Signs of life in MDB plan, says ACF
THE Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has cautiously welcomed the announcement that federal and state governments will work together under an inter-governmental agreement to improve the plan for the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB).
“As is, the draft basin plan does not provide enough water to keep our nation’s lifeblood healthy,” ACF healthy rivers campaigner, Jonathan La Nauze, says in a statement.
“For too long, conflict between basin states has seen too much water taken from the basin, and, as a result, the shared asset has depreciated for all Australians.
“With federal oversight, transparency and adequate public consultation, the agreement has the potential to improve the plan so it meets our national interest.”
The ACF welcomed recognition by state and federal governments that an adjustment mechanism to improve river health and management over time was needed.
A strong water recovery target is required to make such a mechanism credible, it says.
“The basin’s rivers and wetlands need enough water to flush salt out to sea so it doesn’t poison our water supplies,” says Mr La Nauze.
“Scientific assessments over the last 10 years show around 4000 gigalitres are needed to rebuild the health of the river system.”
The ACF has expressed concern that the agreement will focus on expensive infrastructure to generate water savings for the environment.
“Water, not concrete, will save the Murray,” says Mr La Nauze.
“There is clear evidence water buybacks work for farmers, communities and the river.
“Buybacks can secure the basin’s future, with billions of dollars left over to further support regional communities.
“In comparison, water savings from irrigation infrastructure can cost four times as much per megalitre,” Mr La Lauze says.
A recent Australian National Audit Office report found millions of dollars were handed out to irrigation infrastructure projects even though they failed all economic, environmental, social and value-for-money criteria, the ACF says.