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Basin must have independent review: GetUp

May 21st, 2011 Australia

Get Up

GetUp’s Simon Sheikh, pictured in Sydney last year. Picture: Alan Pryke
Source: news.com.au

ACTIVIST group GetUp says the federal government must commission an independent scientific review into the Murray Darling Basin.

The group says the Wentworth Group of Scientists has told it that it will withdraw from the Murray Darling Basin Authority’s science forum because there will be no independent review.

The authority’s chief Rob Freeman resigned earlier this month, after its first chair Mike Taylor left his post in January and was replaced by former senior NSW cabinet minister Craig Knowles.

A guide which the authority released last year angered farming communities in the basin, who objected to what they called its bias towards environmental needs.

The Wentworth Group is urging the government not to spend billions of dollars without adequate scrutiny.

“The federal government is spending over $8.9 billion on water reform. The Australian taxpayer must know what they are getting for their money and that they are going to get a healthy working river system for $8.9 billion,” Tim Stubbs, an engineer with the Wentworth Group, said in a statement.

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“No government should spend $8.9 billion based on mere opinion,” he said.

GetUp national director Simon Sheikh said if the Murray Darling Basin Authority won’t commission an independent scientific review then the federal government should commission one before legislation is put to parliament.

“It is outrageous that the MDBA is abandoning independent scientific review when the fate of Australia’s most important waterways are at stake,” Mr Sheikh said in a statement.

“Experts tell us that the authority’s new and dramatically lower water figures would mean the Murray River mouth would be closed three times more often than it should be, and it would lock in the death of at least a quarter of the iconic red gum forests,” he said.