Column - Weekender Herald 29 November

29 Nov 2018

The River Murray is South Australia’s most important natural resource and, more than any other State, we need the Basin Plan delivered in full.

Our very future depends on it. Water from the Murray sustains communities from Paringa in the east to Ceduna in the west. In a normal rainfall year, Adelaide gets 60 per cent of its water from the Murray; in a dry year that figure can reach 90 per cent.

The River also supports the economies of many local communities and tens of thousands of jobs. South Australia’s iconic wine industry, for example, would mostly not exist without water from the Murray.

Just as importantly, the Murray and its complex of lakes, wetlands, lagoons and other features are habitats for countless native plant and animal species.

The Basin Plan aims for positive outcomes meeting all these needs: delivering balanced water reform to restore a healthy river system with a thriving natural environment, sustainable irrigation industries and prosperous river communities.

You can’t separate one aspect of the Plan, or its outcomes, from the others—they’re all integrated and designed to work together.

And helping the Murray-Darling system—particularly those parts of it at the end of the system in Mayo below Lock 1 including the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth—is not just about more gigalitres of water.

You need practical on-the-ground works and local projects to maximise the environmental benefit of additional water flows being delivered by the Basin Plan. Measures like these have recently been recommended for the Coorong by the Goyder Export Panel.

I’ve been speaking with local groups doing this vital work in Mayo. They support the Basin Plan, but they’re concerned it won’t deliver the outcomes we need, especially for the environment. It’s no wonder, with vested political and ideological interests tearing the Plan down every chance they get.

I won’t settle for anything less than what the Plan is supposed to deliver for South Australia, so I’ll always be working to ensure all stakeholders in all jurisdictions agree on the Basin Plan. That’s my commitment to Mayo. Bipartisan support for the Plan must extend to all parties and independents not just in Canberra but every Basin state and territory. The River should be above politics.

I’m also keen to establish a dedicated environmental workforce to undertake projects at the local level, projects essential not only to help the River recover but for environmental work across the Mayo electorate.