In the course of this inquiry, many experts made submissions affirming
what is required to preserve the Murray Darling Basin (MDB). The Chair’s report
for this Senate inquiry conducted by the Select Committee on the Murray-Darling
Basin Plan fails to accurately reflect the views expressed by these experts.
The Chair’s report lists 31 recommendations, many of which will be detrimental
to the long term health and sustainability of the MDB. Without a healthy river
system, the environmental, economic and social impacts for rural communities
will be catastrophic.
It is also questionable whether this inquiry was necessary given the
extensive community consultation undertaken over the last decade to legislate
the Water Act 2007, develop the Murray Darling Basin Plan (MDBP)
and for the review of the Water Act last year. In 2007 the Water Act
was enacted and the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) was established. As
outlined in the MDBA’s submission to this inquiry, the MDBP was developed to ensure
a sustainable basin that delivers social, economic and environmental outcomes.
The formation of the MDBP included undertaking an incredibly
comprehensive community consultation process resulting in almost 12 000
submissions. The final MDBP was endorsed in November 2012 and was agreed to by
all MDB states and the Commonwealth government, a truly momentous achievement
that provided a framework to ensure the long term health of this iconic
Australian river system.
Furthermore, an independent review of the Water Act was recently
undertaken and concluded that significant progress has been made to implement
The Australian Greens have serious concerns about many of the
recommendations made in the Chair’s report and the likely negative impacts they
could have on the long term health and sustainability of the MDB. This would
have knock on effects for the environmental, social and economic elements of
One example is Recommendation 13 which calls on the government to
investigate changing the Coorong’s Ramsar listing from a freshwater system, to
an estuarine system. The Coorong has been listed by the Convention on Wetlands
of International Importance as a freshwater system for over 30 years. The MDBA’s
submission states that the historical evidence demonstrates that the lakes were
predominantly fresh. Pushing for this change of status blatantly disregards the
value of the Lower Lakes and Coorong ecosystems and ignores the negative
impacts this change would have on local fishing and tourism industries.
Another example is Recommendation 14, which calls for a cost-benefit
analysis of removing or adapting the barrages. This is not in the best
interests of the health of the MDB, particularly the Lower Lakes and Coorong.
Many submissions including from the SA government, MDBA and Alexandrina Council
highlight these concerns.
Recommendation 15 provides a third example which calls for an 'independent
feasibility and hydrologic study of a connector between Lake Albert and Coorong'.
A scoping study on this issue was completed by the SA government in 2014 and
found that even without considering the potential negative ecological impacts
on the Coorong, the connector failed on cost-benefit grounds. This study also
outlined that the traditional owners of the land, the Ngarrindjeri people 'do
not support any engineering intervention'.
Recommendation 19 is particularly concerning, and would have detrimental
impacts to the river system basin-wide. This recommendation calls on the government
to have the Productivity Commission undertake a cost-benefit analysis of the
MDBP. The MDBP was only finalised in November 2012 with many outcomes of the
MDBP still in the process of implementation. Conducting such a review would be
costly, time consuming and would stymie the substantial progress that has been
achieved with the MDBP over the last 3 years.
Another example is Recommendation 20 that grossly misrepresents the 650GL
value by labelling it as a target. This is not a target that forms part of the
current MDBP. It is critical that the sustainable diversion limits adjustment
mechanism is conducted on the basis of robust, independent science and is
subject to third party review. The focus must instead be on achieving agreement
between all states by June 2016 on the addition 450GL committed to by the
Commonwealth government. Without the additional 450GL the health of the Lower
Lakes and Coorong will be under risk of severe degradation.
Provisional support for some
Although The Australian Greens have serious concerns with regards to the
majority of the recommendations, the party provisionally supports the
Recommendation 9 in relation to the initiation of a judicial
inquiry into the operation of the Goulburn Murray Water Connections Project.
This inquiry should include a cost-benefit analysis of recovering water through
irrigation projects compared to water buybacks.
Recommendation 27 in relation to providing the Commonwealth
Environmental Water Holder with greater capacity to conduct monitoring,
objective evaluation and communication of environmental watering activities.
Recommendations 28 and 29 in relation to implementing measures
that support recovery efforts of native fish.
Many submissions to this inquiry concluded that the full and timely
implementation of the MDBP is critical to securing a healthy long-term future
for the MDB. The Australian Greens agree with this assessment and will fight to
ensure the 3200GL water target committed to by the Commonwealth government is
achieved in a timely fashion. The Australian Greens will not support any
changes to the Water Act or MDBP that reduce this target or compromise
the long term health and sustainability of the MDB.
Senator Robert Simms
Australian Greens Senator for South Australia
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page