Thursday, 17 November 2011

Call for an independent scientific panel to assess draft Murray-Darling Basin Plan

Umpire needed to help shape Basin Plan

Date: 17-Nov-2011
The Australian Conservation Foundation has called on Environment and Water Minister Tony Burke to set up an independent scientific panel to assess the draft Murray-Darling Basin Plan and advise Parliament on what’s required to deliver enough water and greater security to the Basin.
ACF today released suggested terms of reference to help guide such an independent scientific panel.
“The new plan must deliver enough water to flush salt from the system, keep the Murray Mouth open without dredging and provide greater certainty for communities in South Australia and throughout the Basin,” said ACF’s healthy rivers campaigner Dr Arlene Harriss-Buchan.
“We are concerned the Authority has failed to address the basic question – what does the river need to make it healthy and how can this be achieved over the next ten years?
“If the Basin Plan recommends only 2,800 gigalitres of water be returned to the environment over the next ten years it will fail to protect the Murray-Darling Basin’s lifeblood – its rivers.
“Minister Burke can close the Basin Plan’s scientific credibility gap by setting up an independent panel and giving it terms of reference that will help determine exactly what is needed for a healthy river system.
“The benchmark for a good plan is a river that is not being poisoned by too much salt, that flows, that is able to function.”
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has commissioned a review of the draft Basin Plan, but ACF is concerned there are gaps and omissions in its terms of reference.
“We urge the Minister to establish an independent panel that will ensure the Basin Plan is scientifically credible and will actually do the job of protecting our rivers – the lifeblood of rural and regional Australia.”

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