Michelle Lensink

Murray River

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Water and the River Murray regarding the EPBC Act.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: On 5 August the federal government, on the last possible day before it would have invoked caretaker conventions, approved the inclusion of the section of the river at the Darling junction to the Murray Mouth on a list of critically endangered communities under the EPBC Act. This means that any new or substantially intensified activities will be subject to a new approval process. There has been outrage from communities, including in our own Riverland, who say they have not been consulted and who are very concerned about further red tape and green tape and what it all means.

Can the minister advise whether the state government was consulted prior to this EPBC listing? Is he aware of any community irrigator groups or other stakeholders who were consulted? Does this potentially impact on future engineering works, such as the Pike River flood plain, Chowilla and so forth in the future?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) (14:22): On 10 August 2013 the commonwealth Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Water listed the River Murray—Darling to Sea as a critically endangered ecological community under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. South Australians have long been aware of the importance of this region and fought hard to ensure that enough water was returned to the river under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. As a result of South Australia's demands, there is a commitment to return more water to the River Murray so that environmental outcomes consistent with recovering 3,200 gigalitres of water can be achieved.

The listing of the River Murray—Darling to Sea ecological community as critically endangered under commonwealth legislation confirms what we already knew: that this region is of central environmental importance and that we must work hard alongside our commonwealth colleagues to ensure that the Murray-Darling region is protected for future generations. I reiterate what I said yesterday about our willingness in this state to work with the new incoming federal government, but we do have significant concerns about their plan to push back funding for the river.

The only threat that I can foresee to the critical engineering works the honourable member asked about in her question would come from the federal government's pushing back the protections on the river, pushing back the investment that has been promised for the river communities, and I would exhort her to use her influence in the Liberal Party to go off to the federal government and tell them, 'Do not pull out your investment in the state of South Australia. Do not pull out your investment in the River Murray, because so many of us in this state depend on it.'

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:23): I have a supplementary question. Is the minister going to answer anything that I asked about the EPBC Act, or is he just going to grandstand and play politics and make a fool of himself?

The PRESIDENT: Do you want to take that as a supplementary, minister?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) (14:24): I do not know that it is a supplementary, but I again encourage the honourable member to use her extensive influence in the Liberal Party to make sure that the federal Liberal government keeps its commitments to this state and to our Riverland communities. At the moment, all they are doing is retreating.

 

 

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