31 August 2003

ABC Insiders - 31/08/2003: Garrett welcomes first steps to save Murray:

BARRIE CASSIDY: Let's go to the issue about whether there is a problem with the Murray. How desperate do you regard the situation?

PETER GARRETT: Well Barrie, the Murray's in dire straits and it was very good that PM and State premiers could come into COAG and commit funds to beginning the process of bringing the river back to health. The river is not saved by this decision, it is not a historic decision until they get enough water flowing down the river and spend enough money over the next 10 years, particularly to set the guidelines that are necessary for river health. Yes, it is a good start but the river isn't saved until they spend the money and actually commit themselves to funds over a 10 or 15-year period.

BARRIE CASSIDY: But is $500 million not a good start?

PETER GARRETT: No, it is a good start but it is simply not enough. The Murray Darling Basin Commission, the scientists, CSIRO and river users all generally agree that the river needs a lot more water. That's going to cost a lot of money. The figure that was given to restore it to moderate health was 1,500 gigalitres. This it gives us 350 gigalitres, so we're still away short. The ACF and other conservation groups, environmental groups and interested parties would see this as a first step in a campaign to ramp-up the amount of money that needs to come into this river system and also to ensure that river communities have got some long-term livelihood and some security over their water access.

The 1500 gl figure is an official estimate by the MDBC. Why are we celebrating a 'success' we know will fail?

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