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Murray Darling Basin Authority’s draft plan not enough to save environment

The Australian Greens say they are extremely disappointed by the Murray Darling Basin Authority's draft plan which appears to be repeating the mistakes of overlooking the environment's needs, fails to effectively tackle the problems of over-allocation and risks wasting billions of taxpayers' dollars.
"Once again, the needs of the environment have been downplayed and the river is being sold out for a plan that is more about political appeasement rather than robust and long-term reform," Greens' Murray Darling Basin and water spokesperson, Sen. Sarah Hanson-Young said, ahead of her visit this morning to the Murray Mouth.

"If the plan isn't improved, it will simply become a multi-billion dollar flop, and our river will not recover.

"The draft plan fails to get close to returning the minimum 4,000GL to 7,600GL scientists say is needed to save the river. The MDBA hasn't provided the science behind its estimates, so we do not know the implications for the environment with less than 2,800 GL available.

"Returning only 2,750GL to the system will not keep open the Murray Mouth for the frequency needed, nor will it flush out the 2 million tonnes of salt that travels down the system annually. This plan, unless it is modified to deliver more returns to the environment, will fail to save the river and the species that rely on it.

"The mooted move away from buy-backs is very concerning as they are proven to be the best and most cost-effective way to return water to the system. If this plan is to work it must be based on credible, peer-reviewed science to be robust and transparent and to give Australians value for money. If the plan does not make the Murray-Darling healthy, $10 billion of taxpayers' money will have been wasted.

"There's nothing in the draft plan to show modelling for the effects of climate change, which is incredible because the 2010 guide included it. In 2011, not planning for a drying climate -- and therefore less runoff -- is setting the plan up to fail.

"It also appears the MBDA's calculation of a figure for the long-term ‘environmentally sustainable level of take' contradicts how it should be done under the Water Act. It seems the method used is deliberately vague to avoid public scrutiny.

"The review referred to in the plan also sets out the dangerous possibility of allowing even more water to be extracted from the river post-2015.

"The Greens are also worried the plan has inexcusably doubled groundwater extractions upstream, at an unknown long-term cost to the environment, and risks depleting the water table and bringing heavily saline water to the surface.

"It's clear the authority has not listened to the scientists, those advocating for the environment or, indeed, the views of my home state here in South Australia who have the most to lose should the Murray Mouth close again.

"There is now a 20-week consultation period and the community must use it to speak loudly for the river and the interests of the environment. I urge all those concerned for our basin's long-term future to join the Greens in demanding a bigger volume of water for the environment, because the goals and talk of balancing all interests will amount to nothing if the final plan repeats the mistakes of allowing over extraction and ignores real reform."

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