In 2012, when the Commonwealth Government adopted its highly controversial Murray–Darling Basin Plan, it openly acknowledged that it would never recover sufficient environmental water to meet its major objective—to protect, restore and provide for the ecological values and ecosystem services of the Murray–Darling Basin.
Less than five years on, further compromise is on the cards.
In its Northern Basin Review, the Murray–Darling Basin Authority has recommended an 18 per cent reduction in the amount of water recovered for the environment in catchments across northern parts of the Basin, in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales.
This proposal will impact on some of the most significant sites for waterbirds in eastern Australia, including the Macquarie Marshes, Gwydir Wetlands and Narran Lakes, with flow-on effects for the Menindee Lakes as well as the Lower Lakes and Coorong.
At risk is important breeding habitat for the Endangered Australasian Bittern and internationally important populations of the Straw-necked Ibis, Nankeen Night-Heron, Australian White Ibis and Intermediate Egret.
BirdLife Australia’s submission opposes any reduction in environmental water, arguing that more water, not less, is required to recover the health of these ‘jewels in the crown’ of this iconic river system.