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If a student fails three quarters of the subjects in a school year it is not unreasonable for the teacher to require that student to go back and repeat the year.
That is the situation Federal Water Minister Tony Burke faces as he takes possession of the Murray Darling Basin Authority's draft plan – a plan that fails to meet three quarters of the authority's own environmental and water targets needed to guarantee a healthy river.
An independent assessment by the CSIRO says the volumes of water proposed in the draft Basin Plan will hit with certainty about 21 per cent of the targets set for a healthy river. That is simply not good enough.
There are a few improvements in this version of the plan. The strengthening of groundwater extraction limits is important. And the salinity targets for the Lower Lakes are a good idea. But the best way to reduce salinity in the lakes is by allowing more natural flows down the river
The latest version of the plan, released this week by the Basin Authority, still recommends returning only 2750 gigalitres of water.
Environment groups and the South Australian Government repeatedly have asked the Basin Authority to model the environmental, social and economic benefits of returning 4000 gigalitres to the river. The authority has not done so. The authority does appear to have helped the Victorian Government model its preferred quantity for the river – a paltry 2100 gigalitres.
The Water Act gives Mr Burke the power to send the Basin Plan back to the authority and ask them to re-do it, if it is inadequate.
This current river plan is inadequate.
As a matter of procedural fairness and in the interests of preparing a strong Basin Plan, the minister should require the authority to model the environmental, social and economic benefits of returning higher volumes of water, including 4000 gigalitres, to the river system. Upstream states are pushing hard for their interests.
The Basin Plan is undoubtedly a “challenging child”, but it has such great potential.
If Mr Burke passes the plan without getting the best from it, he's denying it a successful future. This is too important to let 21 per cent be considered a pass mark.
Don Henry is the CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation
This article was originally published by The Adelaide Advertiser
Read more about restoring the Murray-Darling to health