The Hon Tony Burke MP
Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
Historic Murray-Darling Basin legislation passes parliament
7 February 2013
The Gillard Government’s plan to deliver an additional 450GL of water to the Murray-Darling Basin today became law with the passage of legislation through parliament.
The legislation also secures $1.77 billion to relax key operating constraints and recover the additional water through projects that don’t have a social and economic impact on communities.
Minister for Water Tony Burke said the passage of the Water Amendment (Water for the Environment Special Account) Bill marks a key milestone in the Gillard Government’s plan to restore the Murray-Darling Basin to health.
“Late last year the Gillard Government ended a century long argument on how best to manage our rivers and delivered a Murray-Darling Basin Plan that restores our rivers to health, supports strong regional communities and ensures sustainable food production,’’ he said.
“The Murray-Darling Basin Authority set a benchmark of 2750GL of environmental water in the Basin.
“But the Gillard Government was determined to achieve greater environmental outcomes than could be achieved through this plan which is why the Prime Minister Julia Gillard and I visited the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray mouth region in South Australia to announce the funding for the extra water.
“The plan on its own was never enough. The modelling said to get the basin back to the standard of health required, the Government had to interact with the plan to get an extra 450GL back into the system.
“Without this legislation the money required for the 450 GL could not be guaranteed.
“Last year we locked in that there would be a plan, today we have locked in the health of the basin.
“The additional environmental water made possible by this Bill will benefit the Coorong and Lower Lakes, Ramsar-listed wetlands, River Red Gum forests, national parks and wildlife throughout the Basin and help ensure the system never again goes into a period of drought lacking the resilience it needs to survive.”
Mr Burke said the majority of the $1.7 billion in the special account will be directed towards achieving further improvements in irrigation efficiency.
It also will address existing constraints that limit higher water flows, including outflows from storage dams, low-lying infrastructure, and the need to provide for flood easements or agreements with landholders.Any water obtained using the funds in the special account must be obtained through projects that ensure no social or economic downside for communities.