The O’Farrell government must support increased environmental returns in its imminent response to the revised Murray Darling Basin plan or risk the health of the river and NSW’s long term economic future, says Greens Senator for NSW Lee Rhiannon in an extended ‘Matter of Public Importance’ speech to the Senate today about NSW’s role in the challenge of restoring the Murray Darling Basin.
“As the largest upstream user in the Murray Darling Basin NSW has a big responsibility to the entire river system and downstream water users, but successive state governments have put the brakes on proper water reform,” Senator Rhiannon said.
“Since coming to office the NSW Coalition has done everything possible to delay change and minimise water volumes returned to our environment.
“This year the NSW government slashed the budget of the NSW Office of Water and cut $16 million from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, with a further $8.9 million of cuts foreshadowed over the next two years.
“The NSW Coalition currently backs a 2,100 gigalitre target, half of what the science demands. Its latest claim to recover just three per cent of water over 10 years is woefully inadequate to the task at hand. “State governments are soon due to respond to the revised basin plan.
“The Greens remain convinced by the best available science that at least 4,000 gigalitres of water must be returned to the river system if there is to be a viable future for everyone who relies on it. “NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell should be lobbying for increased environmental returns to the Murray Darling, to benefit our environment and secure the long term economic viability of communities which rely on the basin.
‘In June the federal Water Minister Mr Tony Burke came under heavy criticism from the Auditor-General over $650 million awarded to private NSW irrigators from the Government’s $5.8 billion war chest which is designed to increase water efficiency in rural Australia.
“Research shows it is up to five times more costly to fund infrastructure projects than buy back water. It is also inequitable to give federal funding to NSW irrigators when their South Australian cousins cannot access that money as they have already implemented water efficiency measures.
“The O’Farrell government is on the wrong track siding with irrigators and the mining industry in a bid to secure water requirements at the expense of our environment and a sustainable future for rural communities like the Riverina,” Senator Rhiannon said.