Ministers told: stop undermining the Basin Plan

Media Release (16th March 2017)

Community delegation calls on water ministers to stop undermining the Murray-Darling Basin Plan

  • Community delegation speak ahead of meeting with state and territory water ministers
  • State & federal water ministers need to get out of the way of long term solution

A delegation of Aboriginal people, farmers and conservationists will tell states & the Federal Water Minister today they must stop undermining the Basin Plan.

Representatives of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Australian Floodplain Association, Murray & Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations and Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations will take part in a round table discussion with the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council this afternoon in Mildura, ahead of the Council’s official meeting on Friday.

The Ministerial Council meeting on Friday must respond to COAG’s request for “a credible and balanced pathway to implement the Basin Plan… including efficiency measures to recover an additional 450 GL” delivered to COAG by April.

The delegation:

  • oppose proposed increases to the amount of water that can be taken from underground aquifers and rivers in the Northern Basin;
  • call on Ministers to recommit to a healthy Murray-Darling Basin and the recovery of 3,200 gigalitres of environmental water;
  • call on the New South Wales to stop environmental water being pumped onto cotton crops; and
  • call on Ministers to appoint a First Nations person to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

“The Prime Minister and Premiers have made it clear they expect the Basin Plan to be implemented in full and on time, and yet both the Victorian and New South Wales water ministers are going out of their way to obstruct and undermine the Plan,” said Australian Conservation Foundation Healthy Ecosystems Manager Jono La Nauze

“Niall Blair allows corporate cotton farmers to pump water meant for fish and waterbirds onto their crops. Lisa Neville is trying to stop the recovery of 450 gigalitres of water for wetlands. And both are trying to change rules in the Plan so they can replace real water in the river with dodgy offsets.” said Mr La Nauze.

Undermining the Plan undermines culture

“Healthy waterways support vibrant Aboriginal cultures and strong communities. Ministers must commit to strong water recovery targets and give First Nations a real voice in decision-making. Undermining the Basin Plan undermines our culture, identity and connection to Country, ” said Mr Rene Woods, Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations Chairperson.

“Ministers need to increase the Northern Basin water recovery target from 390GL to 415GL so that water continues to flow down the Darling River to towns like Wilcannia,” said Fred Hooper, Chair of The Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations.

“We are also calling on all water ministers to commit to a real program of economic development for First Nations and their peoples in the North,” said Mr Hooper.

“Not only floodplain graziers and the natural environment will be disadvantaged if the Northern Basin loses 70GL of water to irrigation.  Whole communities, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal downstream of major irrigation areas will suffer as will stock and domestic supplies for properties reliant on a healthy river”, said Mr Terry Korn, president of the Australian Floodplain Association.

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