Federal Government responds to independent report into fish deaths

10 April 2019

  • Independent Assessment of the 2018-19 fish deaths in the lower Darling released
  • Recommends expanded research, better system connectivity, better compliance
  • Strongly supports continuation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan
  • $70 million plus response announced by Federal Coalition Government

​Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud has announced a suite of measures in response to the final report of the independent expert panel assessing fish deaths in December 2018 and January 2019 (the Vertessy Report).

“I think all Australians who saw footage of these fish deaths were deeply saddened,” Minister Littleproud said.

“The Federal Government accepts and will address each recommendation made to it, and will work with states on others.

“Today I make several announcements in direct response to the report.

“I announce:

  • The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources will, in consultation with community and NSW Government, seek to secure A class licences to protect low flows in the Barwon Darling into the future as recommended by the report
  • The Federal Government will invest up to $25 million into metering in the northern basin, in the form of a 25% subsidy for AS4747 compliant meters. This will be backdated 12 months and states will be asked to contribute
  • $5 million for cameras to live-stream river flows to the internet to provide absolute transparency to the public. No honest person has anything to fear from transparency
  • $20 million to expand research on the Murray-Darling Basin for better water and environmental management and to address gaps in our knowledge as recommended by Prof Vertessy and panel
  • Fulfilling a commitment from our 7 May 2018 agreement with Opposition we will also work with NSW to have this additional water allocated to indigenous communities
  • $10 million to help restock rivers and lakes with native fish species across the basin and establish new hatcheries in the northern basin to kick start fish recovery in line with the report
  • An additional $5.24 million for the Toorale Water Infrastructure Project to better connect the Warrego and Darling Rivers as recommended by the Vertessy report. This funding will improve flows and build fishways.

​”This is a $70 million-plus response which goes to research, connectivity and compliance. We’ve listened to the scientists.

“I acknowledge the rigour and independence of the panel’s assessment of recent fish deaths in the lower Darling.

“This report is based on scientific assessments conducted by a panel of distinguished water scientists. I’m grateful to panel chair Professor Rob Vertessy and the entire panel for their work on it,” Minister Littleproud said.

The final report of the Independent Assessment of the 2018-19 fish deaths in the lower Darling is available at mdba.gov.au

For more information on the Australian Government’s response to the Final Report of the Independent Assessment of the 2018-19 Fish Deaths in the Lower Darling please visit agriculture.gov.au.


Funding for measures above come from Murray Darling Basin funds.

​​Key finding of the Report on the primary cause of fish deaths:

  • Sudden reductions in air temperature and increased wind associated with storms caused the weir pools to suddenly de-stratify, resulting in low oxygen water throughout the water column and no escape for the fish.

The Coalition Government is also funding the following:

  • $5 million Native Fish Management and Recovery Strategy to protect and restore native fish populations in the Murray-Darling Basin
  • A new fishway at Menindee main weir and the removal of the Menindee old town weir to improve fish movement through the river system.
  • Upgrades to two fishways and construction of a new fishway on the Lower Darling River below Menindee Lakes
  • Construction of a fishway between Frenchman’s Creek and Lake Victoria to enable better fish passage along the Murray River
  • $30 million with NSW to replace Wilcannia Weir and include a fishway that improves connectivity along that stretch of the Barwon-Darling River
  • $180 million for QLD and NSW to implement the northern Basin’s toolkit measures to improve environmental outcomes in the northern Basin including protection of environmental water and works that promote fish health
  • $3 million for a research program on ecosystem functions in the Murray-Darling Basin
  • $10 million Murray-Darling Basin Environmental Water Knowledge and Research Project with the Basin states to inform environmental water management decisions with improved understanding of ecological responses.