Statement from Murray-Darling declaration signatories - 27 May

Going backwards not forwards

The agreement by the opposition Australian Labor Party and the government Liberals-National Coalition to allow the passage of the Northern and Southern Basin Amendments to the Basin Plan on 8 May 2018 means that environmental flows in the Murray-Darling Basin will, on average, be reduced by 70 GL/year in the Northern Basin and 605 GL/year in the Southern Basin compared to what was intended in the 2012 Basin Plan.

The passage of these two amendments sends the Basin backwards, not forwards. As we stated in our Declaration on 5 February 2018, urgent action is still required to:

(1) Stop any further expenditures on infrastructure related to water-use efficiency.

(2) Audit, through a comprehensive and independent evaluation, the environmental and socio-economics outcomes of water recovery undertaken to date.

(3) Establish a truly independent and scientifically based entity to publicly document what is happening in the Basin and to ensure delivery of the key objects of the Water Act 2007.

Prior to the passage of the two amendments to the Basin on 8 May, we publicly detailed the:

(1) problems regarding the economic and environmental evidence in the justification used by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to support the two amendments;

(2) dire need for the Basin to have additional environmental flows; and

(3) failure of the current Basin Plan, to date, to deliver on key objects of the Water Act 2007.

In our view, passage of the two amendments on 8 May 2018, in the absence of an independent and comprehensive audit of water recovery in the Basin to date, greatly increases the risks that key objects of the Water Act 2007 will not be achieved and is contrary to the public interest.

Public submissions in which we document the challenges to the Basin, why a comprehensive and independent audit is urgently required, and the many problems with the evidence to justify the two amendments are provided below:

1. Submission by Sarah Wheeler, Jeff Connor, Quentin Grafton, Lin Crase and John Quiggin to the Productivity Commission.

2. Submission by Matthew Colloff, John Williams and Quentin Grafton to the Productivity Commission.

3. Submission by Quentin Grafton and John Williams to the South Australia Royal Commission on Murray-Darling Basin.

4. Submission by David Paton to the South Australia Royal Commission on Murray-Darling Basin.

Signatories to the Murray-Darling Declaration

Martyn Pearce