Today marks the two-year anniversary of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan.
“There has been strong progress on the plan in its first two years of implementation,” said Senator Simon Birmingham, Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment.
“These two years have seen an impressive level of commitment and coordination between the Commonwealth and the basin state governments to progress basin water reform.
“The Abbott Government is working hard to ensure the Plan is implemented in full and on time.
“Since the election in 2013 we have made significant progress where Labor failed, most notably getting all states signed up to the Implementation Agreement that is fundamental to rolling out all of the Murray-Darling Basin reforms.
“New South Wales and Queensland had both held out signing onto Basin Plan implementation, but finally did so in February this year.
“The Abbott Government has also delivered the first ever Water Recovery Strategy, which outlines how and from where we will recover the water required to implement the Basin Plan.
“Our approach to the implementation is logical, methodical and done in a way that benefits the environment, enhances regional economies and sustains basin communities.
“Our Water Recovery Strategy clearly outlines how we will achieve the aims of supporting healthy environments, strong economies and resilient communities, within the allocated funding.
“Rather than the ad hoc and destructive water buybacks of the Labor Party, our strategy focuses on infrastructure investment that makes irrigation businesses more water efficient, in return for more environmental water.
“Prioritising water recovery via infrastructure investment ensures we maintain or enhance farm production within the basin, while creating a healthier river system.
“We will also undertake targeted and sensible water buybacks in the Basin, but in a cautious timeframe with a reassuring cap.
“The Abbott Government’s commitment to a 1,500 gigalitre cap on buybacks is important to instil confidence in river communities as we deliver the Basin Plan.
“Our approach to delivering the Basin Plan is one that has been was thought out with the help of people from north to south – farmers, scientists, community members, everyone – to ensure the plan continues to be rolled out steadily and with great care.
“Already, almost 70 percent – a total of 1904GL – of the 2750GL surface water needed, has been recovered for the environment.
“That water has been used to give important environmental sites in the basin a significant drink over the past year. This has included end of system flows, numerous wetlands and floodplains, including using environmental works and measures at Gunbower, Hattah and Koondrook forests.
“Although low inflows are creating new pressures in the system, we always knew that the Basin Plan was never intended to circumvent floods or droughts, which are essential to the ecology of the river system.
“Instead, the Basin Plan should make the system more resilient, which is evidenced by the fact that Murray Mouth dredging may have been required earlier this year, but for the implementation achievements made to date.
“The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is one of the most concrete examples of steps to achieve sustainability anywhere in the world. Two years in we should be proud of achievements already made and determined to see full implementation for the benefit of the river system and communities alike.”