2023) Bill to ensure real water is returned to Australia’s biggest river system. 

They highlighted the triple threat facing inland communities of climate change, drought and long-term mismanagement of our inland rivers, calling for a range of amendments, in particular the guarantee of

  1. Water rights for Traditional Owners  

  2. 450 GL of real water be returned to the rivers

  3. The recovery of sufficient water to ensure the flows in the northern basin (Darling/Baaka) 

Key members of Parliament from across the political divide, including Nationals, Greens, Independents, and government ministers attended a BBQ and press conference held in the Senate courtyard today to hear stories from this diverse coalition.  

They heard from graziers and irrigators calling for more water returned to rivers, First Nations leaders on the sacred responsibility to protect the Country, and multi-generational fishers calling for a guarantee that more water is returned to the river than is taken out. 

Earlier in the day, Minister Plibersek was handed a petition with 10,000 signatures from across the Murray-Darling Basin urging her to stand up and protect the rivers they love. 

Statements attributable to Jono La Nauze, Chair of the Murray-Darling Conservation Alliance: 

“I’m proud to stand alongside such a wide cross-section of Basin and First Nations communities united in our call for the government to go further in returning water to our rivers. 

“We’ve gathered over ten thousand signatures from across the Basin and today launch our Stand By Your Rivers campaign – calling on Minister Plibersek to offer a guarantee that the water that has been long promised but not delivered in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan finally reaches our waterways.”

Statements attributable to Major Moogy Sumner, Ngarrindjeri / Kaurna Senior Elder:

“The government needs to not just be listening, but actually hearing and implementing the teaching from First Nations people on how to look after our rivers and water systems. We need real water returned to the river to keep our waters clean and pure not just for us, but for everyone.”

Statements attributable to irrigator Bill McClumpha from Red Cliffs, VIC:

“Contrary to popular belief buybacks are popular with the majority of irrigators who own entitlements, and they are not a factor contributing to irrigator exits. A new program will boost irrigation, not cut it. If recovery targets are completed by a buyback program irrigators will be protected against the allocation cuts certain to occur in dry years if targets are not met.”

Statements attributable to Gloria Jones, multi-generational fisher from Clayton Bay, SA:

“Here we stand ten years on from when Henry Jones cooked fish and spoke to all on the lawns of Parliament House, including Prime Minister Julia Gillard. However, ten years on and the Plan has not been delivered. We do not need more science to achieve the Plan, we know what needs to be done. Minister Plibersek, we ask you to be brave.”

Statements attributable to Gary Hall, grazier from the Macquarie Marshes, NSW: 

“As farmers who grow cattle on floodplains in the Darling Basin, we contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to the economy, and produce food for Aussie tables. Our community congratulates the current government for finally having the courage to address the failures of the Basin plan to date. We support a lot of the recommendations from the Senate inquiry, but it doesn't go far enough. We need this Bill to guarantee more for the Darling ahead of the next drought.”

Statements attributable to Char Nitschke, Campaigner Coordinator (Water) for Conservation Council of South Australia said: 

“It is critical that all Australians, from the bottom of the Coorong, where the Murray Mouth meets the Southern ocean, right to northern Queensland, demand real water for the river now.  There’s also unfinished business. The plan must be amended to account for climate change and First Nations water rights.”

A full recording of all speakers at the press conference as well as images are available on request. 

Full list of press conference speakers: 

First Nations leaders:

  • Uncle Major ‘Moogy’ Sumner (Ngarrindjeri/Kaurna)

  • Aunty Polly Cutmore (Gamilaraay/Wirri/Anaiwan)

  • Barry Stone (Ngampaa)

Environmental groups: 

  • Jono La Nauze, CEO, Environment Victoria

  • Melissa Gray, Nature Conservation Council of NSW

Fishers:  

  • Gloria & Julie Jones, fishing family Lakes & Coorong, South Australia, representing River Lakes & Coorong Action Group (RLCAG)

Farmers and graziers:

  • Garry Hall, Macquarie Marshes Environmental Landholders Association 
  • Bill McClumpha, Red Cliffs irrigator

  • Justine Bucknell, Coonamble farmer, Macquarie Marshes Environmental Landholders Association, NCC Board 

Swan Hill Resident:

  • Nicole McKay

Media Contact:

Clancy Barnard 
[email protected] 0438869332

James Norman 0451291775

 


Murray-Darling bill needs to go much further to deliver real water to rivers and justice for First Nations

November 10, 2023

A Senate inquiry report tabled today shows cross-party support for improving legislation to restore rivers in the Murray-Darling, giving the Albanese Government an opportunity to significantly improve its bill.

Peak environment groups across NSW, VIC, QLD and SA have called on the government to consult with stakeholders and negotiate amendments with the cross-bench that will ensure the Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Bill 2023 guarantees environmental water will be recovered and recognises the rights of First Nations.

Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze said:

“After ten years of neglect, what our wetlands and wildlife need right now is real water flowing down rivers and into floodplains, revitalising the landscape ahead of long, hot summers to come.

“This report demonstrates there is cross-party support to strengthen the Restoring Our Rivers Bill so that it delivers real outcomes for the environment, First Nations and Basin communities.

“The committee endorsed the Productivity Commission’s findings that a number of unviable offset projects will never deliver real water for the river and therefore should be scrapped, and no more dodgy projects should be allowed into the scheme.

“However, in a number of important respects the majority report falls short of what’s needed. While recognising the importance of timely and reliable water recovery, the recommendations do not guarantee this will occur. Climate change has been kicked down the track.

“The onus is now on the government to develop amendments that address the recommendations made by the majority report as well as the further recommendations from the Greens and crossbench Senators.”


Conservation Council of NSW Water Campaigner Melissa Gray said:

“Despite some positive steps from the Senate inquiry report into the Murray-Darling, the Darling-Baaka is still left high and dry. 

“Fish kills will continue unless more water is recovered in the Northern Basin ahead of the next drought.

“It is critical the Government takes this opportunity to embed the rights of First Nations People in the Water Act. 

“This bill does nothing to address the significant impact climate change is already having on our inland rivers. Kicking the can down the road until 2026 will leave inland rivers suffering as we enter the next drought.” 

Conservation SA Campaign Co-ordinator Char Nitschke said:

“The Murray-Darling Basin Plan was created at a time – during the Millenium drought – when there was enormous awareness about how vulnerable we are, as the driest inhabited continent on the planet.

 

“The Plan itself was the absolute bare minimum that the river needed to survive. Since then there’s been delays, dodgy policies and incredibly slow progress.

 

“The river is already stressed and with the return of El Nino and drought forecast, further delays could be catastrophic. We need iron-clad guarantees written into the legislation that real water will be returned to the river.”

Queensland Conservation Council Water Policy Officer Nigel Parratt said:

“We need a solid guarantee of real water that flows down the river and across floodplains, rejuvenating the landscape, not just more delays and dodgy schemes.

“We’re disappointed that the committee’s recommendations don’t include legally binding assurances that the required water recovery will be achieved within the extended timeframes – this seems a missed opportunity.”

Statement ends 

Media contact: Clancy Barnard 
E: [email protected]  Ph: 0438 869 332 


Water Bill must go further to deliver for the Darling

November 1st 2023 

Leading environmental organisations from Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland will today present evidence to a Senate Committee on the Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Bill. 

As it stands the Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Bill would allow 450 GL of water to be purchased for the environment. However the Bill must be strengthened to guarantee that water is recovered, First Nations People have a seat at the table and that more water is available to flow down the Darling/Baaka River. 

"We are calling on members of the federal parliament to step up and guarantee real water will be returned to the rivers for the sake of communities and ecosystems across the whole of the Murray-Darling Basin,” Nature Conservation Council Water Campaigner, Mel Gray said.  

Members of the Murray Darling Basin Conservation Alliance will give evidence in the federal Senate today urging the Committee to extend the Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Bill to ensure there is additional water for the Darling/Baaka River by:

  1. Returning water to Traditional Owners.  
  2. Reversing the Northern Basin Sustainable Diversion Limit Amendments.  
  3. Ruling out the Menindee Lakes ‘water saving’ offset project immediately and getting real water flowing down the Darling/Baaka River.  
  4. Fix or remove the old weirs that are stopping native fish from migrating.  
  5. Ensure that publicly owned environmental water is protected from pumping.  

See further details below.  

Mel Gray, Nature Conservation Council NSW Water Campaigner said today: 

“As it currently stands this Bill will not stop communities running out of water and fails to address mass fish kill events along the Darling/Baaka River.” 

“The Productivity Commission report out yesterday confirms the dodgy offset projects won’t deliver for the environment, singling out the controversial Menindee Lakes ‘water saving’ project.

“Our five point plan recommends the dodgy Menindee Lakes project be stricken off the list of offset projects and that the water promised to the environment be returned upstream of the Lakes, to get the Darling/Baaka flowing again.

“Unless we address the many loopholes and accounting tricks that have been developed for multinational cotton interests, the Darling-Baaka will not flow, more communities will run out of water, and more mass fish kills will occur.” 

Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze said

“We will use our opportunity at today’s Senate Committee hearing to call on the government to improve this Bill so that it delivers for people and communities of the Murray-Darling

“The Productivity Commission has clearly stated that purchasing water is by far the quickest and most effective way to obtain environmental water entitlements and that Basin governments need to publicly and transparently report how the water resources will deliver benefits for First Nations communities.

Conservation Council SA Chief Executive Craig Wilkins said:

“It’s critical that sides of politics remember what happened during the Millenium Drought.  It’s seared into the memory of all South Australians.

“So far, too much of the Murray Darling Basin Plan has been a series of broken promises that has failed to deliver what is required.

“The Bill currently before the Senate is the opportunity to create real water essential for a healthy river system.”

Statement ends 

Media contact: Clancy Barnard
E: [email protected]  Ph: 0438 869 332 

Note: NCC water campaigner Mel Gray is available for comment on request 

Background 

The Living Baaka Five Point Plan is a road map to rescuing the Darling/Baaka from crisis. The full recommendations are: 

  1. Return water to Traditional Owners. Aboriginal People have been denied  their enduring right to manage, own and access water on their Country. Strengthen the Restoring Our Rivers Bill and guarantee the return of water to the Traditional Owners across the whole Murray-Darling Basin.    
  2. Reverse the Northern Basin Sustainable Diversion Limit Amendments. Put the seventy billion litres of water that were stripped away back in the rivers. Increase the limits that were reduced in 2018 and immediately buyback the water in Northern Basin catchments to meet the shortfall.  
  3. Rule out the Menindee Lakes ‘water saving’ offset project immediately and get real water flowing down the Darling/Baaka River. The threat of the dodgy Menindee Lakes water saving project has been hanging over the Menindee community for more than a decade. The project aimed to physically change the shape of the natural lakes so they would hold less water. The resulting ‘saved’ water has stayed in irrigation accounts for the last decade. Irrigators have continued to pump almost two hundred billion litres of water every year that by rights belongs in the river. This water must be returned to the Darling/Baaka as soon as possible. A good place to start recovering the water would be to get rid of the most controversial water licences in the North. Some water licences (Class A and Class B) that are actively used upstream of Bourke are extremely damaging to the environment, as they allow the river to be pumped when it is low.
  4. Fix or remove the old weirs that are stopping native fish from migrating. Native fish are incredible athletes. Some will swim over two thousand kilometers to breed and feed. While nothing will ever be as important to fish as having enough water, fixing infrastructure that allows fish to swim upstream is critical to the survival of many species. 
  5. Ensure that publicly owned environmental water is protected from pumping. There must be enough water left in the rivers so they can connect to each other and be healthy. Rules must be improved so that water belonging to the river is protected from the irrigators’ pumps as it flows from the top of the Basin in Queensland to the mouth of the Murray in South Australia. Rules must also reduce how much water can be diverted from floodplains and pumped from the rivers that flow into the Darling/Baaka.

Environment groups welcome progress of Water Bill with support of independent regional MPs

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Leading environmental organisations from Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland have welcomed the progress of the Water Amendment (Restoring our Rivers) Bill through the House of Representatives today, saying it gives our rivers a chance of restoration after years of delay tactics.

The groups have highlighted that this Bill has the potential to get the Basin Plan back on track by allowing the 450 gigalitres of water for the environment to be purchased – an essential ingredient to delivering water to the river ahead of likely upcoming droughts.

Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze said:

“We welcome the amendments proposed today from Rebekha Sharkie which would add greater accountability to the Plan by including regular annual reports on progress towards the 450 gigalitre target. We also welcome the amendments from Helen Haines to strengthen the Inspector-General’s role in auditing water recovery progress.

“It is noteworthy that independent MPs representing regional river communities at both ends of the Murray support the substance of this Bill, which contrasts with the position taken by the Coalition and the Victorian government backing vested corporate interests over communities.

“However, we believe the Bill could be further strengthened with amendments in the Senate. The Bill needs to include guarantees that water promised for the environment is actually delivered, and to fulfil Labor’s election promise to increase First Nations ownership of water entitlements and greater participation in decision making.”

Nature Conservation Council of NSW CEO Jacqui Mumford said:

“During the last drought entire communities ran out of water, and we saw ecosystems collapse before our eyes in the form of mass fish kills.

“We welcome this important step in delivering water for inland communities and ecosystems. 

“We also welcome Helen Haines' acknowledgement that the Darling-Baaka River needs water too, and believe it is critical that urgent action be taken to provide the rivers of the north with the water they need to see them through the next drought.   

“This bill does nothing to return water to First Nations Peoples through the provision of Cultural Flows. Aboriginal People can't wait another four years to have their water returned to them.”

Conservation SA Campaign Co-ordinator Char Nitschke said:

The Basin Plan as it stands is, in part, unlawful and not based on the best available science. This Bill would contribute to recovering the 450 GL, through voluntary purchases, which is crucial and the absolute bare minimum.

“We welcome more rigorous and comprehensive modelling to determine the water needed to ensure the survival of the Basin for the millions who depend on it. 

“We urge members of parliament to see this as the first step in securing the long term future of inland communities and ecosystems.

“The next drought is coming, and without a meaningful increase in water for both the southern and northern basin, we will see even further catastrophic ecological collapse.”

Queensland Conservation Council Water Policy Officer Nigel Parratt said:

“Our rivers, wetlands and wildlife have suffered through ten years of fish kills, dry riverbeds, algal blooms and other environmental disasters because too much water has been taken from the river.

“Importantly we need real water that flows down the river and across floodplains, rejuvenating the landscape, not just more delays and dodgy schemes.

“We also need legally binding assurances that the required water recovery will be achieved within the extended time frames in this Bill.”