The Biggest Problem with The Murray-Darling Basin is The Date

Monday, July 31st, 2023 

Federal Member for Nicholls, Sam Birrell, says the June 2024 deadline for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is being used to play politics with the livelihoods of communities.

Mr Birrell said Water Minister, Tania Plibersek, is using the deadline to falsely claim the Basin Plan
will fall 750 gigalitres short of water recovery targets.

“While the Minister talks about the threat to the environment and possible extinction of species, the Murray Darling Basin Authority report card makes it clear that progress is being made, but more time is required,” Mr Birrell said.

“I welcome the Water Minister finally acknowledging that the deadline needs to be extended to achieve the plan, but it has generated a lot of fear and anxiety in basin communities to get to this point.”

Mr Birrell says the MDBA report card acknowledges the impact widespread flooding across the Basin has had on supply, constraint, and efficiency measures under the Sustainable diversion limit adjustment mechanism (SDLAM).

“This mechanism is designed to deliver a 605 GL/y offset, allowing the Basin Plan to be achieved with less water recovered from consumptive users such as towns, communities, farmers and industries,” Mr Birrell said.

“In its first budget the Albanese Government set aside a secret amount for community wrecking water buybacks based on commitment to complete the plan by the 2024 deadline, rather than granting SDLAM projects more time to achieve sustainable outcomes.”

The MDBA report card says water recovery at the Basin scale remains at 98% for surface water and 92% for groundwater recovered against the Bridging the Gap target.

“That target will be met, and with additional time so will the offsets,” Mr Birrell said.

“Another 450 gigalitres the Water Minister wants to carve out to complete the plan ‘in full’ is additional to the water recovery target.”

“It was agreed by Basin States in 2018 that it would only be recovered if there was a positive or neutral socio-economic impact on basin communities.

“I acknowledge statements from the Victorian and New South Wales government’s which continue to oppose water buybacks that would be a social and economic wrecking ball for basin communities.

“The Basin Plan has always been about long-term sustainability; it must be given time to achieve the outcomes without doing irreparable harm to communities that also rely on water,” he said.

Media Contact:

Media Advisor Federal Member for Nicholls Sam Birrell
Morgan Dyer
0412 832 474