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New policy statement: Managing Murray-Darling Basin catchments.

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New Policy Statement 06/06/2001



The strategy to protect the long-term health and productivity of the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) received a major boost with the release yesterday of the Integrated Catchment Management Policy Statement by Federal Agriculture Minister Warren Truss.

"The policy release on World Environment Day is symbolic of the intention of this new policy to present an accelerated approach to managing the MDB's catchments.

The MDB is Australia's largest and most developed river system, covering more than 1 million square kilometres of land from Southern Queensland, through to the Murray mouth in South Australia. It incorporates 75 per cent of Australia�s irrigation and underpins more than 40 per cent of Australia�s gross value of agricultural production.

It�s rivers provide drinking water for more than three million people, more than one third of whom live outside its borders. The Basin encompasses 30,000 wetlands and many native species rely heavily on the 93 per cent of MDB land not included in national parks and other reserves.

The policy was prepared by the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council (MDBMC) and its Community Advisory Committee.

Chair of the MDBMC committee, Mr Truss, said the statement's focus is on providing governments with a consistent, uniform decision-making process, and encouraging greater cooperation in the use of resources.

"The MDB is facing some critical issues concerning salinity and water quality. This policy recognises that to protect both the landscape and regional communities on the MDB we need to have realistic strategies in place," Mr Truss said.

"This policy sets out a way forward for determining the targets for water sharing, water quality and biodiversity in the MDB's valleys.

"An integrated approach to managing the MDB's catchments has mass community support that is evidenced by the large community involvement in ensuring 'end-of' valley' targets are met.

"Much of the community support can be credited to the hard work of the Community Advisory Committee. The Committee ensures community views are heard and acted upon, and it played a major role in developing the new statement.

Mr Truss said the partnership approach of government, industry and community to resolving the MDB�s issues builds on the decision more than a decade ago to manage the natural resources of the MDB through integrated catchment management (ICM).

"In 1990, the MDBMC (which involves land, water and environment Ministers), launched its Natural Resources Management Stategy to address the decline of the MDB�s health.

"That strategy led to a fundamental shift in the management of natural resources based on ICM and both community and government involvement.

"The decision to manage our natural resources on the basis of catchments reflects the importance of water to the region.

"This new policy acknowledges that while there has been substantial progress in the last 10 years, there are still serious issues to be resolved, such as:

· the continuing decline in water quality and ecosystems; · the competition and conflict between agricultural, urban and environmental sectors for water resources; and · the fact that MDB land, water and other environmental resources are often overused.

Mr Truss said that the Basin Salinity Management Strategy ($60 million) will be the first basin-wide issue to be managed under the new Integrated Catchment Management Policy Statement.

Copies of the Integrated Catchment Management Policy Statement are available from the MDBC by calling (02) 6279 0100. It is also available on the MDBC web site

Further inquiries:

Minister Truss's office:        Yvonne Best                0418 415 772, 02 6277 7520 MDBC                                Lawrie Kirk                0417 219 158 or Keith Bashford        (02) 6279 0129