National Farmers' Federation

Basin comments by attention-seeking academics neither helpful nor accurate

NFF Chief Executive Tony Mahar said the Murray Darling Basin Plan was too important to be used as pawn by self-professed basin experts looking for five minutes in the spotlight.
“What we saw yesterday was yet another group looking to gain some notoriety by attacking the Basin Plan.
“The NFF and the public, especially those that live and work in the Basin, are sceptical of this group, their views of the Basin and their Murray-Darling Declaration.”
Mr Mahar said understanding the Basin required a multidisciplinary approach, that considered the social fabric of Basin communities and their deep relationship with the varied industries and environments that make up the Basin.
“The NFF disagrees with the comments made by the Convenor of the Declaration regarding publically-funded water recovery associated with irrigation infrastructure subsidies and grants.
“In our view, investment in water use efficiency for both on-farm infrastructure and off-farm distribution systems has provided the least-worst outcome for recovering water to implement the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
“For this reason, the sector has been a very active participant in past efficiency programs, both as farmer participants, and as delivery partners with the Commonwealth.
“The academic commentators delivering the Declaration suggested that the money spent on recovering water from irrigators through investing in water use efficiency amounts to a public subsidy.
“This is a narrow and naive view that fails to acknowledge that, in addition to water recovery, other benefits are delivered or other costs avoided, by investing in infrastructure rather than straight buyback,” Mahar said.
These additional benefits include a more productive and efficient irrigation business, maintained productivity with associated benefits for input suppliers and downstream processing, and the social and economic flow on benefits associated with the spending stimulus.
The other steps called for by the Murray-Darling Declaration do not acknowledge established processes already in place regarding the Basin Plan.
“The Productivity Commission will this year undertake and complete an inquiry into the effectiveness of the implementation of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan and we already have the Murray Darling Basin Authority to oversee the implementation of the Basin Plan.
“The NFF suggests that for the sake of the Basin, its farmers, its communities and the environment, there is less focus on headline seeking and political grandstanding, and more focus on getting the job done implementing the Basin Plan on time and in full,” Mr Mahar said

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