Murray Stalling tactics slammed by scientists.
ACF RECENTLY JOINED land and water scientists and politicians from all parties in condemning the Federal Parliament Agriculture Committee's attempt to derail efforts to provide vital environmental flows to the River Murray.
The Committee drew on reports prepared by consultants to an irrigator body. In their submission, the consultants claim there is no conclusive evidence that the health of the Murray River is in decline. As a result, the Committee is trying to put the brakes on last year's $500 million historic, state, territory and federal government decision to return 500 gigalitres of water to the river. Instead, the Committee is calling for more research and for it to be paid for out of the $500 million.
This flies in the face of a decade of scientific research by over 60 independent river scientists. All the symptoms of a sick river system are present and getting worse. These include dead and dying red gum forests, declining stocks of native fish and migratory birds, and round the clock dredging to keep the mouth of the river open and prevent irreversible damage to the Ramsar-listed Coorong wetlands. Adelaide's drinking water will fail World Health Organisation water quality standards by 2020 unless the predicted rise in salinity can be stopped.
The Committee's recommendation was immediately slammed by top scientists, including Professor Peter Cullen, the PM's Environmentalist of the Year 2001 and ex-chief of the CRC for Freshwater Ecology. Prominent politicians including South Australia's Mexander Downer were also quick to assure South Australians that environmental flows would reach the Murray.
ACF called on the federal government to publicly distance itself from this thinly veiled stalling tactic by vested interests. Instead, it should commit to recovering the whole 1,500 gigalitres of environmental flows for the Murray--the bare minimum that credible scientists tell us is needed to return the river to a healthy working condition.
Dr Arlene Buchan is ACF Healthy Rivers Campaigner.