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Saving the Murray

June 26th, 2004

From my current distance, I can only make a preliminary assessment of the “historic” agreement on the National Water Initiative. But, from what I’ve seen, there’s no good news here. The issue of what costs would be borne by irrigators when allocations were reduced was not clarified in the initial announcement. The new announcement makes it clear that virtually all costs will be borne by governments. That would be fine, if the announcement included new money to pay for this. But as far as I can see, the $500 million that has been announced is the same money that was announced a year or so ago.

This means that the environmental allocation will be no more than the 500GL previously announced which is clearly inadequate. So the agreement may be historic, but not, as far as I can see, in a good way.

I’ll post more on this when I return from my travels and have time to examine the outcome in detail.

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  1. Micheil
    June 26th, 2004 at 20:26 | #1

    I suspect that this announcement is another in the long run of Howard Government popularist and ultimately flawed initiatives.

    The challenges for the Murray and in fact most environmental issues require a systems approach not a reductionist one. It also requires the effected communities to engage in appropriate solution formation lead by (but not determined) Government.

    The longer we fail to admit that restoring environmental flows to critical national river systems requires engagement with communities and a stepping away from utilitarian moral philosophy to systems that integrate humanity and human growth as well as economic growth the harder it will become for the effected communities to adjust.

    Howard and to some extent the other COAG participants are yet to show leadership. Beattie tried to do it over Cubbie Station but continues to be hamstrung by national systems that ignore humanity and mis-allocate natural resources by failing to take account of the time costs of environmental degradation.

    The point that is missed so far is that humans (properly informed) are massively resilient, creative and adaptive when engaged with the real issues we are capable of resolving unimaginably complex problems (especially viewed from a technical perspective).

    The challenge is not how many billions of litres the Murray needs but how do we support the communities that draw life from the Murray to do it in ways that allows everyone to be equally able to draw life from the Murray. If you like (in purely economic speak) how do we change our practice to shift the Murray from being rival to being non-rival based on our consumption needs.

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