8 August 2012 – The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has released its proposed basin plan, but the Greens say it won’t save the river.

Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne and Murray Darling Basin spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young told a press conference the plan would “not save the river, will not sustain the river into the longer term and does not bring the resilience that’s going to be necessary for the extreme droughts that will come in future years”.

In a letter to Water Minister Tony Burke, Murray-Darling Basin Authority chair Craig Knowles says the Ministerial Council has three weeks to give the minister written notice of whether it approves or disagrees with “the long term sustainable diversion limits proposed in the proposed Basin Plan, and/or any other aspect of the proposed Basin Plan in relation to which the Minister may give a direction”.

The 252-page plan’s objectives include: giving effect to relevant international agreements through the integrated management of Basin water resources; establishing a sustainable and long term adaptive management framework for the Basin water resources, optimising social, economic and environmental outcomes arising from the use of Basin water resources in the national interest; and improving water security for all uses of Basin water resources.

“The outcome for the Basin Plan as a whole is a healthy and working Murray Darling Basin that includes: communities with sufficient and reliable water supplies that are fit for a range of intended purposes, including domestic, recreational and cultural use; productive and resilient water-dependent industries, and communities with confidence in their long term future; and healthy and resilient ecosystems with rivers and creeks regularly connected to their floodplains and, ultimately, the ocean,” the report says.

Environmental outcomes are to:

  • protect and restore water-dependent ecosystems of the Murray-Darling Basin and water dependent ecosystems
  • ensure that water dependent ecosystems are resilient to climate change and other risks and threats
  • ensure that environmental watering is coordinated between managers of planned environmental water, owners and managers of environmental assets, and holders of held environmental water.

Other considerations include:

  • water quality and salinity
  • long-term average sustainable diversion limits
  • well-informed water recovery measures, including water purchasing and infrastructure
  • facilitation of efficient water markets and the opportunities for trading

Senator Hanson-Young said the the plan will “not save the river, will not sustain the river into the longer term and does not bring the resilience that’s going to be necessary for the extreme droughts that will come in future years.

“When the draft plan was first released the Greens raised serious concerns about the fact that 2750 gigalitres was not enough to save the river system.  It is far less than what science tells us we need to give the river a fighting chance,” she said.

“Four thousand gigalitres, at the very least, is what is required if we are to save the Murray Darling Basin for the future.”

A spokesperson for Mr Burke did not respond to media queries.