Commitment to tackle water issues welcome

The Australian Conservation Foundation has welcomed Prime Minister John Howard’s commitment to tackle ‘head on’ the problems resulting from decades of taking too much water out of the Murray Darling Basin.

“In general this is a good plan, with adequate funding to do the job,” said ACF Executive Director Don Henry.

Mr Henry said the Prime Minister’s commitment of $3 billion to address “once and for all water over-allocation in the Murray-Darling Basin” must be put into action quickly, because the Basin’s needs are urgent.

“The Murray Darling system is suffering from decades of too much water being taken out, leaving rivers, wetlands and wildlife literally dying for a drink.

“We support the Prime Minister’s commitment to use the best science to work out how bad the problems are in the Murray Darling Basin, support farmers and purchase water for the rivers.

“I urge the States to keep an open mind and enter into good faith discussions.

“Those discussions could include consideration of an independent, national body, along the lines of the Reserve Bank, to implement this plan.

“In the past there have been as many difference over water between the Federal Liberal and National Parties as there have between the Commonwealth and the States. The Australian public and the States will want certainty that this time all sides are prepared to make this plan work,” he said.

“The establishment of a taskforce to examine the potential for further ‘water development in northern Australia’ is cause for some concern. Northern Australia’s pristine rivers are not suitable for large-scale irrigated agriculture.

"Of course if we don't tackle climate change all the great aspirations of this plan will be undone.

"The CSIRO estimates water flowing into the Murray Darling Basin will fall by as much as 48 per cent if we don't dramatically cut greenhouse pollution," he said.