There has been a major development in our campaign for healthy environmental flows in the Murray-Darling Basin: the draft Basin Plan’s release has been postponed from August to early November. This means that the consultation period (during which the public can respond to the Plan) will be for 20 weeks from November until March. This is the time when you are more able than ever to exercise your democratic right to shape policy.There has been a major development in our campaign for healthy environmental flows in the Murray-Darling Basin: the draft Basin Plan’s release has been postponed from August to early November. This means that the consultation period (during which the public can respond to the Plan) will be for 20 weeks from November until March. This is the time when you are more able than ever to exercise your democratic right to shape policy. It now looks as though the Basin Plan will be put before parliament for final ratification as late as August 2012 – only a year out from the next federal elections. This will make politicians particularly sensitive to popular public opinion about the issue, so it will be critical that voters let the pollies know what they want and expect of them. Real Risk to Environmental Flows Outcome The delay on the release of the Draft Plan brings a mix of new challenges and opportunities, for which we have both fear and hope. Our fear is that the proposed amount of water to be returned to the basin is getting lower and lower as State Governments and the irrigation lobby pressure the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to minimize water entitlement cuts. The hope lies in our confidence that concerned members of the public and environmental groups will also make their demands heard, and that the voice of the community will shape the debate. Barmah-Millewa Talks with the Pollies Although the Basin Plan’s release has been postponed, our campaign certainly hasn’t been! A small delegation comprising members from Friends of the Earth, The Wilderness Society, The Australian Floodplains Association and Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre travelled to Canberra during the parliamentary sitting weeks from August 15th – August 26th. We spoke with members of the government, the opposition and the Greens about why it is critical that they demand that the Basin Plan delivers a minimum of 4000 gigalitres to the Murray Darling Basin. The members understood the need to return more water to the environment, but were concerned that opposition from the irrigation lobby could make this difficult to achieve. It is clear that activist communities and the public need to do a lot more to raise attention if their demands for adequate environmental flows are to be heard and considered. Your Community Can be a Voice for Change In order to achieve a good environmental outcome we have a lot of work to do in coming months, with the primary task being to simply get the information out. Those who most need substantial information at this time are the public, so a large part of our short-term future work will be at a community level. We are planning to meet with environmentally focused groups all around Victoria and New South Wales during the month of October, so as to inform their members about the science and politics of the Basin Plan, and to enable and encourage their participation in this momentous campaign. If you would like one of our collective members to come and visit your social, student, community or activist group, please just send Teri an email or give her a call on 0421773782.
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