Statement on Murray Darling Basin Plan
13th December 2011
The Murray Darling Basin is rightly known as ‘the nation’s food basket’. The Basin is Australia’s most important agricultural region, accounting for 34 per cent of the nation’s agricultural production. It encompasses four states and one territory, with the behaviour of up-stream users impacting on those down-stream. This is why we must create a national agreement that is attentive to the needs of local communities and one that ensures that the national interest is met.
The call for a national water management plan overseen by the Federal Government was first made by the Howard Government in 2007, a proposal that was given bipartisan support by Labor when in opposition. Since the election of the Labor Government, we have been committed to delivering much needed reform to water management in the Murray Darling Basin. The release of this draft plan is the latest step in this process. It marks the beginning of a 20 week period of public consultation, which will be followed by further contributions from relevant state governments.
This consultation process is by necessity, wide ranging and intensive. It gives local communities, environmental organisations, farmers, and businesses the opportunity to contribute to the final Murray Darling Basin Plan. It is crucial the voices of all stakeholders are heard.
In its current form the Authority’s Draft Plan proposes that 2750 gigalitres of water be returned to the environment by 2019. It is important to emphasize that water will be purchased only on a voluntary basis, and that changes will be phased in over the 8 years to 2019, giving local communities time to adjust. As a government we are committed to investing $12 billion in securing additional water through a combination of voluntary water purchases and infrastructure upgrades. The government has already secured over 1000 gigalitres voluntarily, making sound progress toward the proposed water target of 2750 gigalitres. We already have one of the most efficient agricultural sectors in the world and these investments and acquisitions will ensure that this continues to be the case.
The release of this Draft Murray Darling Basin Plan represents an important step on the way to creating a national agreement able to accommodate the interests of rural communities, the environment and our farmers. The Government welcomes contributions by all stakeholders. It expects to receive the final Basin plan for review and approval in 2012.
More information on the draft plan is available at the Murray Darling Basin Authority website: www.mdba.gov.au