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Tony Burke must respect independence of MDBA

Comments yesterday from Tony Burke, Federal Minister with responsibility for water, appear to infringe upon the statutory independence of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, according to environmental and public water rights advocacy group, Fair Water Use.

Comments yesterday from Tony Burke, Federal Minister with responsibility for water, appear to infringe upon the statutory independence of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, according to environmental and public water rights advocacy group, Fair Water Use.

Commenting on the long-awaited Basin Plan being drafted by the Authority, Mr Burke indicated that he was worried that the Plan may not be considering the “knock-on” impacts, upon regional businesses, of reduced diversions from the Murray-Darling river system.

There can be little doubt that the Authority is all too well aware of the full, regional implications of an effective Basin Plan. However, as acknowledged by its Chair, the Authority is required to place the health of the river system above all other concerns – and for sound reasons.

The Authority knows that it cannot rely on unpredictable flooding rains to maintain the river system. Unless outflows from the Murray mouth are significantly increased year on year, the nation’s most vital rivers will continue to degrade as a result of salinisation and increased toxin load.

However, the Minister’s comments can only place extreme pressure on the Authority to dilute its recommendations and thereby compromise the future of the river system and all who depend upon it.

The Federal Government is to be lauded for moving to address the endemic mismanagement of the Murray-Darling. However, the long term interests of Basin communities will be best served by carefully designed regional development initiatives - not by a timid and ineffective Basin Plan.

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