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Returning the Murray-Darling Basin to health

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The Gillard Labor Government will today announce a landmark step in the plan to return the Murray-Darling Basin to health.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Water Minister Tony Burke will today visit the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray mouth region in South Australia, where they will announce that the Government will deliver an additional 450GL of water to achieve greater environmental outcomes to the Basin through water recovery projects that minimise the impact on communities.

The additional environmental water will benefit major wetlands across the Basin and the lower lakes in South Australia and help ensure the system never again goes into a period of drought lacking the resilience it needs to survive.

Recent modelling showed these environmental outcomes can be achieved with the return of 3200GL to the Murray. Today’s announcement, together with real time management, reflects the Government’s determination to achieve these environmental outcomes.

The modelling, released by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority earlier this month, showed that through a combination of relaxing capacity constraints and providing an additional 450GL of water above the 2750GL described in the plan, we can deliver better environmental outcomes for the basin.

The Gillard Government has today resolved to provide $1.77 billion over ten years from 2014 to relax key operating constraints and allow an additional 450GL of environmental water to be obtained through projects to ensure there is no social and economic downside for communities.

The Gillard Government is committed to reform for the Murray-Darling Basin that restores our rivers to health, supports strong regional communities and ensures sustainable food production.

That’s why we will invest primarily in on-farm efficiency works that generate water savings for the environment and other projects as agreed by states.

Implementation of the Plan will be an historic event for water reform in Australia and provide greater certainty for future water availability ensuring all those dependant on a sustainable river system can face the future with greater confidence.

This announcement represents a critical stage in the development of the Basin Plan which is on track to be finalised before the end of the year.

Of the extra funding, $200 million will be used to remove constraints such as low lying bridges and undersized dam outlets that currently limit both the volume of water that can flow through river systems and the environmental uses to which it can be put.

The extra funding will be secured through a special account and advance appropriation of future funds to ensure its availability through to 2024 by which time the additional water will have been recovered.

Legislation to establish the special account and advance appropriation is expected to be introduced into Parliament before the end of the year.

The Gillard Government is also working with the South Australian Government to provide funding to support environmental infrastructure and remedial works, and to assist South Australian irrigators to diversify and secure their economic future. Further details of these initiatives will be released as they are finalised.

The Gillard Government continues to work towards a genuine consensus with Basin states on the final elements of the Basin Plan and Minister Burke will fully consult with the Basin States before presenting the final plan to Parliament.

Funding for today’s announcement, and these further proposals, will be met from within existing resources and from funds set aside in the recent Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.


PRESS OFFICE: (02) 6277 7744 MINISTER BURKE’S OFFICE: (02) 6277 7640