Media Release


New Basin Plan shortchanges farmers, communities, rivers

Basin communities and farmers have been sold out and the environment shortchanged today with the passage of the Government’s legislation to rewrite the 2012 Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The Government has bulldozed the Water Amendments (Recovering Our Rivers) Bill 2023 through the Senate with only minor amendments that do little to protect Basin communities and nothing to fix the key degradation drivers still making our rivers sick.

“The Senate has cleared the way to buy up to 700 billion litres more water from farmers, on top of 2100 billion litres already recovered,” said NSW Irrigators’ Council CEO, Claire Miller.

“The MDBA has attributed more than 3200 jobs lost across 40 southern Basin communities to water already recovered for the environment under the Basin Plan and earlier reforms.

“And ABARES has documented how that water recovery has substantially increased costs for farmers growing our food and fibre – and how taking more out will make water too expensive too often for most farmers to stay in business.

“Farmers, workers, small business owners and local government across the Basin have shouted NO to even more buybacks, because they know from bitter past experience how buybacks have hollowed out their communities while governments went missing on promised assistance.

“Nothing in this rewrite of the 2012 Basin Plan gives these communities any reason to believe anything will be any different this time around.

“Cuddly ministerial reassurances and expressions of intent mean nothing when the legislation itself in practice blocks any options other than buybacks in one form or another.

“And for what? This is not a win for the environment as more water can’t be delivered where it needs to go due to constraints such as rules against intentionally flooding private property.

“Just adding more water now also will not fix the key degradation drivers, like cold water pollution, riverbank erosion, lack of fish passages, and invasive land and water species.

“European carp make up nine out of 10 fish in the rivers, wrecking water quality and habitat. Unless they are controlled, the rivers will remain prone to algae outbreaks and mass fish deaths, and native fish struggle to thrive, no matter how much more water is bought back from farmers.

“Construction of fish passages is desperately needed so fish can escape poor water quality in droughts and floods, but all we got is $2.3 million for yet another business case at Menindee.

“The Government is putting off any action on these and other desperately needed measures and projects until after 2027 – when it will have already drained the kitty dry spending billions of dollars on unnecessary further buybacks.

“This legislation is a cynical smoke and mirrors trick at the expense of Basin communities and taxpayers, simply to meet an election promise to the South Australian Government and shore up inner-city votes.

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