Today’s Murray-Darling Communities Investment Package means South Australian communities will share in an overhaul of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan that will see over $230 million invested in creating jobs, economic activity and healthy rivers in regional areas.
Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, Keith Pitt, and local Member for Barker Tony Pasin MP said the 11 new initiatives in the Package were about keeping the Basin Plan on track while ruling out water buybacks.
Minister Pitt said the initiatives were practical and realistic and based around three key themes – investing in communities, improving river health and building trust and transparency between governments and communities.
“The Murray–Darling Communities Investment Package is a way for all of us to move forward and get the most we can from the Plan,” Minister Pitt said.
“Communities have told us in no uncertain terms that they are sick of being talked at and not listened to.
“That feedback came through loud and clear in the Independent Assessment of Social and Economic Conditions in the Basin report which I released today.
“It’s time to shift our focus to engaging and involving communities in developing the solutions that are right for them and to stop treating the Basin Plan as something separate.
“It is why the Australian Government is committed to build a culture of genuine engagement and trust with communities and between governments.”
Member for Barker Tony Pasin said it was time to make the Basin Plan pay dividends to communities rather than communities pay for the Basin Plan.
“A total of $34 million is being allocated by Government for those communities hit hard by water recovery to help increase economic activity, diversify economies and create jobs through the extended Murray-Darling Basin Economic Development Program,” Mr Pasin said.
“There’s $20 million committed to a Healthy Rivers Program to fund community-driven proposals to improve the health of local rivers and wetlands.
“And importantly for South Australia there is the $37.6 million Sustaining Riverland Environments Program, designed to make sure the environment is supported as we redouble efforts to recover the water we need to sustain the lower Murray.
“We will work with the South Australian Government to deliver a series of projects that will support restoring natural river patterns, connecting wetlands to help native fish to move out of the wetlands and back into the river.
“And as a priority, river infrastructure and operational upgrades will be made in the Lock 3 reach which controls 85 km of River Murray and connects many significant water bodies, including Lake Bonney, the Ramsar listed Banrock Station and Wachtels Lagoon.
“The Lock 3 project will include the removal of infrastructure that is no longer fit for purpose and restricts the movement of water between the river and floodplains and infrastructure upgrades, on and off farm, to ensure business continuity despite changing water levels,” Mr Pasin said.
“Four new Indigenous river ranger teams will also be stood up across the Basin.
“The changes the Package delivers when it comes to compliance are also a win for South Australians with a new statutory compliance role being established separate from the MDBA.”
Mr Pitt said he looked forward to working with his Basin state colleagues to implement the reforms and deliver the Basin Plan.
A full list of initiatives is available in the Murray–Darling Community Investment Package available on the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s website https://www.agriculture.gov.au/water/mdb/water-investment-package
Media Contact: Charlotte Edmunds 8531 2466