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Published: 05 February 2018   •   Media statements

It is with great concern that I have seen reports of calls to halt the implementation of the Basin Plan.

This would risk returning the future of our nation's most important water resource, and the communities and industries that rely on it, to a state of uncertainty and peril.

The Murray–Darling Basin Plan is visionary, long-term policy—and it's working.

Claims that the Plan's investment in more modern and efficient water infrastructure is not delivering benefits for the environment are simply not true.

So far Basin Plan water infrastructure efficiency programmes have recovered over 700 GL of water for the environment. These are genuine water savings transferred to the Commonwealth in the form of water entitlements.

In total we have now achieved almost all the water recovery required under the Plan, with more than 2100 GL of water recovered for the environmental health of the river system.

That's more than 2100 GL of water that will be delivered back to the environment every year, on average—and is equivalent to more than 4 times the volume of Sydney Harbour.

The Basin Plan was neither expected nor intended to deliver immediate results.  It is simply not possible to repair 100 years of damage to such a vast river system overnight—or even within five years.

That is why the Basin Plan is a long-term plan, the benefits of which will continue to accrue over the next 50 to 100 years.

However, we are seeing what we hoped for at this stage of the Plan—good early signs that if we continue with the Plan we will see significant, lasting and system-wide benefits.

The Basin Plan Evaluation (a progress report on the first five years of implementation of the Plan) found that where we have been able to deliver environmental water, we see positive ecological responses.  These are the early signs that we are helping revive the health of the Basin's rivers and floodplains.

Environmental water has been used in over 750 planned watering events in the past four years, with environmental water holders working together to get water to priority areas at the right time.

There is clear evidence of positive local-scale environmental outcomes, with positive ecological responses including fish spawning and movement, enhanced bird breeding events and improvements in the health of some areas of native vegetation including River red gum forests.

These benefits will continue to grow as the implementation of the Plan continues.

As the current debate about the future of the Plan rages, I urge people to remember what's at stake, and to reflect on the beginnings of the Plan, the reason it came into being, and the revolutionary change it represented.

The Plan was borne of an urgent need to save our nation's most iconic and important river system.

It was agreed by hard-won consensus among all Basin governments and the Commonwealth.

Successive governments, both state and Commonwealth, have repeatedly reaffirmed their commitment to the Plan.  This kind of ongoing consensus is almost unheard of, and I fear that should it be broken now, it would never be recaptured—much to the detriment of the Basin and its communities.

The Basin Plan is an achievement Australia should be proud of.  Other countries look to our nation as having some of the best and most successful water management policies in the world.

Without the Basin Plan the river system would have continued to degrade, jeopardising the future of Basin communities and the environment.

Implementing the Plan is not easy and not without challenges—however, it remains our nation's best pathway for securing the future of this vital shared resource.

Basin Plan limits on water take become legally binding in mid-2019.  I believe to abandon the Plan now, before there has been a chance to realise the full extent of its benefits, would be a disaster.

We must stay the course.

Phillip Glyde
Chief Executive
Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA)

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