The Greens will be moving amendments to the ‘450 Up’ bill to give the Murray Darling a fighting chance as it appears the Basin Plan, to be announced by Tony Burke today, is guaranteed to lock in failure.
“If the Plan fails to guarantee the long term health of the Murray River, the river red gums and the Coorong it is a Plan that will lock in environmental failure,” the Greens’ Murray Darling spokesperson, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.
“I will be moving amendments to the ‘450 Up’ bill that is currently before the House of Reps which would guarantee the recovery of the extra 450GL by 2019.
“Without guaranteed protections for the key environmental assets, this plan will fail to save the river for future generations.
“The Plan, which will be unveiled soon, is the blueprint for how the river will be managed for the next 20 years and the Greens are working to ensure that the environment is not sold out.”
Specific amendments that will be moved by the Greens
· In 2016 the Authority must propose an adjustment or adjustments to the long term average sustainable diversion limits which amount to a further 450GL being recovered for the environment. The additional water must be recovered by 2019.
· Expenditure of the Special Account fund must prioritise water recovery projects that take into account the most recent knowledge on ground water and climate change and demonstrate the most cost-effective and certain method of recovering water which should primarily be buybacks.
· There must be bi-annual independent auditing of the expenditure of the Special Account of how the money has been spent and how much water was delivered, including assessment of the value for money of any expenditure of funds to address socio-economic impacts.
The intent of these amendments is to ensure that the Murray Darling system has a fighting chance of surviving a Basin Plan that starts at a failed point and threatens to get worse.
Currently, the bill refers to returning “up to” 450GL to the environment. The Greens’ amendments move to guarantee that a minimum of 450GL must be additionally recovered by 2019, and ensure that the funds in the Special Account is spent on water recovery projects that achieve the most water for the least cost.
The Greens note that it is likely the $1.77 billion to be appropriated for this fund will not be adequate to achieve the additional 450GL. As such the government must ensure that there is a specific budget and purchasing review function in the Water Act to give rise to the consideration of future appropriation of funds for water recovery. The Bill must also enshrine environmental minimum standards that the continued purchase of the 450GL must maintain and exceed, including reduction of salinity levels in the Coorong and Lower Lakes, water levels in the Lower Lakes, Murray Mouth openness, over barrage flows, environmental watering of flood plains, increased flows down rivers and streams, and maintenance of achievement levels of the 112 environmental indicators met under the Authority’s 3200GL with relaxed constraints model run.
Media Contact: Noah Schultz-Byard 0427 604 760