The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP
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Joint Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp
Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
The Hon. Warren Truss
11 May 2004
This budget reaffirms the landmark $200 million for a Basin-wide strategic approach to water over-allocation in the Murray-Darling Basin agreed at COAG in August 2003, announced in the 2003-04 Additional Estimates.
"This $200 million contribution is proof of the Howard Government's commitment to partnerships with the State and Territory Governments to improve the health of one of our biggest natural icons, the Murray River system. It is subject to satisfactory agreement between the partners on the introduction of the National Water Initiative," Dr Kemp said.
"The Murray-Darling Basin is the heartland and the economic powerhouse of rural Australia, extending across one-seventh of the continent and has a population of nearly two million people. Another million people outside the region depend heavily upon its resources," the Australian Minister for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Warren Truss, said.
"The Howard Government's commitment to on-ground actions through the $3 billion Natural Heritage Trust and the $1.4 billion National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality have so far delivered over $600 million in regional investments within the Murray-Darling Basin since 1996.
"Creating a balance between a healthy river and a working river is an objective that this Government could not achieve without the help of local communities."
"This Budget takes the Government's total commitment to the Murray Darling Basin Commission to $86.5 million over four years.
"The Howard Government will also provide $60 million over the next eight years as part of the Snowy River rescue package, specifically to increase Murray River flows," Mr Truss said.
The work of the Living Murray Initiative is guided by the Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Council, which comprises the Howard Government Ministers responsible for land, water and environmental resources, and Ministers from New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory.
"In November 2003, the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council took a decision on the First Step to implement the Living Murray Initiative and to restore the river to a healthy, working state," he said.
The First Step will concentrate on achieving environmental benefits for six significant ecological sites: the Barmah-Millewa Forest; Gunbower and Perricoota-Koondrook Forests; Hattah Lakes; Chowilla Floodplain (including Lindsay-Walpolla); the Murray Mouth, Coorong and Lower Lakes; and the River Murray channel.
"The Living Murray implementation programme is delivering results. Arrangements for watering stressed River Redgums on the Chowilla floodplain and operation of the new fish ladders on the River Murray are underway. The dredging program at the Murray Mouth has provided sufficient tidal surge to replenish the water at the Coorong", Dr Kemp said.
"This river is a vital, living resource, and it deserves national attention. And this Government, working alongside its partners in the wider community, remains a willing investor in the future health of our living Murray."