4 September 2020
SA needs a healthy River, not hush money
Today’s announcement by Federal Water Minister Keith Pitt to take voluntary buybacks off the table will guarantee the Murray Darling Basin Plan will fail to meet critical deadlines, raising serious concerns about the future of the Plan to save Australia’s most important River system, says South Australia’s peak environment body.
“The shift away from water recovery in the Murray Darling Basin Plan is deeply concerning,” said Conservation SA Chief Executive Craig Wilkins
“Taking buybacks off the table is like a coach benching their champion player when their footy team is ten goals down.
“We can kiss goodbye the mouth of the River ever being open naturally again.
“Ever since the Plan was created, our state has had the threat of buybacks in our back pocket to keep the other states focused on full delivery of the Murray Darling Basin Plan, including the extra 450GL that was promised to get our state to sign up. Now that threat is gone.
“Without the threat of buybacks, upstream states simply won’t meet their water recovery targets,” he said.
To compensate for expected ‘delays’ in the implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan, South Australia will be given $38 million for projects in the Riverland.
“The Federal Water Minister is offering our state 30 pieces of silver to compensate for delays in the Plan,” said Mr Wilkins.
“We want him to ensure the Murray Darling Basin Plan is delivered in full and on time, not give us ‘shut up’ money,” he said.
“The $38m is an attempt to buy off South Australia with hush money,” said Healthy Rivers campaigner, Kate McBride.
“If the MDBP is still meant to be delivered on time and in full, why pay SA $38m to compensate for ‘delays’?
“The only logical conclusion is that Minister Pitt is already factoring in major delays in the delivery of the Plan.
“That should ring alarm bells for River communities everywhere.
“It’s essential buybacks are back on the table,” she said.
“Buybacks have always been in the Federal Government’s back pocket ready to be used if upstream states fail to deliver the water they have promised.
“Without the threat of buybacks to focus NSW and Victoria on water recovery, there will be delays followed by lack of progress which creates more delays.
“Voluntary buybacks are the cheapest, quickest and most efficient option to restore our rivers to health. They also free up more money to support regional communities as they adjust to less water in the system.
“We need every tool in the toolbox if we are to have any chance of restoring the River to health,” Ms McBride said.
For further comment:
Kate McBride (Conservation SA Healthy Rivers Campaigner) 0458 528 333
Craig Wilkins (Conservation SA Chief Executive) 0417 879 439