The approval of the Sugarloaf Pipeline by Environment Minister Peter Garrett is a serious error which has major consequences for the water security of the threatened communities and environments of the Murray Darling Basin, say the Australian Greens.
"With the Murray River now facing an environmental crisis on a scale never seen before by our nation, I am appalled that Peter Garrett could think it was OK to approve a project that dramatically increases the amount of water extracted from the system," said Senator Rachel Siewert today.
"The city of Melbourne has much safer and easier options to improve its water security," she said. "With the city of Adelaide now looking to wean itself of its dependence on the Murray it is ludicrous for Melbourne to increase its take."
The Greens are highly critical of the manner in which the environmental impact assessment for the pipeline has focused on the direct impacts on ecosystems in the path of the pipeline, without factoring in the consequences of removing more water from the Murray and of the additional greenhouse gasses created by the huge amount of energy required to pump this volume of water.
"Farming communities in the basin are already doing it tough and irrigators are struggling to get by with little or no water allocated and very high prices on the temporary market," said Senator Siewert.
"The audit report on the Victorian food-bowl project showed that there was no basis for the volumes of water it claimed it could recover through efficiency measures, and the Minister's assessment appears to have simply taken these rubbery figures at face value."
"Once this pipeline is built the impetus will be to take water for the so-called 'critical human needs' of Melbourne, irrespective of whether the efficiency gains are there to justify it," she said.
"At a time when the communities of the basin are facing a crisis, and CSIRO are predicting run-off into the basin might be reduced by more than 40% we need to be reducing our dependence on the system and using its precious resources more wisely for the ecosystems and communities that depend on it for their very survival," said Senator Siewert.
"Given his background Peter Garrett has made some surprisingly poor decisions in his time as a Minister - and this is yet another. It is a real clanger - mark my words, it will come back to haunt him," she concluded.
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