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Joint Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
Australian Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Peter McGauran
Victorian Minister for the Environment;
Victorian Minister for Water
John Thwaites

18 January 2006

$93m water recovery package kicks off Living Murray

The first water recovery project under the Living Murray Initiative - the plan to breathe new life into one of Australia's greatest rivers - will return 145 gigalitres a year to the environment.

The Australian Ministers for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Peter McGauran, and Environment and Heritage, Ian Campbell, and the Victorian Environment and Water Minister, John Thwaites, said the $93 million package would not only benefit some of the river's premier sites, but also Victoria's Goulburn, Loddon and Campaspe rivers.

Mr McGauran, Chairman of the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council, said The Living Murray was a joint, $500 million initiative of the Australian, Victorian, NSW, South Australian and ACT governments.

Mr Thwaites said he was delighted that the first Living Murray project to be funded by the Commonwealth was in Victoria.

"Victoria is well advanced in achieving its commitment of 214 gigalitres to the Living Murray Initiative," Mr Thwaites said.

The Australian Government will contribute $37.2 million to the project and the Victorian Government between $21.4 million and $43.7 million, depending on whether NSW and SA, which have expressed interest in the project, decide to contribute.

Mr Campbell said the project has the potential to benefit some of the river's most iconic sites.

"They include: the Hattah Lakes; the Barmah-Millewa Forest; the Chowilla Floodplain (including Lindsay-Wallpolla); the Gunbower-Koondrook Perricoota Forest; the Lower Lakes, Coorong and Murray Mouth; and the River Murray Channel."

Mr McGauran said that, as well as contributing to the Living Murray iconic sites, the Goulburn Murray Recovery Project would provide important environmental benefits to Victoria, particularly to the Goulburn, Loddon and Campaspe Rivers.

"The project will recover water from most of the regulated water supply systems operated by Goulburn-Murray Water," he said.

"It will deliver lasting benefits to local communities in the Basin by improving infrastructure and ensuring a more flexible and certain water supply."

Mr Thwaites said the project would benefit the environment, farmers and regional communities.

"The Goulburn Murray Water Recovery Project has two main components," Minister McGauran said.

"The first involves regulatory reform to create tradeable and improved lower-reliability water entitlements with a healthy 20 per cent - equivalent to an average annual supply of 120 gigalitres - to be allocated to the environment. This entitlement will become available in 2007.

"That's a significant step towards achieving the Living Murray's target of recovering up to 500 gigalitres a year by June 2009."

Mr McGauran said the second part - worth 25 gigalitres - involved boosting the efficiency and sustainability of irrigation infrastructure, including reconfiguring the distribution systems.

The Ministers said they looked forward to their governments working together on future water recovery projects under the Living Murray Initiative.

Media Contacts:
Renae Stoikos (Senator Campbell's office) 02 6277 7640 or 0418 568 434
Nancy Joseph (Minister McGauran's office) 02 6277 7520
Geoff Fraser (Minister Thwaites' office) 0407 360 256

Commonwealth of Australia