National Farmers' Federation

Another Basin Plan draft: another draft without balance

The latest version of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan has failed to find the crucial balance called for by the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), the basin community and the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council.
The ‘Altered Proposed Murray-Darling Basin Plan,’ released today, shows that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority has ignored the call to do more to balance the needs of food producers and the communities that rely on them.
“The Authority appears to have ignored not only the key peak groups representing the people who live and work in the Basin communities, but also now the various Water Ministers,” NFF President Jock Laurie today said.
“The Minister’s called for greater balance, yet the Authority has failed to deliver.
“A month ago we welcomed the Ministerial Council’s directive to the Authority that more attention be paid to ways to maximise the river system’s efficiency through infrastructure, environmental works and measures and river operations.
“The Ministers called for an adjustment mechanism that would reduce the amount of water needed for the environment through improving the efficient use of water already in the system. Investing in infrastructure, environmental works and measures and efficient river operations would make the water in the system work harder, and, as a result, the sustainable diversion limit would decrease.
“Yet from today’s report we can only conclude that this adjustment mechanism has been turned into an opportunity to take more water from the system, claiming that infrastructure would increase the sustainable diversion limit. The NFF rejects using irrigation infrastructure to increase the limit.
“The Authority also appears to have taken an ultra-cautious approach, ignoring the Ministerial Council’s dissenting reports and instead focusing only on those areas where the State and Territory Ministers achieved consensus.
“Some of the dissenting reports have particular importance for farmers and Basin communities, including the call from NSW and VIC that the Basin Plan include a specific statement that it will not require the compulsory acquisition of land, water licenses or easements, and the point raised by NSW that there has been inadequate recognition of the history of effort made by farmers in water reform.
“To date, including the proposed new sustainable limits to water, agriculture has already committed over 4,000 GL of water to the environment over the past two decades. We are already playing our part: further environmental gains should not be at the cost of regional communities.
“The Basin Plan is now out of the Authority’s hands – it is up to the Ministerial Council and Minister Burke to deliver the balance we’ve been asking for,” Mr Laurie said.

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