The head of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has said the historic agreement to protect Australia’s iconic river system for the environment and agriculture is in danger of collapse.
MDBA chief executive Phillip Glyde told the ABC he was concerned the New South Wales and Victorian governments might act on their threats to potentially walk away from the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
“It’s certainly under a lot of pressure at the moment,” he said.
“If it [the plan] does collapse, we go back to circumstances before 2012 where various state governments use water as they may wish, but it doesn’t look after the basin as a whole.
“It would undermine the food bowl of the nation, undermine us having a sustainable basin that is environmentally sound.”
The crisis was sparked when Federal Labor announced on Tuesday it would support the Greens’ bid to block a 70-gigalitre cut in the amount of water being returned to the environment in the northern basin.
The cut, supported by the Federal Government, was recommended by the MDBA, which said it would save 200 jobs in irrigation-dependent communities in NSW and Queensland.
NSW Water Minister Niall Blair said his Government was “deadly serious” about reconsidering its commitment to the plan.
What is the Murray-Darling Basin Plan?
The Murray-Darling Basin Plan has remained controversial ever since its introduction back in 2012.
He said the processes built into the basin plan for adjusting irrigation and environmental flows had been agreed to by all of the state and federal governments involved.
“But now, because outcomes don’t meet political desires or wants, some want to overturn the umpire’s decision,” he said.
“We’re really questioning whether we would bother with any of the other implementation of the plan, if it’s going to be treated like this.
“The hard work that’s been done bringing communities along for the difficult conversations, to then have it just thrown onto the scrapheap like this, I don’t know, we’d want to be in a position to put our communities through that again.”
But tensions are set to rise even further when Parliament considers the potential return of 605 gigalitres of water to communities in the southern part of the basin.
The MDBA said that was linked to greater water efficiencies, which would allow the same environmental benefits for less environmental flows, Mr Glyde said.
The Greens, however, have said they would also move to disallow that.
“All governments have signed up to that 605-gigalitre adjustment six months ago. If that was to fall over I think that would be the end of the basin plan,” Mr Glyde said.
“[That’s] because that method means we can achieve the environmental outcomes of the basin plan with much smaller economic impact.”
A spokeswoman for shadow water minister Tony Burke said Labor would have to read the fine print of any new Greens motion and take it to Caucus before deciding whether to support it.
Topics: government-and-politics, environmental-management, murray-darling-basin, rivers, irrigation, rural, enviro
Here we are slowly regenerating the banks of Coopers creek. Seeding edge.
I must add that a month ago an indigenous man ( unknown to me) told me on the streets of Mullumbimby that the poisoning of Coral trees along the banks of Wilson Creek, is responsible for the deaths of platypus. 2 bodies were found that I know of soon after poisoning began.
Politicians will soon decide on whether or not to take more water out of the Murray Darling river system. They’ll look at facts, figures and graphs and maybe hear from some big irrigators. But I want them to know what this decision means to me and my people.
I am of the Murrawarri Nation in the Northern Murray Basin. Growing up, the river was our lifeblood. It was a place to fish, to swim and it’s the home of our sacred river red gum trees.
Our people talk about how life is reborn in the river red gums. We believe that spirits return to earth on the back of a falling star, and hide behind a bush near the birthing tree. A baby growing in its mother’s womb is waiting for a spirit, and as soon as the baby is born the spirit jumps into the baby giving it its first breath. The river red gums are sacred to us because we use the leaves to communicate to our ancestors in the sky camp. If the river red gums die, then so do our spiritual connections with our ancestors.
Growing up, the river would flood once every 3 to 5 years — what the gums need to stay healthy — but right now the floods only happen once every 15 years on average. The infamous Cubbie Station and the St George Irrigation area in QLD are able to take huge amounts of water from the system and the river is in a shocking state right now.
I want you to see it for yourself. Especially the Senators who will vote on whether or not to take more water out of the Murray Darling Basin Plan in the next week.
When parliament resumes, I’ll be in Canberra calling for more environmental water in the system and for the Murray Darling Basin Plan to be implemented in full.
Will you watch the video of the sacred river red gums I have a responsibility to look after for future generations? If you share it you’ll be strengthening my hand in Canberra ahead of the senate vot