Media Release: Friday 6th December 2019
Scrapping the Basin Plan could damage cultural values along Australia’s greatest river system and marginalise vulnerable communities, a peak body representing First Nations from the Southern Basin has warned.
‘Campaigns led by irrigators and the NSW National Party to derail the Basin Plan do not represent the interests of all communities across the Basin. Governments must listen to all voices in this debate, not just the loudest and most belligerent,’ MLDRIN Chair and Nari Nari man Rene Woods said.
‘Rivers are our lifeblood, sustaining our culture and bringing sustenance, health and wellbeing to our communities. Without healthy, flowing rivers, all communities and livelihoods in the Basin are at risk,’ Rene Woods said.
State of emergency
‘Today, rivers like the Baaka (Darling) and Macquarie are in a state of emergency. First Nations people have been marginalised from ownership of land and water. Now our communities and culture are suffering as we watch our waterways in terminal decline,’ Rene Woods said.
‘None of these impacts are a result of the Basin Plan. No one pretends the Plan is perfect, but it is better than no Plan at all. We need an ambitious Basin Plan to restore our rivers to health, with strong targets for recovering water for wetlands, billabongs and iconic red gum forests, ’ Rene Woods said.
‘We are dismayed that the NSW Government wants to stall the progress of Water Resource Plans, a key State responsibility under the Basin Plan. This is a smack in the face for Traditional Owners who participated in consultation in good faith to help develop these plans over the last two years. Water Resource Plans provide for recognition and protection of Aboriginal cultural values related to water. We need to see them accredited and implemented to stop devastating impacts like the Lower Darling fish kills,’ Rene Woods said.
Lower Lakes under threat
‘The NSW Government’s proposal to remove the barrages on the Lower Lakes would be an environmental disaster and would devastate an area of deep cultural significance to the Ngarrindjeri people,’ MLDRIN Deputy Chair and Ngarrindjeri man Grant Rigney said.
‘Fresh water flows into the Lower Lakes flush salt from the entire Basin system and provide base-flows for water delivery and environmental benefits along the entire river. NSW should focus on addressing the drastic ecological decline on the rivers under their control rather than pursuing illogical, quick-fix solutions in other States,’ Grant Rigney said.