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Peter Garrett values Melbourne's toilets over the environment.

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The Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP Shadow Minister for Environment, Heritage and the Arts Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs Federal Liberal Member for Murray

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Media Enquiries: Robert Hardie 02 6277 4477 / 0418 432 909

Peter Garrett values Melbourne’s toilets over the environment

A devastating Murray Darling Basin Commission report into the environmental condition of the Goulburn River today rated its ecosystem as “very poor” and the fish condition as “extremely poor”.

Despite this, today in Parliament, Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, failed to rule out the diversion of environmental flows from the Goulburn River, the major tributary to the Murray, to Melbourne and Geelong to be used for their gardens and toilets.

The denial came in question time, when the Shadow Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts and Member for Murray, Dr Sharman Stone, challenged Minister Garrett to guarantee that Goulburn River environmental water would not be diverted to Melbourne via the North South Pipeline

Mr Garrett made no such guarantee. Instead he played for time by referring only to the Murray Darling Basin 10 point plan.

“The lower reaches of the Murray are in a desperate condition, and 70% of the river gums along the River are dead or dying”, Dr Stone said.

“Allowing the diversion of 75GL of Goulburn River catchment water to Melbourne and Geelong, because the State Labor Government has failed to build recycling or stormwater harvesting plants is simply obscene, Dr Stone said.

The Eildon Dam, at the head of the Goulburn River, now holds less than 13% of its capacity, while Melbourne’s own purpose built supply dams across the Great Dividing Range hold over 30% of water.

Irrigators, who have grown food with irrigation supplies from the Eildon Dam for 70 years and have one of Australia’s most intensive food processing sectors dependent on their output, are now facing the start of their third irrigation season with zero allocations.

“With a state election fast approaching, Victorian Premier John Brumby knows that his plan to pipe ‘saved’ water to Melbourne will not be achieved in time. As a result, he plans to pipe the environmental reserve, held in Eildon Dam to prevent flush blue-green algae from the Goulburn River, to the toilet bowls of Melbourne and Geelong. This will effectively destroy the Goulburn River and impact on the health of the entire Murray River system.

“Minister Garrett should have categorically ruled out the transfer of any Murray Darling Basin water to Melbourne and Geelong today. Melbourne and Geelong have alternative water supply options - the Murray River and the food producers of northern Victoria do

not”, Dr Stone said.