Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Don’t forget economic benefits of a healthy river

Date: 13-Oct-2010
The Australian Conservation Foundation has called on the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to model the economic benefits – not just the costs – of restoring the river system to health in the next version of its Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

“The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has only released data on the possible economic costs to irrigation industries from making the river healthy – so far they have only counted one side of the balance sheet,” said ACF’s Dr Paul Sinclair.

The Authority has estimated that returning 3000 billion litres to the environment would result in a loss of gross regional product of 1.1%.

“Healthy rivers and wetlands provide enormous benefits to Australia through tourism, recreation, water filtration, habitat, floodplain restoration and water storage,” Dr Sinclair said.

“An economic study conducted this year by ACF found the Hattah Lakes in northern Victoria are worth $14.5 million dollars a year to the economy.

“A global study found the environmental services provided by wetlands around the world stands at around $4.8 trillion.

“This type of assessment should have been conducted for the environmental assets and ecosystem functions identified by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority in its guide to the Basin Plan.

“The Federal Government and the Basin Authority should listen to Treasury Secretary Ken Henry who in March this year said ‘in a world with readily available market measures of things like income and employment, the lack of similarly accepted measures of the value of the environment creates the risk that government policies and project approval processes will fail to get the balance right’.

“We must not waste the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity the Murray-Darling Basin Plan provides to set up good economic and environmental management of our rivers so they can support communities, agriculture and tourism in the long-term.”

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