13 November 2003

PM - Breakthrough decision to boost Murray River flow

South Australia's Murray Darling Basin Commissioner is Rob Freeman. He says it is vital that the health of the entire river system is not lost.

ROB FREEMAN: You can imagine we could actually use all the water on these sites, very healthy for oases, but we have an unhealthy river, so the fifth site, which is the river itself, that always needs to be considered in the context of each of these initiatives.

NANCE HAXTON: South Australia's Environment Minister John Hill says while the 500 million gigalitres falls well short of what is needed, he hopes all state ministers will agree to it.

JOHN HILL: Well, I wouldn't describe what the Commonwealth have done as a back flip at all, that's the first time they've committed themselves to anything. And they also would agree that this is a first step, so that means that more water will be required, so I'm very happy about the outcome from Canberra.

This is really a dramatic breakthrough if we can get this agreed to on Friday. Two years ago it wasn't even on the agenda, we were just getting over congratulating ourselves for having a cap put in place which stopped new extractions.

We're now talking about putting more water back into the river for environmental outcomes. This is a big breakthrough and it will develop a head of steam now that nothing can stop.

NANCE HAXTON: If the Ministers agree to the plan on Friday, action on turning around the dire state of the Murray may still be some time off. The proposal has to be fully costed by the Murray Darling Basin Commission, before being put out for public comment at the Ministerial Council's next meeting in March next year.

Well, it's a start...

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