Tony Burke ... has declared an end to more than 110 years of fighting over the Murray-Darling Basin. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
THE Environment Minister, Tony Burke, has declared an end to more than 100 years of fighting over the Murray-Darling Basin after signing into law a long-awaited plan to save the river system.
But the plan still faces hurdles, with the Greens saying they will move to disallow it when it is tabled in Parliament next week, and NSW, the biggest basin state, expressing hostility to its final design.
Speaking on Thursday, Mr Burke said Australia had been waiting for the reform since Federation.
''In my view, Australia has been putting this off for more than a century. That needs to end, that ends today,'' he said.
Laws to restore the river basin were introduced under the former Howard government.
Under the plan, an average 2750 billion litres of water will be recovered each year for the river's environmental sites - wetlands, floodplains, and riverside forests - by 2019. Almost $10 billion has been promised for voluntary buybacks of farmers' water entitlements and water saving upgrades to irrigation infrastructure.
A separate bill, which passed the Senate this week, allows the government to spend another $1.8 billion by 2024 to recover an extra 450 billion litres a year through water savings from on-farm infrastructure upgrades.