National First Nations water initiative should not delay Labor’s commitment to deliver on overdue $40m water fund for Murray Darling Basin Nations

MLDRIN hopes that the initiative announced by Minister Plibersek and Minister Burney today will not further delay the delivery of a $40 million commitment made to the Nations of the Murray Darling Basin in 2018 for the purchase of cultural and economic water entitlements.

You can read the ABC coverage of this announcement and MLDRIN response here

In 2018, a $40 million funding commitment was made by the then Water Minister, and current National Party leader David Littleproud to support the purchase of water entitlements for Nations within the Murray Darling Basin.

The $40 million, which was to be split between the Northern and Southern Basin Nations, is now 5 years overdue.

Despite MLDRIN and other Murray Darling Basin First Nations organisations raising concerns about the delays by successive governments, the promised funds have yet to be delivered to Murray Darling Basin Nations to purchase water.

The delay has meant that the rising water prices in the Southern Basin have seen the buying power of the $20 million substantially decline. Water purchased in 2018 with $20 million would be worth today approximately $31 million according to research completed by water market experts Aither.

At today’s prices, funding committed to the Southern Basin would buy nearly three billion litres less water, than if it had been used to purchase water in 2018 as intended. The development and delivery of the $40 million water acquisition and holding arrangements should be a partnership between Basin Nations and the government, given that the original commitment was to the Nations of the Basin. The Nations have waited five years for this commitment to be honoured.

It is imperative that a national water holding initiative does not further delay the delivery of the $40 million committed to Basin Nations.

MLDRIN Deputy Chair Brendan Kennedy said:
“First Nations in the Murray Darling Basin have been shortchanged by successive governments, who have callously withheld this historic funding commitment, intended to help us enter the water market. Today’s announcement has not provided clarity to First Nations in the Basin about how our voices will guide the development and delivery of $40m committed to us in 2018.”

“Basin Nations have been waiting for 5 years to partner with the Government in the delivery of the $40 million. It is essential that any new initiative does not further delay delivery of the $40M allocated for Basin Nations water acquisition in the Murray Darling Basin in 2018,”

“We welcome the progress in recognizing the importance of First Nations water rights flagged by this initiative”

MLDRIN Directors and Wolgalu Delegate Alice Williams said:
“The delay in delivering water to Basin Nations has negatively impacted our communities”

Read the ABC article covering Minister Plibersek’s announcement and MLDRIN’s response. 

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