Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Restoring the Murray-Darling Basin to health

14 May 2013

The Gillard Government has locked in its commitment to the historic Murray-Darling Basin reform through the budget today.

Water Minister Tony Burke outlined a range of commitments to enhance the Basin Plan's environmental and social-economic outcomes.

The key measures include:

  • Funding for supply measure projects such as environmental works and measures that deliver environmental outcomes equivalent to those in the basin plan but with less water.
  • Recovery of a further 450GL of water for the environment through efficiency measures such as on-farm water efficiency savings that ensure no social and economic downsides for basin communities.
  • Removal of flow constraints that enable improved environmental outcomes from available environmental water.

Late last year the Gillard Government ended a century long argument on how best to manage our rivers and delivered a Murray-Darling Basin Plan that restores our rivers to health, supports strong regional communities and ensures sustainable food production.

"The Murray-Darling Basin Authority set a benchmark of 2750GL of environmental water in the Basin," Minister Burke said.

"But we were determined to achieve greater environmental outcomes than could be achieved through this plan which is why we are providing $1.8 billion over ten years from 2014-15 to relax key flow constraints and to recover an additional 450GL of water for the environment.

"This commitment reflected in the budget today maximizes the environmental outcomes under the basin plan and it will be achieved while avoiding adverse social and economic impacts on basin communities."

The majority of this funding will be directed to further improvements in irrigation efficiency and there is $200.0 million set aside for constraints removal projects such as increasing storage dam outlets capacity, protecting low-lying infrastructure and working with landholders on new flood easements.

By removing constraints we are able to get water to the parts of the environment that we otherwise wouldn't be able to and use the water in a way that is more beneficial to the environment.

This Government will also invest in environmental works and measures that can secure equivalent environmental outcomes to those in the basin plan with less environmental water. This means up to 650GL less water will need to be obtained from licence holders, thereby reducing further the social and economic impacts associated with the Basin Plan.

A total of $1.4 billion over eleven years from 201314 in Commonwealth funding is available to deliver supply measure projects approved through the operation of the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism in 2016. Commonwealth funding will be made available for such projects up to the market value of the water saved.

The Government has also committed $155.0 million over seven years from 201314 for projects to restore the health of the wetlands at Pike and Katarapko in the Riverland of South Australia. The project will also serve to improve salt interception and help to improve our knowledge of floodplain environments.

"The Government has also committed $10.0 million from 2013-14 to 2018-19 for research on environmental water use to ensure the best available scientific information is available to support the use of its environmental water holdings," Minister Burke said.

This year, the Gillard Government has made smart investments for Australia's future like improving the Murray-Darling Basin. We are investing for the future, putting jobs and economic growth first and protecting the important services that Australians rely on.