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How not to resolve the Murray-Darling crisis

Media release: 3rd November 2008

Not long ago it could be argued that the just-approved, multi-million dollar, riverside development at Mannum in South Australia's Murraylands would be a welcome initiative; the 570 new residential allotments and 150-berth houseboat marina providing a much-needed economic boost for that regional community.

However, that was in the good old bad old days. Now even the most unobservant Australian can see all too clearly the widespread effects of our overexploitation of the Murray-Darling river system.

Irrespective of all the talk, as a nation we are little closer to implementing a mechanism which will urgently address the underling non-drought causes of the widespread degradation of this nation's vital river system and heal the ecological wounds we have inflicted.

It bears remembering that, as you read this, the River Murray is not flowing to its mouth, vast areas of its natural wetland lie disconnected and in decay, some river communities are similarly unplugged from their water supply and several existing marinas in the Lower Lakes are largely high and dry. The river system, on which millions of Australians depend, is struggling - big time.

Far from validating the project, the confirmation by South Australian River Murray and Water Security Minister, Karlene Maywald, that the developers have sourced and purchased the 520 megalitres of water that they require for the project, merely demonstrates the grim outlook for water use in the Basin if free-marketeers continue to rule the roost: a future where water is provided to those who can pay the most for what is an essential natural resource, to the detriment of all other stakeholders, dependent communities and the environment.

Fair Water Use believes that now is certainly not the time for this project to proceed. Despite the developers' spin, any benefits it may provide will be more than offset by its impacts, and, as importantly, it sends entirely the wrong message interstate. The approval of such developments by the South Australian government will be viewed with justified cynicism in the light of simultaneous demands to inject more water into the Lower Murray and Lakes, to put an end to the inefficient use of water upstream and to reject a proposal to construct a marina at Mildura.

The already slim chances of a meaningful cooperative approach to the problem can only be hindered by the approval of the Mannum project. Until, as a nation, we have demonstrated our ability to address the failing health of the Murray urgently and effectively, the Mannum marina development is simply inappropriate and must be put on hold.

Such issues will continue to arise until a State of Emergency is declared and the Federal Government assumes immediate responsibility for implementing the suite of critical care measures that the Murray-Darling so desperately requires.

Contact: Ian Douglas
(National Coordinator)
+61 (0)416-022178

Authorised by: Ginny Brown
Media Coordinator
+61 (0)414 914248

Fair Water Use (Australia)
+61 (0)8 8398 0812
PO Box 384, Balhannah, South Australia 5242

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