Minister for Water and the River Murray Ian Hunter has welcomed today's recommitment by fellow State ministers to deliver the Murray–Darling Basin Plan in full.
The meeting of the Ministerial Council in Mildura was the first since last December’s COAG meeting, at which South Australia formally raised concerns about other Basin governments’ commitment to recovering the 450 gigalitres (GL) as part of the 3200 GL of water to be returned to the River Murray.
Today the Ministerial Council agreed to commission an independent expert analysis on how best to design and target recovery of the extra 450 GL.
However, the South Australian Government remains concerned about New South Wales’ and Victoria's undertaking to achieve the 450GL of upwater return.
The historic Basin Plan agreed in 2012 aims for water recovery outcomes equivalent to 3200 GL per annum by 2024. This includes the extra 450 GL negotiated by South Australia.
This water is needed to keep the Murray mouth open, to reduce salinity in the Coorong and Lower Lakes, and increase flows to Coorong to ensure the ongoing health of the internationally renowned RAMSAR site.
At December’s COAG meeting, Prime Minister Turnbull recommitted the Federal Government to delivering the Basin Plan and asked Ministers to present him with a plan that “provides a credible and balanced pathway to implement the Basin package agreed to in 2012.”
The Basin Plan is a coordinated approach to water management across the Murray–Darling Basin's four states (South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland) and the Australian Capital Territory.
Quotes attributable to Water and the River Murray Minister Ian Hunter
The priority for Basin governments must be to deliver the Basin Plan, on time and in full – for the benefit of all Australians who cherish and value this iconic river system.
Basin governments need to continue working together to recover the extra 450 GL to achieve a sustainable River Murray for the future.
I remain concerned that Victoria and New South Wales are moving at a break-neck pace to write down the water recovery by up to 650GL of down water but are not as committed to securing the 450GL of upwater that we know is needed for a sustainable river system.
South Australia will continue to ensure that upstream states remain committed to the full 3200 GL of water returned to the River Murray on time and in full.