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No Murray-Darling ‘magic number’

Monday, 10th October, 2011

 CANBERRA - Water Minister Tony Burke has again urged people not to focus on the “magic number” of the Murray-Darling Basin draft plan, but on the outcomes it aims to provide.

 The draft plan is due for release next month, when it is widely expected to recommend a minimum return to the environment of around 2800 gigalitres.

 Representatives of the Darling River Action Group (DRAG) met with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) in Sydney last week to ask why the initial allocation proposed in last year’s Basin Plan had been reduced.

 Ten major environment group from all four of the Basin States also attended the meeting and later said it would be impossible for them to support the MDBA’s new plan.

 The initial plan, released in October, proposed returning at least 3000 to 4000 gigalitres of water to improve the environmental health of the system.

 But Mr Burke says too much focus has been on the number and not what it represents.

 “One of the big dangers with Murray-Darling reform is when people get hooked on what’s the magic number rather than what’s the outcome we are trying to achieve,” he told Sky News yesterday.

 “You can’t just look at the total number and say this is what it all means.

 “There’s no magic number.”

 With the Murray-Darling Basin Authority still working through the last of its consultations, Mr Burke gave the process his tick of approval.

 Some stakeholders have even been invited to work at the authority for several days in order to go through the modelling in detail.

 “There’s a whole lot of consultation that ideally should have happened last time and didn’t that is now happening under the new leadership at the authority,” he said.

 “That part of it I’m definitely happy with.”

 Mr Burke rated one of the biggest challenges with basin reform at the moment as keeping people interested.

 “There is a lot of water in the system ... and when the system’s full a whole lot of people sit back and go `Well, is there still a problem?’

 “Politically it’s the hardest time to make sure that everybody keeps the momentum going.” - AAP

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