Members of the national alliance Voices for the Murray-Darling kicked off their fight-back against a dismal, draft Basin Plan in Adelaide today.
Farmer John Pettigrew from Shepparton, the Southern Fishermen's Association, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), the Wilderness Society (TWS) and the Conservation Council SA are concerned that the draft plan fails the river, regional communities and our national interest.
"Groups will be holding public meetings and letter-boxing to highlight the gross inadequacies in the draft Plan and to urge Federal Water Minister Burke to send the plan back to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to be strengthened", said ACF CEO Don Henry.
The CSIRO science review released this Monday showed that only 55 per cent of environmental targets are likely to be met by returning 2750 gigalitres of water.
Alliance members are calling on Minister Burke to instruct the MDBA to act on the science and model returning atleast 4000 gigalitres of water to the environment.
"The floods brought some relief to the environment near the mouth of the Murray, and right now the remaining businesses and communities are benefitting. But the river will continue to die from the mouth up if we do not act now" said SFA Executive Officer Neil MacDonald.
"The failure to end the over-use by big irrigation means the mouth of the Murray will continue to close, it won't remove the two million tonnes of salt that gets deposited every year, and it will destroy internationally recognised RAMSAR wetlands," said Peter Owen, The Wilderness Society's South Australian Campaign Manager.
"I am very concerned that the majority of socio-economic assessments have not taken into account the ability of farmers and irrigators to adapt to change. We cannot operate in conflict with our rivers and we need to change the way we use water", said John Pettigrew from Shepparton.
"The CSIRO review shows that climate change was not factored into determining diversion limits. How can this draft be considered the 'best available science' required by the Water Act 2007 in establishing environmentally sustainable limits on water diversions when it fails to confront the reality of climate change and the greater extreme events that are likely, " asked Professor Diane Bell, Chair of the Water ESC, Conservation Council SA.
Alliance members want Minister Burke to direct the Authority to return more than 2750 gigalitres of water to the Murray-Darling and assess all the benefits of returning higher volumes.
Alliance information: www.lifeblood.org.au
Media contacts: Sara McMillan, ACF, 0400 834 130
Peter Owen, TWS, 0423550018
Professor Diane Bell, CCSA, 0427554194