“Save our rivers, lakes and Coorong! Save our rivers, lakes and Coorong!”
A powerful protest at the Murray Mouth on Tuesday has sent a strong message to Canberra ahead of a critical vote on the full delivery of the Murray Darling Basin Plan next week.
Hundreds of environmental activists and community members gathered at the Mouth in an effort to save the Murray from water cuts.
On May 8, the Senate will decide whether or not to reduce real water for the Murray-Darling Basin by 605GL to divert it to industry.
If the Senate votes in favour of reducing the water, many fear for the future of the Murray Mouth.
“Dredges in the Murray Mouth are currently keeping the river on life support, due to a lack of water flow,” director of Wilderness Society South Australia Peter Owen said.
At the protest, chief executive of the Conservation Council SA Craig Wilkins said the Murray Darling Basin Plan was designed to guarantee the river’s long-term health.
“But our state’s trust in the Plan has been rocked by a mounting body of evidence of illegal and dodgy behaviour upstream,” he said.
“So we are back here again to remind Canberra that South Australians will accept nothing less than the full delivery of 3200GL we were promised.”
Elizabeth Tregenza from the River Lakes and Coorong Action Group also spoke.
“This real water is to be replaced by projects that will supposedly deliver equivalent environmental benefits, but there are doubts about how effective they will be,” she said.
“And with all the problems with corruption and water theft happening in the Basin at the moment how can we trust that these projects will be delivered properly?.”
The Senate will also vote on a motion by Senator Sarah Hanson-Young to disallow a major cut in direct environmental water under the Plan.
Ms Hanson-Young said SA could not allow more water to be taken off the environment and handed over to big corporate irrigators.
“Our river system is still in dire straits and our Coorong is dying… we need more environmental flow,” she said.
As for the alternative projects, she said there was no evidence they would work.
“We don’t even know what they are but what we do know is that it will be pork barreling taxpayers money,” she said.
“$8 billion of taxpayers money has already walked out the door with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and yet we’re not getting the water for the river returned.”
She said next week’s vote would be a test of who is really standing up for the river and who is standing up for SA.
Clayton Bay resident Peter Smytherman, who attended the protest, said he was disgusted to see the plan not followed through or reviewed in a fair way that gave credence to the environment.
“Losing this water will impact our local fisherman and farmers who live on the river every single day.. this is their livelihood we’re talking about,” he said.
“What’s motivated me to speak up is what happened during the drought… it cannot be handled that way again; its time the pollies listened to their local communities.”