Healthy Rivers Need Water - Murray Darling Score Card

Copy_of_Social_media_scorecar.pngHealthy Rivers Need Water - It's been our catch cry for the last 12 months as we've watched the Darling dwindle from a trickle to a stand still. 
But what policies do the major parties have to return water to the rivers, put a spotlight on corruption and transform the Basin Plan so that it can deliver on its key objective - to keep the rivers alive. 

Liberal & National Party Policy

1.jpgAnnouncements from Minister Littleproud following the release of the Vertessy Report

  • Dept. of Agriculture and Water Resources will seek to secure A class licences to protect low flows in the Barwon Darling.
  • Investment of ‘up to’ $25 million into metering in the northern basin, in the form of a 25% subsidy for AS4747 compliant meters. This will be backdated 12 months and states asked to contribute.
  • $5 million for cameras to live-stream river flows to provide absolute transparency to the public.
  • $20 million to expand research on the Murray-Darling Basin to address gaps in knowledge.
  • Fulfilling a commitment from 7 May 2018 agreement with the Opposition, will work with NSW to have additional water allocated to Indigenous communities.
  • $10 million to restock rivers and lakes with native fish species across the basin and establish new hatcheries in the northern basin to ‘kick start fish recovery’.
  • Additional $5.24 million for the Toorale Water Infrastructure Project to better connect the Warrego and Darling Rivers as recommended by the report → funding will improve flows and build fishways.

See Nationals Response to Fish Deaths here

  • ‘Plan for Regional Australia’: 76 jobs from the Murray Darling Basin Authority were announced to be relocated closer to basin communities, bringing more than 100 jobs (⅓ of the MDBA’s workforce) outside of Canberra by 2021.

See Liberal's Plan for Regional Australia

  • $100 million to establish the Environment Restoration Fund which will provide grants for restoration and protection projects focusing on threatened species, waste reduction and river and waterways restoration. Does not explicitly mention the Basin.

See Liberals Plan - A Cleaner Environment

River Country Analysis:

The Basin Plan is a $13 Billion policy, of which $8 billion has already been spent. The Coalition's policy commits relatively small amounts of funding and fails to detail plans that secure more water for the rivers. In addition, there is no plan to address the alleged corruption within the Government and bureaucracy or to account for the impact of climate change in the Murray Darling Basin.

Note: The Environmental Restoration fund does not have any specifics in the Murray Darling

Labor Party Policy

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  • Introducing legislation to repeal 1500GL cap on water buybacks.
  • Moving compliance functions of the MDBA to the new Federal EPA, and ordering a formal review of claims that public servants acted unlawfully.
  • Reviewing the impact of climate change on the Murray Darling Basin now and into the future to determine change in inflows and evaporation rates.
  • Renegotiating the Menindee Lakes Agreement, which determines how the lakes are managed and is now decades out of date.

See Labor's Plan Save the Murray Darling Basin

River Country Analysis:

Repealing the cap on buybacks would be the most cost effective way to secure more water in the Basin Plan, provided water purchases are done with integrity and water for the environment is successfully delivered to floodplains. Renegotiating the Menindee Lakes agreement is a positive for the local community and thorough community consultation including with Traditional Owners is essential for the success of this plan. A formal review of public servants falls short of a Federal Royal Commission, which would have the powers to call witnesses under oath. 

The Greens Party Policy

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  • Establish a national royal commission.
  • Overhaul the Murray Darling Basin Plan, putting the environment at the centre.
  • Ensure that any future modelling is done in the context of climate change.
  • Ban corporate irrigator donations to political parties, including the Nationals.
  • Ensure that any new plan delivers water buybacks to ensure proper environmental flows.

See The Greens Plan - Save the Murray Darling

River Country Analysis:

River Country Supports a Federal Royal Commission that builds on the findings of the South Australian Royal Commission. An overhaul of the Basin Plan placing the Environment at the centre with more water buybacks would secure more flows for the rivers. 

United Australia Party

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The United Australia Party has vowed to abolish the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to return the once iconic river system to a healthy, sustainable and functional condition.

Federal Leader Clive Palmer said the Murray-Darling Basin Plan needed to be scrapped immediately to protect the system from corporate misuse and natural disaster.

The United Australia Party will abolish the plan and take steps to stop farmers paying for their water usage.

Read United Australia Party's plan to abolish the Basin Plan

River Country Analysis:

To abolish the Murray Darling Basin Plan without a replacement policy would be reckless and irresponsible. The implementation of the Basin Plan is clearly failing, but recommendations from numerous government reports including the South Australian Royal Commission and Productivity Commission provide pathways to improve implementation without creating the instability of abolishing the Plan.  

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Federal Policy:
Ensure environmental water flows are not set without consideration of the impacts on regional communities and fish stocks.

Shooters, Fishers & Farmers Plan to Safegaurd the environment

Note: NSW State Policy has detailed 10 point plan including a Royal Commission into the Basin Plan read it here